UN Human Rights High Commissioner Nauvanethem Pillay has joined the mounting chorus of voices the world over against drone attacks. In her address on Monday to the opening day of the 23rdsession of the UN Human Rights Council in Geneva, she said she was “profoundly disturbed at the human rights implications of the use of armed drones in the context of counter-terrorism and military operations.” This would obviously cover the US drone campaign, which has mainly been against targets in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, but has been extended to include Somalia and Yemen. Pakistan’s representative to the UN reiterated this point in his statement. Ms Pillay, after all, reflected the Pakistani position that drone attacks were counter-productive. The arguments against drones are not something exclusive to Pakistan. Increasingly, voices in the world community have spoken out against them. Even the launcher of these attacks, the USA, is coming closer to a realization of the danger of these attacks in the recent speech by US President Barack Obama. The speech followed the release of studies by US academia which showed that the drone attacks were responsible for a very high number of civilian deaths.

Not only is there an increasing realisation that Pakistani governments and military hierarchies have themselves silently supported drone attacks, despite public condemnation, but as a result, the incoming government has been elected on a policy to change this sort of behaviour. With the UN High Commissioner for Human Rights also involving herself, another dimension has been added. Ms Pillay cannot be accused of any bias, an objective observer, her comments add strength to Pakistan's official stance, supported by an overwhelming majority of Pakistanis. Ms Pillay is only holding the USA to standards it has set for itself. As one of the standard bearers of human rights, it should be concerned with the due process denied by the drone strikes. It should also realise that a supposed ally like Pakistan will no longer be able to afford to ignore due process, and how closely that due process is linked with the maintenance of national sovereignty.

Pakistan must not rest here, but must also work with its traditional allies to make them rise above their own ties with the USA, and support Ms Pillay. This statement must be followed by a concentrated diplomatic effort to convince the USA to abandon its drone policy as soon as possible, without waiting for some arbitrary timeline, which would serve purposes of mostly face-saving, rather than anything else. The turning of the human rights spotlight on the US drone attacks does not come a moment too soon.