- ‘Sovereign Guarantees’ vs. Sovereignty
- Will the Pakistani military exercise self-defense and respond to NATO attack?
- NATO has no mandate in Afghanistan, only ISAF does
It is said Pakistan is ignoring direct US military attacks and border violations because of sovereign commitments to the US made by the Musharraf government and now the Zardari government. But should the Pakistani military comply with those?
By SHIREEN M. MAZARI
Wednesday, 29 September 2010.
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan—How far is the Pakistani state prepared to go to undermining its national sovereignty and the safety of the lives of its citizens? Since 2004 mainly innocent Pakistani citizens have been killed by US drone strikes inside Pakistan. This is beyond the list of those Pakistanis handed over to the US in renditions by the Musharraf government, the most high profile being Dr. Aafia. The claim that she was not handed over but was whisked away by US covert operatives reflects even more badly on that state of our security establishment – that they cannot protect their own citizens in their own country from being kidnapped by foreign agencies!
Coming back to the drones, the advent of Obama to the Presidency led to an immediate upsurge of drone attacks, and as the US has always maintained, these attacks have the permission and cooperation of the Pakistan civilian leadership and its military. As a result, despite a national consensus against these drones, they continue to kill Pakistanis and the government continues with its lies to the people on this issue. This month, September, has seen the highest number of drone attacks for any month since the attacks began in 2004, with 20 strikes recorded so far and the month is not yet over.
Accompanying the drone attacks has been the growing presence of US overt and covert operatives across the length and breadth of Pakistan. This includes not only US Special Forces personnel, but also CIA, FBI operatives and the worse of the lot – the private contractors DynCorp and Xe (formerly Blackwater) aided and abetted by Pakistani mercenaries. And, not a squeak of protest from Pakistani officialdom. It is as if the whole state machinery has become an amalgam of mercenaries selling out Pakistan and its people.
The argument from the present political government is that they are merely implementing the sovereign guarantees given by the Musharraf regime to the US, but this is not plausible because the same government has also been claiming it is undoing the dictatorial legacies of the Musharraf government. In any case, how can this democratically elected government abide by sovereign guarantees to allow the killing of its own people? This is not to deny the presence of militants and even terrorists but they must be dealt with by our own people and under the law of the land. The state and government cannot abdicate their own responsibility towards its citizens – especially not a democratic government that has come to power – as they never tire of telling us these days – by a mandate from the people.
Worse still is, killing someone simply on suspicion of being a potential militant. But then the President’s remarks on the collateral damage being done by drones, as cited in Bob Woodward’s book, Obama’s Wars, says it all for the current political dispensation.
PAKISTANI MILITARY’S ROLE
As for the military, its justification of not protecting its citizens and territory against attacks by the US military in the form of drone attacks is even more absurd – that they are simply following orders of the civilian government. What instructions were they following in Musharraf’s times? In any case, this country sacrifices a lot to sustain a heavy defense budget so that its armed forces are given the best of everything. But in return they expect this military to defend its borders and its citizens from external military attacks – not to support them and turn on its own people under external diktat.
The armed forces may argue that they act on the directions of the federal government as directed under Article 245 of the Constitution which states: “The armed forces shall, under the directions of the federal government, defend Pakistan against external aggression or threat of war …”
So the questions that arise for us citizens are:
- If the federal government tells the armed forces to allow foreign aggression against the country, will the armed forces comply? Is that what is happening right now?
- Can the federal government legally take such a step? If so, who will defend the country against foreign aggression in the final analysis?
Incidentally, while many of us naively assumed the armed forces took an oath to defend Pakistan and its territory from its enemies and so on, when one sees the actual oath of the armed forces in Schedule III of the Constitution, it says nothing of the sort at all – they take an oath to defend the Constitution of Pakistan and not to indulge in any political activity – but nowhere are the words defense of territory or people in the oath!
Frankly, after examining Article 245 and the armed forces oath, as a citizen of Pakistan I do not feel as secure as I thought I was because tomorrow if the federal government orders the military to hand over our defense to an external power and even our nuclear assets, where will we be?
These issues are critical now, because with the complicity of the Pakistani state, the US drone attacks are not the only external aggression we are now facing. NATO has decided to target Pakistanis in our own territory and their helicopter gunships have been having an open season on the FATA people. Some whimpering from the Pakistani state has been heard but we still have to wait and see whether our defense forces will defend our borders against this expansion of external military aggression against Pakistan and its people.
Ironically, NATO has defended its forays into Pakistan as “right of self-defense”, while the Pakistanis seem to have no such right on their own territory!
To confuse the issue, NATO is using the reference of ISAF and a UN mandate, when we all know that ISAF is not NATO and that NATO forcibly grabbed the ISAF UN mandate. The question of its legitimacy in the context of Afghanistan is critical because it has been expanding its mandate and operational milieu ever since the end of bipolarity.
So, why should there be an issue of its legitimacy within the context of Afghanistan? Because it is an out-of-area operation. NATO still remains, in legal terms, a collective defense organization in terms of its legitimacy through the UN system – under Chapter VIII, Articles 52 and 53, as well as Chapter VII’s notion of collective self-defense as embodied in Article 51, which provides a very clear and limited framework for collective defense organizations. Regional collective defense organizations need to operate in the specific region of their membership since decision-making is restricted to this membership. Given the continuing European-Atlantic membership of NATO, it is somewhat disturbing to see NATO transforming itself from a collective defense organization (Article 5 of the NATO Charter is surely in the context of collective defense?) to a collective security organization to serve the interests of its membership or perhaps future “coalitions of the willing”. There is no legitimacy for any collective security organization other than the UN with its universal membership.
Even within the context of regional organizations, actions have to have a UN mandate and this is where the case of Afghanistan is unclear. Post-9/11, the UN Security Council, through Resolution 1386 (December 2001), sanctioned the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) for Afghanistan. As stipulated in the Bonn Agreement of December 2001, the progressive expansion of the ISAF to other urban centers and other areas beyond Kabul was duly approved through follow-on UNSC resolutions.
So, where did NATO get into ISAF? Did the UNSC initiate NATO’s involvement or did NATO present a fait accompli to the UN Secretary General?
What is available on record is that NATO informed the UN Secretary General, through a letter dated October 2, 2003, from its Secretary General that on August 11, 2003, NATO had assumed “strategic command, control and coordination of the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF).” This was followed by another letter from the NATO Secretary General to the UN SG informing the latter of the North Atlantic Council’s agreement on a “longer-term strategy for NATO in its International Assistance Force (ISAF) role in Afghanistan.”
Both these letters were sent to the President of the UNSC by the then UN Secretary General Kofi Annan on October 7 with the request that they be brought to the attention of the UNSC. So, effectively NATO presented the UNSC with a fait accompli – which is why its presence in Afghanistan is legally questionable.
Meanwhile, for Pakistan the basic question that its civil and military leaders must answer is: How far will the state compromise the safety of its people and its own sovereignty to fulfill the so-called “sovereign guarantees” to the US?
This column was originally published by The Nation. Reach Dr.Mazari at
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