Who should be held responsible: retired General Pervez Musharraf, President Asif Ali Zardari or COAS Gen. Ashfaque Parvez Kayani? They can’t shun their responsibility for the rise in CIA drone attacks in Pakistan in the past three years and someone will have to become answerable in front of the Pakistani nation.
SALIM BOKHARI | Monday | 22 November 2010
LAHORE, Pakistan—The increase in the American drone attacks in the South and North Waziristan has now become unbearable. The stage has come where our leadership should pick up the guts to tell US President Barack Obama enough is enough. The main question is who should be held responsible for allowing the ruthless killing of innocent civilians in collateral damage- former military dictator Gen. (retd) Pervez Musharraf, COAS Ashfaq Parvez Kayani or President Asif Ali Zardari? Although no immediate answer is available, yet none of them can shun responsibility and the day is not far off when they will have to account for their role.
Even if we argue that this is being done to eliminate Al-Qaeda and extremist elements from the tribal region, nothing justified carrying out 200-plus drone attacks since they started in 2004, killing well over 2,000 innocent civilians as only 30 suspected terrorists were hit. The ratio of striking against the Al-Qaeda operatives achieved by these drone attacks, according to military estimates is as low as 2.5 per cent, which is not enviable by any standards.
Unanimous resolutions the Senate and the National Assembly passed in November 2008 in a session open to public and similar four others adopted by the provincial legislatures fell on deaf ears of the ruling elite, let alone impacting the masters of our destiny sitting in Pentagon and CIA who can be held accountable for this agonizing human tragedy. Violations of Pakistan’s territorial integrity and disregard for its national sovereignty as an independent state are continuing unabated and there appears to be no move by the Pakistani government to seek an end to it. Each time drones come and fire missiles inside Pakistan, the Foreign Office issues a mildly-worded condemnation. Sometimes even a condemnation is not considered necessary. Often the Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi reacts only to justify American attacks.
The Washington Post has come out with a hilarious report that says that the American military leadership is seeking expansion in areas where drones could launch attacks, impliedly meaning to stretch the operations to Balochistan and Southern Punjab. It will be a big folly on part of the United States to go for such an adventure as it might lead to popular uprising against the sitting rulers.
It is worth mentioning here that a former Chief of Air Staff had said categorically that the PAF has the ability to shoot down drone aircraft provided the government has the political will to do so. Similarly, sometime back former Chief of the Army Staff, Gen. (retd.) Mirza Aslam Baig had also said that American drones should be targeted when they violate Pakistani airspace.
Former foreign minister Khurshid Mahmood Kasuri, in an interview, explained that the agreement between the Musharraf regime and Washington was limited to allowing CIA drones to gather intelligence and share it with Pakistan so that Pak Army could carry out operations to eliminate terrorists. Under no circumstances, Kasuri insists, were the Americans given permission to carry out attacks within Pakistani borders.
It is about time that the Troika – comprising the president, the prime minister and the COAS – put their heads together and worked out a policy about US military attacks inside Pakistan. Pakistan has already paid a heavy price in term of lives of military personnel and civilian population besides ruining its economy. The attacks have created a situation that no investor is willing to invest in Pakistan. We are suffering due to suicide bombings, explosions and target killings in every nook and corner of the country.
The assertion made by President Obama during his recent address to the Indian Parliament that a stable Pakistan is in the interest of Washington and New Delhi is nothing but farce-eyewash. Obama says India is interested in peace in Pakistan when he hardly needs any more evidence that India is sponsoring terrorism in Balochistan and trying to take control of areas in Afghanistan along the Pakistan border. The US role is duplicitous as well. The United States has deployed a large number of Blackwater and other security personnel to keep the province bleeding.
Our leadership has to come out with a workable solution to drone attacks failing which it should get ready to face people’s anger. It must take into consideration that the Americans would not hesitate to leave us alone the moment their objectives are achieved. In our case the list of US betrayal is very long. Compelling ground realities call for a decision in the best national interest. Will our sitting leadership take that decision without wasting any further time is a million-dollar question.
Mr. Bokhari is the editor of The Nation. This is an edited version of a report first published by The Nation. Reach Mr. Bokhari at
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