RRRRRRBy M Khan Chishti

A new English online magazine “Azan”, quite comparable to Al-Qaeda’s “Inspire” magazine, represented drone attacks as a challenge to the Muslim community and appealed Muslims around the world to come up with technology to hack or manipulate drones, describing this as one of their most important priorities. “Any opinions, thoughts, ideas and practical implementations to defeat this drone technology must be communicated to us as early as possible because this would aid the Ummah greatly in its war against the Crusader-Zionist enemy”. The magazine also urged Muslims to unite and fight US and its allies across Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and Somalia as they allegedly facilitated US drone programmes in Muslim countries. Azan magazine specifically accused Pakistan government of continuing to work with US to intensify drone hostility in Pakistan. The accusations coupled with horrifying pictures of victims of drones surely presented enough material to incite Muslim youth.

Though Pakistan authorities have time and again refuted the allegation of assisting US drone policy, yet such like propaganda simultaneously by international community and terrorists tends to create confusion regarding the clear position of Pakistan over this issue.  Such terrorists’ narrative provoking Muslims, particularly Pakistani youth, for revolt against West and own state is extensively facilitated by drone attacks on Muslim lands, as these attacks are continuously becoming a source of anger and resentment in Muslim populations. Azan magazine is one example of this kind. Civilian casualties, collateral damages and hapless families of drone victims are all living examples of American recklessness which help terrorists groups like Al-Qaeda to ignite aggression in people to retaliate.

US has maintained that the strikes are necessary for defeating Al-Qaeda and Taliban, but others including a UN Special Rapporteur and British lawyer Ben Emmerson, have their doubts. According to Emmerson, who recently visited Pakistan, “The consequence of drone strikes has been to radicalize an entirely new generation.” He further said that the use of drones may help to win the immediate battle against a particular faction but US is losing the war in the longer term. Likewise, Nic Robertson a CNN correspondent, also notified after his visit to Swat rehabilitation centre in mid April this year, that the boys of Sabaoon School are at the sharp end of the drone debate and are living with its consequences.

Recognizing the danger posed by drones that breed such hostility, David Kilcullen, a former advisor to US General David Petraeus stated that, “every one of these dead    non-combatants represents an alienated family, a new desire for revenge and more recruits for a militant movement that has grown exponentially even as drone strikes have increased”. Various western journalists, NGO and humanitarian workers and medical professionals also expressed their belief that drone strikes likely increase terrorism. For instance, a parliamentarian from North Waziristan Syed Akhunzada Chittan expressed his conviction that for every militant killed many more are born. Inside reports from Yemen have also revealed that some students of professional schools joined the terrorist groups after drone strikes killed their friends and relatives. This seems quite plausible as when people are victimized in such a manner, its easy to convince them to fight against the oppressors.

It is clear from international public polls and other research teams’ survey that drone breed resentment and discontent towards US. A 2012 poll by the Pew Research Center’s Global Attitude project found that 97% of Pakistanis considered drone strikes as a bad policy, whereas numerous analysts have noted that if the drone campaign kills only         low-level Taliban and alienates 180 million Pakistanis, then it is too high a price to pay.

After every drone attack which kills a civilian alongwith its targets, militants profit in a gruesome manner since they win over some of the relatives as supporters and with a few as volunteers for suicide attacks. As a New York Times article of May 2012 articulates this, “drones have replaced Guantanamo as the recruiting tool of choice for militants”. In this scenario, media projection by terrorists laced with wide provocations increase the possibility of educated young lot to join ranks and files of terrorists and boost the likelihood of retaliation against US. Azan magazine appears to be a source of radicalization through internet that may infuriate the moderate segments of Muslim societies, those who have traditionally been more sympathetic toward US. What bothers this segment about US drone strikes, more than the attack on country’s sovereignty, is America’s callous attitude towards the importance of Muslim lives.

Undoubtedly, its the responsibility of youth to remain aware of terrorists’ manipulation through internet, yet US must also consider this alarming situation and prevent new generations from becoming terrorists by reviewing its drone policy.

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