Why Drone Attacks Still Continue?

Drone Strike     By Sajjad Shaukat

At least seven people were killed on July 28, this year when a US drone targeted a residential compound in North Waziristan Agency of Pakistan. This was the fourth drone strike since Nawaz Sharif assumed office as prime minister.

It is mentionable that the latest predator attack came during the holy month of Ramazan. While, recently American President Barack Obama delivered formal Ramazan message, showing harmony among different faiths and also hosted Iftar for Muslim-diplomats.

Notably, the US has almost total dependence on Pakistan for withdrawal of NATO forces from Afghanistan, which has started, while Islamabad released a number of Taliban as a good gesture for peace dialogue with the US. On the one hand, US top officials have repeatedly said that America needs Pakistan’s help for stability in Afghanistan in the post-2014 scenario, but on the other, US spy planes on Pak tribal regions are undermining international efforts of stability both in Afghanistan and Pakistan.

It is mentionable that Director General of Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) Lt. Gen. Zaheerul Islam who visited America in August, 2012, emphatically told the then CIA Director David Petraeus that predator strikes which are violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty must be stopped.

Besides, by setting aside the criticism inside America, and by ignoring Pakistan’s repeated protests, parliament resolution, rallies and processions of political and religious parties, without bothering for any internal backlash, these attacks by pilotless aircraft keep on going in FATA. Even all the experts of international law agree that these strikes are illegal, unethical and violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty as well as the UN Charter.

Here, question arises as to why drone attacks still continue in Pakistan. In fact, there is a co-relationship of these aerial strikes with other subversive activities, which have perennially been taking place in various regions as part of the US secret designs against the country. In this respect, on the late night of July 29, more than 100 insurgents of the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), armed with mortars and grenades attacked on the Central Prison in Dera Ismail Khan, freeing 242 prisoners including suspected militants after a gunbattle with security forces. Militants killed 12 people including four policemen. Afterwards, Pakistan Army conducted a six-hour long operation and finally took back control of the prison. TTP claimed responsibility for the jail assault.

When in the past, the former government of PPP had signed the peace agreement with the TTP; US had opposed it, and had accelerated attacks by the unmanned aircraft so as to castigate it. Owing to the American policy, Pakistan faced dire consequences because TTP suspended peace agreement, and also occupied Swat, Dir, Buner and other adjoining areas. When Pakistan’s armed forces successfully ejected the TTP militants out of these areas, the leader of the TTP Maulvi Fazlullah who has close connections with Pakistan-based TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud, had run to Afghanistan. Based in the Afghan provinces of Kunar and Nuristan, his insurgents intensified subversive activities in Pakistan by sending suicide bombers and heavily-equipped militants in the country. Pakistan’s civil and military leadership lodged a strong protest with their counterparts in Afghanistan, but no action was taken against these terrorists.

In fact, in order to fulfill collective covert designs of India, Israel and US, TTP has been given a free hand by these countries to continue acts of sabotage in Pakistan because it is the only nuclear country in the Islamic world. In this regard, Pak-China strategic ties and Pak-Iranian close friendship also irritate them.

American such a duplicity contans a number of cladestine aims. The fresh wave of strikes by the spy planes has thwarted the offer of militants for peace talks with the newly-elected government. And, the TTP has accelerated subversive activities in the country. Now, US seeks to incite the Haqqani network to conduct terror-attacks in the country, as in the past 20 months, most of these strikes have targeted the North Waziristan. So, these drone attacks are provoking the tribal people against Pakistan’s security forces, and increasing recruitment of insurgents. Another aim of these strikes is to create a rift between Pakistan’s armed forces on one side and the political and religious parties including general masses on the other.

The strikes by the unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) which continued on Pakistan’s tribal areas since 2004 have intensified under the Obama era. In one of the major drone attacks, more than 40 civilians and policemen were killed on March 18, 2011 in Datta Khel area of North Waziristan. In the past few months, these unmanned aircraft killed more than 100 people in North Waziristan.

As regards civilian casualties, on August 11, 2011, a report of the Bureau of Investigative Journalism said, “The Guardian published some of the pictures, we have obtained…as many as 168 children have been killed in drone strikes in Pakistan during the past seven years.” While rejecting CIA’s false claim, the report disclosed, “It is a bleak view: more people killed than previously thought.”

Besides, a report of the New America Foundation disclosed, President Obama has “authorised 193 drone strikes in Pakistan, more than four times the number of attacks that President Bush authorised during his two terms.” The report explained, “When the US drones attack Pakistan’s tribal areas, it is not just the 10, or 50 innocent civilians they kill, these killings provide reason to the youngsters for joining terrorist groups waging war against US and of course Pakistan…while killing 10 militants, the US has murdered more than 1400 Pakistanis, not involved in any terrorist activities. Could it not imply that it gave birth to another 1400 militants?”

However, details collected by the Pakistani journalists show that civilian casualties through drone strikes are higher as indicated by the US officials. In the last four years, more than 800 innocent civilians and only 22 Al-Qaeda commanders have been killed by these aerial attacks.

In this context, US State Department stated that Wali-ur-Rehman, the TTP second in command was killed in a recent drone attack on a tip off provided by an informer from Hakimullah Mehsud group. This has been a grave blow to Wali-ur-Rehman’s faction of TTP, while Hakimullah Mehsud succeeded in eliminating his major opponent in TTP.

The new leader Khan Saeed alias Sajna hailing from Mehsud tribe must realise that their leader has been eliminated by Hakimullah Mehsud group to get the award of $5million from US. The US State Department refused to disclose the real name of informer belonging to Hakimullah group. In the past, Hakimullah Mehsud made numerous attempts to kill Wali-ur-Rehman and this time his plot succeeded by providing information to CIA about his location. However, TTP has lost the visionary leader who had supported negotiations with the elected government of Pakistan to reach a peace accord and bring peace in the country.

But, US President Barack Obama who has recently stated that America will continue these strikes in Pakistan also seeks to create obstacle in the way of any peace process between the TTP and Pakistan Government, as his policy remains to destabilise our country through subversive acts.

Consequences of these predator strikes are dangerous for the entire nation and will create difficult challenges for the newly-elected government. It means that in connivance with CIA, TTP-led by Hakimullah Mehsud will continue suicide attacks, bomb blasts, targeted killings and assaults on security forces’ check posts including sectarian violence.

Particularly, The New York Time on May 26, 2011, in an article which was written with the assistance of several counterterrorism advisers of the administration revealed, “President Obama has become personally involved in the process” and “has normalised extrajudicial killings from the Oval Office, taking advantage of America’s temporary advantage in drone technology. Without the scrutiny of the legislature and the courts, and outside the public eye, Obama is authorising murder on a weekly basis.”

Instead of capturing militants alive and to avoid giving the right of due process of law to them in a court, President Obama has openly been acting upon a ruthless policy of targeting killings by supervising the CIA-controlled drone warfare.

Nonetheless, President Obama has broken all the record of human rights by extrajudicial killings of the innocent people through CIA-operated unmanned aircraft in Somalia, Yemen etc. and especially in Pakistan where these attacks still continue as part of secret war against the country, while, the US claims to be protector of human rights not only inside America, but all over the world.

Sajjad Shaukat writes on international affairs and is author of the book: US vs Islamic Militants, Invisible Balance of Power: Dangerous Shift in International Relations

Email: sajjad_logic@yahoo.com

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