Drone Attacks will Disrupt Pak-US Relations
Pak-US relations deteriorated in 2009 when as part of US espionage network, hundreds of the American CIA spies entered Pakistan under the guise of diplomats who began anti-Pakistan activities through their affiliated militants by supervising andguiding them. On many occasions, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) helped in stopping the secret movements of the CIA spies who were traveling in vehicles, covered with black mirrors—showing themselves as diplomats. Sometimes weapons were also snatched from them. On the information of ISI, Pakistan’s establishment expelled several so-called diplomats, operating in the country. On the other side, US withheld $800 million in military aid to punish its military and ISI.Besides, American top officials pressurised Pakistan to set free American national, Raymond Davis who killed two Pakistani nationals in Lahore on January 27, 2011. In fact, Davis was also an under-cover secret agent of CIA who entered Pakistan in guise of diplomat.
After the May 2 raid, Pak-US ties further worsened when in violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and without informing ISI, while setting aside intelligence cooperation, US Special Forces killed Osama Bin Laden in Abbottabad. The relations between the two countries almost reached point of no return when the US-led NATO’s deliberate air killed 25 soldiers on Pakistan Army border posts on November 26, last year. In this regard, by rejecting US pressure tactics; Pakistan’s civil and military leadership took strict measures such as suspension of NATO supply to Afghanistan, vacation of Shamsi Airbase and boycott of the second Bonn Conference on Afghanistan.
Meanwhile, Pak-US diplomats continued their negotiations to repair the damaged ties between both the countries. In this connection, America was more interested in resumption of NATO transport route across Pakistan as earlier as possible because it is cheaper than that of Central Asia. Besides, NATO decided the withdrawal of their troops in 2013 from Pakistani side.
In this respect, Pakistan remained firm on its stand for US apology in relation to the Salala checkpost incident, which American top officials had flatly refusing.
With the formal apology from the US regarding Salala event, Defence Committee of the Cabinet (DCC) on July 3, allowed reopening of the NATO supply lines across Pakistan to Afghanistan.
It is of particular attention that even a few days before and after the reopening of NATO supply route, drone attacks continued on Pakistan’s tribal areas. These predators’ strikes were commenced by President Bush, accelerated by President Obama. In the past few months, the CIA-operated unmanned aircraft, killed more than 70 people in North Waziristan. During his visit to India and Afghanistan, US Defense Secretary Leon Panetta has repeatedly pointed out that drone attacks would continue on safe havens of terrorists in Pakistan. Even President Obama has defended these strikes on FATA under the pretext of American so-called counterinsurgency programme.
It is mentionable that recently, Pakistan’s political and religious parties conducted rallies, processions and long march regarding the resumption of NATO transport routes, especially drone attacks. In this scenario, the US policy of liberalism and democracy could badly fail, giving a greater incentive to the fundamentalist and extremist elements in Pakistan. In this context, the fresh wave of drone strikes has thwarted the recent efforts of militants and Pakistan government for peace talks, and provoked the tribal people, resulting into more recruitment of militants in FATA. Such a flawed policy has brought about more subversive acts inside the country. In this connection, the outlawed Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) has intensified acts of sabotage in Pakistan.
In this backdrop, with the full approval of the civil and military leadership, the Director General of ISI, Lt-Gen. Zaheerul Islam will visit America on August 1 and will meet CIA Director David Petraeus. It is the first time in a year that any Pakistani high-ranking officer like the ISI Chief will visit the US.
Reliable sources disclosed that the Chief of Pakistan’s superior intelligence agency will emphatically ask his American counterpart to evolve some framework to end predators’ strikes on Pak tribal areas—the thorniest aspect of Pakistani-US relations. He will raise the question that unmanned aerial attacks are violation of the international law, and sovereignty of Pakistan, challenging a relationship that can actually accomplish a lot more on the ground than we are doing today in eliminating terrorism. He will especially indicate that these strikes are proving counterproductive to anti-terrorism efforts.
While pointing out public backlash inside Pakistan against the unmanned aircraft, DG ISI will make it clear that such American strikes are increasing resentment among the people.
Notably, quoting an official, AFP revealed that during his meeting with CIA Director David Petraeus, DG IS Lt-Gen Zaheerul Islam would say, “We need this precision strike capability to avoid collateral damage and its political fallout. The idea is that the US develops the target and tells us, and we destroy it ourselves.”
During his negotiations with David Petraeus, while talking on the other related issues, ISI Chief would discuss new mechanism for intelligence sharing and counterterrorism cooperation between the two countries.
It is pertinent to note that in a debate with Douglas Lute, President Obama’s top adviser on Afghanistan and Pakistan, Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US, Sherry Rehman called on July 28 for an end to the CIA drone strikes ahead of an intelligence summit in Washington between the two countries. She added, “We will seek an end to drone strikes and there will be no compromise on that.”
Earlier Sherry Rehman stated on July 6 that Pakistan and the US were set to resume broader talks on other issues in the wake of an agreement to reopen NATO supply routes. She remarked, “I certainly think, it opened the door to many other issues…both sides can use this opportunity to build a path to durable ties.”
While, Pakistan’s Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar has repeatedly pointed out that Pakistan would continue talks with the US over drone attacks.
However, intermittent attacks by the US spy planes on tribal regions will cause drastic impact on the US war on terror. These strikes will undermine international efforts of stability both in Afghanistan and Pakistan including peace dialogue with the Afghan militants, jeopardising American interests, while the foreign forces seek complete withdrawal from Afghanistan in 2014. In this respect, US top officials, particularly Secretary of State Hillary Clinton have repeatedly said that America needs Pakistan’s help not only for peace process with the militants, but also for stability in Afghanistan in the post-2014 scenario.
Nevertheless, the much awaited meeting between the spy masters of Pakistan and the US will be of greater significance at this critical juncture, when both the countries are trying to further minimise distrust between them.
In these terms, during the meeting with his counterpart, DG ISI Lt-Gen. Zaheerul Islam will take a firm stand especially on the drones’ issue as he has full backing of the Pakistani government in this respect.
If despite his talks with CIA Director David Petraeus, predator’s strikes on FATA continued, these could create a greater impediment in settling other issues between Pakistan and America. Ultimately, drone attacks will disrupt Pak-US relations, even taking them to the point of no return.
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