Drone attacks again

After a gap of nearly two months, American CIA drones have resumed operations in Pakistan and during the past 72 hours, two such attacks in North Waziristan have claimed nine lives. The Thursday raid in Dogga area of NWA claimed five lives, while earlier on Tuesday, a similar attack had killed four innocent civilians. The general understanding was that following the vacation of the Shamsi Airbase and discontinuation of NATO supplies to Afghanistan, drones would never again enter Pakistani airspace. It may be recalled that the American television channel MSNBC aired a report saying that on December 12 last year, Prime Minister Gilani and COAS Gen Kayani resolved, at a meeting, that any further drone attack would be considered an act of aggression. Not only this, the report said that the top civil and military leadership has also decided to shoot down any drone entering into Pakistani airspace. It is strange that no action against these invading planes was taken and not even protested. It gives credence to another US newspaper report that Pakistan has agreed to selective drone strikes. These fresh attacks have once again caused the nation utter disappointment and despair. Does this silence mean that both our civilian and military leadership has been overstating their promises to take action against drone attacks? If our national leadership is convinced that drone attacks are against territorial integrity and national sovereignty why is action not taken to stop them? Why has Pakistan Air Force not been directed to shoot them down? The government must honour its pledges, made with much fanfare. During the suspension of these raids, there has also been a lull in suicide bombing incidents across the country.

The civil and military leadership will have to put their heads together and decide once and for all whether they are going to continue making empty promises to Pakistanis or whether they will finally put their money where their mouth is. People are no longer willing to be hoodwinked about the clarity of the policy on this issue. If there is some renewed understanding with the Americans, that too must be clearly stated, failing which the government may face a strong spate of protest demonstrations. The US too must recognise, that whether or not its drone policy is one it officially recognises, it is having a justifiably negative impact on its perception as a whole in Pakistan. The policy must be suspended immediately and work then begun to improve its image among Pakistanis, who are exhausted by participation in a war, invitation to which was extended by a Hobson’s choice to begin with.

(www.nation.com.pk / 14.01.2012)

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