Dr Maleeha Lodhi, Pakistan’s Permanent Representative to the United Nations, has recently termed US drone strikes illegal while addressing an important session on global counterterrorism strategy at the UN General Assembly. She stressed upon for the immediate cessation of these strikes that violate fundamental rights and territorial integrity of sovereign states. Moreover, she also added that such strikes promote extremism and add fuel to the fire.
The ambassador’s stance is quite valid given the fact that drone strikes have resulted in nothing but misery and despair for the affected areas in FATA. The locals are unable to get a good night’s sleep due to the sound of drones hovering over, fearful where the next attack could be.
However, the main issue remains that some areas in FATA were hotbeds of terror activities until recently, and militants assimilated themselves amongst the locals over the years. Hence, it became a precarious task to identify potential terror suspects. Pakistan’s views on drone strikes are morally strong, but there has been a great degree of hypocrisy in this regard. In the past, civilian and military officials publicly condemned drone attacks for face-saving purposes, as it was widely known within certain sections of the international community that the strikes had discreet backing of Pakistan’s state officials.
The state’s security apparatus directly consulted with the US forces on when and where to conduct the drone strikes. Furthermore, the state also provided the US with Shamsi Airbase in Balochistan for the same purpose. There were high risks involved in carrying out the strikes given the fallout resulting from collateral damages. However, defence experts have pointed out that the strikes were far more accurate than carpet-bombing or air force based aerial strikes due to their high precision rate.
Pakistan’s role in the War on Terror is highly appreciative, but here is another example where elements of the state remained in a denial mode similar to the stance on drone strikes.
An example of Pakistan’s reluctance to act in honesty is the investigation of the 2008 Mumbai attacks. The recent demand of Pakistan government to its Indian counterpart to “provide more evidence” is the manifestation of Pakistan’s ambivalence in its policies regarding the India-centric terror. The horrific Mumbai tragedy is a case of many complexities in which the state initially denied that the Laskhar-e-Taiba could be behind the dastardly attacks that shook the world. Former Director-General FIA Tariq Khosa, who headed the team probing the attacks, discussed in detail — in an op-ed written for Dawn in August 2015 — how the militants planned, coordinated and carried out the attacks from their base of operations in Karachi.
Hence, Pakistan needs to clearly come out of dualism, and remain a responsible state in the international community. The policy of protecting the so-called “strategic assets” has failed and would continue to fail to be of any long-term advantage, and steps need to be taken for stronger defence and foreign policies. Drone strikes are indeed unhelpful in reducing the menace of extremism, but the state needs to define its core objectives in a subtle and transparent manner before anyone else gets a chance to point fingers.
In full recognition of Pakistan’s status as a sovereign state that has its national interests as the core of its foreign policy, and in acceptance of the long-term redundancy of the drone strikes as a workable terror deterrent, Pakistan stands at a point today where the most important thing for its stability is the need to take stock of its foreign policy and the inherent flaws of its diplomatic designs.