A conspiracy of silence

Published: May 22, 2011

The writer is a postdoctoral fellow at the Society of Fellows, Harvard University

By the time this article appears in print, a lot of ink would already have been spilt on the folly of ‘our’ duplicitous drone policy. Thanks to WikiLeaks, we now know for certain that the army has allowed the Americans to fly their unmanned drones in designated zones of operation. But did we really need the latest tranche of leaked American diplomatic cables to tell us that the army was in on the drone attacks, or that it thinks that the drones are effective in targeting militants?

The ISPR can issue denials but anyone with some knowledge of how Pakistan works, knows that the army had to have known. Besides, in April of this year, the General Officer Commanding (GOC) of the 7th Division, North Waziristan, Major-General Ghayur Mehmood, in fact, praised the drones as precision weapons that mostly kill ‘hardcore Taliban or al Qaeda elements, especially foreigners’. This was followed by another ISPR denial: The general’s statement was his own personal opinion, which didn’t gel well with the fact that it is unlikely for officers in such a disciplined force to be speaking their mind in public.

The real revelation is that, in January 2008, the army chief actually asked the Americans for drone coverage of the conflict zone in South Waziristan. So what is all this nonsense about shooting the drones down? Yet even all that bravado comes with a proviso, if only the ‘government’ orders us. Right, we all know that the military takes all its orders from the civilian government. All this, and the recent dog-and-pony show in parliament over the killing of OBL, are all part of a strategy to evade scrutiny and throw the ball back, squarely, in the court of the PPP-led government.

But all this dangerous deception on the drones only befuddles and further inflames public opinion against the United States. Why and how can the military expect to have its cake and eat it too? The ‘why’ is bad enough: It wants to preserve its methodically-cultivated public image as the invincible guardian of our security, but it also needs US military assistance to fight the ‘bad’ Taliban, as well as to fortify God’s last standing bulwark against the evil Hindus to our east.

The ‘how’ is more odious, a conspiracy of silence that makes it possible for the military to dodge and deflect bullets. Day in, and day out, the majority of our — holier-than-thou — TV anchors and their rightwing guests roast their favourite local straw men, the spineless PPP leadership, for publicly denouncing the drones while privately endorsing them. Knowing full well that neither the prime minister nor the president has any authority over who flies in and out of Pakistani airspace, they continue to shed crocodile tears over exaggerated civilian casualty figures. Of course, even one innocent civilian life lost is one too many. But how are civilian deaths by GHQ-sanctioned CIA drones, any worse than those caused directly by the Pakistani military’s aerial and artillery fire in Fata operations? Yet, we hear nothing of this ‘indigenous’ collateral damage?

Instead, what we get is the patriotic scoundrel defence. Enemies on all sides surround Pakistan; hence, questioning those who protect us with their lives is equal to treason. But why is Pakistan under attack in the first place? Why do the world’s most dangerous terrorists find easy shelter here? Why is almost every terrorist attack, in the world, traced back to its soil? Why does Pakistan proliferate nuclear weapons to pariah regimes? We pay the generals billions out of our dwindling resources, but they don’t owe us any explanations. We should instead focus on our corrupt civilian leadership who play politics with our ‘institutions’ to appease their Yankee patrons. But consider this: “Admiral Mullen… visited General Kayani’s house for a private dinner on March 3, 2008. Kayani began a thorough explanation of the political situation including an analysis of the ongoing negotiations over the make-up of the incoming government and a description of the major political players.”

What is more, US Special Forces have been conducting joint operations with Pakistani troops on our soil, at least, since September 2009. Talk about violations of our sovereignty.

Published in The Express Tribune, May 22nd, 2011.

Reader Comments (6)

  • May 22, 2011 - 3:24AM

    That was quite a reality check. I must admit that the revelation of army involvement in drone strikes is something I took ages to digest. Fishy politics, crooked strategies!Recommend

  • saleem khan
    May 22, 2011 - 3:39AM

    Very honest analysis. Thanks for writing this.Recommend

  • Fatah
    May 22, 2011 - 8:36AM

    The problem is Pakistan is “the Elite” who have US Green Cards and UK Residency Permits.

    These citizens of Pakistan pay taxes to the US Treasury and UK Exchequer but not to the State of Pakistan.

    These Pakistani citizens are the ones with the businesses that bribe the politicians, judges and police to betray Pakistan for their personal benefit.

    The “Elite” citizens of Pakistan are the ones in active collusion with America and UK to the detriment of Pakistan.

    Corruption and incompetence in Pakistani Government is due to the EXPLICIT knowledge and support of these RICH Pakistani citizens.

    Pakistan must cleanse itself of this disease. Recommend

  • omar yusaf
    May 22, 2011 - 11:19AM

    Aqil, some truisms will always hold water – as you alluded, patriotism is the last refuge of scoundrels.
    Your questions are painfully pertinent,
    I believe that, as a nation, we need to rethink whether we want to be governed or be ruled.
    The first option offers a path forward towards progressive achievements in a society, whereas the latter, positions us where we have found ourselves today.
    The choice is not a difficult one to make, and only requires a modicum of intelligence; however, I struggle to comprehend what it is that is holding us back from making the obvious choice.
    The writing is on the wall in brilliant neon red – yet there is a collective inertia that somehow defies gravitational wisdom.
    Perhaps we are colour blind.Recommend

  • Mehmood Qureshi
    May 22, 2011 - 1:09PM

    I could not agree more. The military takes a lion’s share of the budget without any questions asked. How many more revelations do we need to realize that Pakistan must radically alter its national security policy, and bring the military under democratic oversight. Which other, modern professional army in the world runs states? Recommend

  • May 22, 2011 - 5:23PM

    the Pakistani military does not care off civilian deaths due to drone attacks. They keep on asking America to give them drones so that they can carry out the attack themselves. Wouldn’t that kill civilians? Why is that acceptable? Recommend

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