US drone strikes in Pakistan are still considered a taboo topic, but in spite of the little information available, reports indicate strikes have decreased by almost 50%. A total of 118 drone attacks were reported in 2010, while in 2011 this figure dropped to 67 strikes, a comparative analysis by The Express Tribune reveals.
There is a general consensus that the ‘war on terror’ in Pakistan is in many ways directly linked to the security situation in Afghanistan. Questions relevant to the drone strikes are: Does a decrease in drone strikes mean a decrease in suicide attacks? Does the US withdrawal from Afghanistan mean the end of terror in Pakistan?
Former chief secretary of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa Khalid Aziz thinks the problem Pakistan faces is far more deep-rooted, and can’t be solved merely through American withdrawal from Afghanistan. “There needs to be a change in the mindset, we are not at peace with anyone, but fighting against the universe,” he says.
While a post US withdrawal from Afghanistan scenario can only be speculated upon at this point, what is certain is that 2011 witnessed fewer drone attacks. This decline can be attributed to three reasons, according to Brigadier Mehmood Shah, former security secretary of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata). Firstly, Shah says, there’s the Raymond Davis issue, which he refers to as the ‘Great Embarrassment’ after much talk of so-called Black Water and CIA operatives in Pakistan. He adds that Osama’s capture from Pakistan in a covert operation added to the mistrust between both the countries – but the Salala check-post attack on November 26 was the last nail in the coffin.
Furthermore, he says, “As US intentions in Afghanistan become clearer with withdrawal nearing, the pressure on Pakistan is reduced”. According to Col (retd) Khalid Munir, a retired army officer well acquainted with the geography and politics of the tribal regions, another reason is the increasing coverage on the questionable legality of these strikes and lawsuits filed by drone strikes victims’ families. “These legal issues might seem small at the moment, but I think they will have a great impact in the future,” he says.
Drone strikes have continuously been the subject of resolutions, and debated in parliament with regard to sovereignty. The reality of the attacks, however, is felt more starkly by those close to them – drone attacks have claimed some 370 lives and injured more than 50 this year, with varying figures from different sources. These figures however, remain independently unverifiable.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 5th, 2012.