On drone strikes

Published: April 27, 2012

PCNS was essentially an exercise in public relations with true target of its proposals being Pakistani people, not US.

When the Parliamentary Committee on National Security (PCNS) decided it wanted to reset the terms of our alliance with the US, it forgot to keep one thing in mind: what if the Americans didn’t want to go along with the new terms? This is exactly what has happened. In a recent interview, Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar said that although we had demanded an immediate cessation of drone attacks, the US has not complied. The true scandal here is that we ever expected the US to simply go along with whatever the PCNS and parliament recommended. As a decidedly junior partner in the alliance, our capacity to redefine the terms of engagement was always going to be severely limited.

The PCNS was essentially an exercise in public relations with the true target of its proposals being the Pakistani people, not the US. With anti-US sentiment near-universal in the country, the government wanted to show the people that it was on their side. In refusing to make it clear from the start that it was unlikely that the US would follow our proposals, the PCNS was being fundamentally dishonest. Given the recent history of our relations with the US, it is entirely possible that the PCNS was a smokescreen with the real terms of the alliance being worked out behind the scenes. When the US first started carrying out drone strikes, the government and military pleaded ignorance and vociferously condemned the attacks as a violation of our sovereignty. Only later, was it revealed that they had known about them and had given permission for the drone strikes.

We could have only unilaterally imposed a new alliance on the US if we had credible bargaining chips with which to do so. If, for example, there was any chance that we could shoot down drones would the US have taken our demand for a halt to drone strikes seriously? As things stand, doing something like that would not only be practically impossible, it would also be extremely foolish. Right now, we need US financial aid and and the US willingness to strike militants is far greater than its need of anything else from us. The government has only made things worse by antagonising both the US and the Pakistani public by vesting so much importance into the PCNS.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 28th, 2012.

Reader Comments (7)

  • Apr 27, 2012 - 10:22PM

    World Aid to Pakistan since 2001 = 20 Billion Dollars (Including $ 9 Billion CSF Reimbursements)
    Pakistan’s Losses since 2001 = 68 Billion Dollars + 35000 Civilians + 5000 Soldiers + 6 Million IDPs (FATA & Swat) + 30% Population Psychologically disturbed due to Terrorism incidents + 1 Million Kids deprived of Education due to destruction / closure of Schools (FATA & KPK) + Stigma of Selling Sons & Daughters to Americans (like Aafia) + Violation of Sovereignty by Drones & TTP militants’ attacks almost daily……….. The list goes on and on….
    ……
    This Alien War has cost us Tribesmen our Customs, Language and above all Self-Confidence and Self-Respect
    Drawing Room LIBERALS sitting in Islamabad, Lahore & Karachi and discussing the “MONSTERS bred in FATA” can’t realize what it is like to be declared “Enemy of the State”….
    American Drones, PAF Jets, Army Gunship Choppers and Heavy Artillery Fire have REDEFINED Life for the Tribesmen…
    Alas! PEACE, for us, means the LULL between two Explosions or Shellings or Drone Attacks…
    Down with this War of Terror and “Down with those who term it “OUR WAR”?

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  • gp65
    Apr 27, 2012 - 10:52PM

    Great analysis. One more point : foreign policy should be run by the executive to put it on the legislature was also fundamentally dishonest. Sure enough the parliament gave guidelines for discussion but put the decision (of opening the supply routes) back on the shoulders of the executive – where it belongs.

    In trying to get a consensus from the parliament, the terms of the guideline were such that the most rightwing party could agree. OF course doing so dramatically reduced the possibility that they would be accepted by US in toto- and that is exactly what has happened.

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  • Cautious
    Apr 27, 2012 - 11:40PM

    Editorial makes sense. Your military made some foreign policy decisions which backed Pakistan into a corner it could not get out of — then it tried to turn the those foreign policy decision over to the civilian govt which in turned turned it over to the Parliament. In the end run your still in the same corner you started with and there is no way out that doesn’t make Pakistan look weak and foolish. Lose – Lose situation for everyone.

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  • Mirza
    Apr 28, 2012 - 1:59AM

    Drones are the best thing for Pakistan after the slice of bread. There is no reason to protest against drones as long as there are terrorists and extremists who are bent upon hurting and killing civilians. Pakistani army could prevent these attacks if they would have cleared our country of worst terrorists in the world. The civilized world cannot allow these global terrorists havens in Pakistan. If Pakistani army is not going to take any action then the US and NATO would continue with their operation clean up.

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  • Apr 28, 2012 - 11:54AM

    Pakistan needs to clearly articulate its policy to fight against terrorism and any ambiguity left therein will have adverse consequences for our national security. Pakistan entered in this war as a coalition partner and definitely envisioning some national interests. In the history of military conflicts coalitions were always formed to meet some common objectives hence we need to contemplate what were those objectives and how far we have been able to achieve those? It is agreed that national policies must have the consent of nation but it is the responsibility of the government to educate the people as to what is in our interest? Over a period of time our successive have painting different pictures of our engagement with NATO thus confusing the nation. In doing so, many pressure groups have also been formed which has further confused the policy. It is the time now to tell the truth to the nation and take it in confidence. Our national leadership must be courageous enough to take tough decisions and motivate the nation accordingly.

    Pakistan also need to candidly evaluate its elements of national power vis a vis its Geo strategic ambitions. The foremost need of the time is a happy, healthy, educated and well fed nation. In this context, we should clearly see as to what extent we can part ways with US?

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  • ashok
    Apr 28, 2012 - 5:27PM

    Pakistan always had and still has the alternative to avoid drones strikes in Pakistan by bombing the foreign terrorists such as Haqqanis in North Waziristan and other places in FATA and the rest of Pakistan.

    Sovereignty is affected by both drones from NATO entering Pakistan and terrorists (foreign and locals) using Pakistan soil to attack neighbors such as Afghanistan of India.

    You can not have the cake and eat it too.

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  • Dr V. C. Bhutani
    Apr 29, 2012 - 5:26PM

    It is perhaps in order if the Americans expect that Pakistan would restrain the Haqqani network from continuing support to those who indulge in the killing of US/Allied troops in Afghanistan. If Pakistan refrains from doing this, it is perhaps to be expected that Americans shall proceed to do it themselves.
    The US seeking to contain China has been much written about in the Indian press as well as in world press. In India the view has been that it is not in India’s interest to join a US-led effort to contain China. In this day and age, it is hopeless for any power to seek to think in terms of containment.
    It would be unrealistic if anything were attempted that did not accommodate and adjust the interests of several countries at once. These countries would be the US, China, Russia, Pakistan, and India, not necessarily in that order. Someone will have to arise to adumbrate the means of adjusting the interests and concerns of all these countries. That calls for a high degree of imagination and intellectual acumen – and much give and take.
    V. C. Bhutani, Delhi, India, 29 Apr 2012, 1755 IST

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