Delinking drones and terrorism

Published: October 25, 2012

The writer is a freelance journalist based in Islamabad. He has previously worked at The Express Tribune and Newsline

One of the greatest US foreign policy successes since the 9/11 attacks has been to redefine terrorism as the use of violence for political aims, but only when wielded by Muslims. No matter how disparate the groups and how different their goals, all acts of violence committed by Muslims are grouped under one heading.

Nowhere has this been more evident than in the debate over drones, particularly after the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) shooting of 15-year-old Malala Yousufzai. Both sides have been equally guilty of lazy thinking. In one corner, you have those who claim that were the US not carrying out drone strikes in the tribal areas, the TTP would not have attacked this minor girl, or indeed be indulging in much violence at all. On the other hand, some are now seeing vindication for drone attacks, claiming that the monsters who were responsible for this dastardly deed deserve nothing better than to be shot dead by the robots in the sky.

Neither side acknowledges one obvious truth: drone attacks do not usually target those who are doing the killing in Pakistan. Much of the terrorist violence in the country is the handiwork of the TTP, a coalition of various militant groups that operate inside Pakistan, while drone attacks chiefly target militant groups that have found refuge in the tribal agencies but are mainly interested in carrying out attacks in Afghanistan. Linking the use of drones on the latter with the violence of the former makes about as much sense as blaming Protestants for the sins of Catholicism. They may have similar ideologies rooted in the same religion but they have goals and aspirations which rarely overlap.

The governments and militaries of the US and Pakistan obviously recognise this, even if their public statements on the matter are misleading. In pursuing its own interests, the US uses its drone technology to target those it sees as a threat to its troops and interests in Afghanistan. That same instinct of self-preservation leads the US to constantly pressure Pakistan to carry out a military operation in North Waziristan against the Haqqani network, which has attacked targets only in Afghanistan. We have obviously refused to do so since the Haqqani network poses no immediate threat to Pakistan. Where the US has tried to win the propaganda war is by using attacks by the TTP to publicly urge us to carry out a military operation in North Waziristan even though the type of action they would have us undertake would be centred against the Haqqanis, not the TTP.

Different arguments could be made to make the case for military operations against the Haqqani network. One would be based on morality, saying that since the terrorist outfit has been given sanctuary in Pakistan, likely with the collusion of the military, we have a duty to take action against it. The other argument would be practical and far-sighted. At some point, these groups are going to turn their bombs and guns against us and it is better to strike first than wait for the inevitable. Neither of these cases is being made. Instead, we are being fed moralistic arguments about the violence the Taliban is fostering in our country, without a vital distinction being made between different militant groups.

The only distinction our military has drawn is that of  ‘good’ and ‘bad’ Taliban. This may be about as unhelpful a designation as one could get. ‘Good’ Taliban are described as those attacking Afghanistan, while the baddies are those who go after us. Instead of moralistically differentiating between them, it would be far more persuasive to differentiate on the basis of practicality.

Published in The Express Tribune, October 26th, 2012.

on Twitter, become a fan on Facebook

Reader Comments (36)

  • R2D2
    Oct 25, 2012 - 10:14PM

    as long as we have retards in the govt, whether its the Pakistani govt or that of another country, and leaders that are apologists for terrorists we are far from getting rid of this problem.

    Recommend

  • C. Nandkishore
    Oct 25, 2012 - 10:28PM

    all acts of violence committed by Muslims are grouped under one heading.

    This is how a non Muslim sees: If you claim that all the Muslims from Casablanca to Philippines are one family then all their violence will be under one heading: Terrorism.

    Recommend

  • shahid
    Oct 25, 2012 - 10:28PM

    There is no end to self delusion such as this article represents. Denial of causality has always been considered a hall mark of the fanatical religious thinking. But this article shows that self secular and/or liberal people are not immune from it either.

    Recommend

  • observer
    Oct 25, 2012 - 10:32PM

    Neither side acknowledges one obvious truth: drone attacks do not usually target those who are doing the killing in Pakistan.

    If,

    Drones do not attack the TTP.

    Then,

    The Khan’s claim that the TTP draws sustenance from Drone attacks is false.

    And,

    The Khan is loathe to condemn those ‘who are doing the killings in Pakistan’ for spurious reasons.

    Some body give copies of this to the PTI jiyalas.

    Recommend

  • Khan Jr
    Oct 25, 2012 - 10:43PM

    Well stated: “At some point, [all] these groups are going to turn their bombs and guns against us and it is better to strike first than wait for the inevitable.”

    It was ‘genius’ Musharraf who stupidly tried to distinguish between the ‘good’ (the so-called freedom fighters) and ‘bad’ terrorists in the UN some years ago. If these terrorists aren’t stopped they will continue to use their intolerably brutal violence in an effort to achieve their dream of Salafist Khilafates in both Afghanistan and Pakistan

    Recommend

  • gp65
    Oct 25, 2012 - 10:47PM

    You made some valid points about the deliberate obfuscation between TTP and Afghan Taliban. US government may have used it this time to push for an NWA operation. However, Pakistan government itself as well as popular opposition leaders like Imran deliberately reinforce this obfuscation when they say that 40,000 Pakistanis have died in global war on terror when in fact they have died due to an insurgency by TTP – similar to Sri Lankans who died during LTTE insurgency.

    Apart from morality and far sightedness, there could be an argument made on practicality to acknowledge that while both these groups current areas of operation as separate (TTP attacks Pakistan state to impose its version of sharia and Afghan Taliban seeks to do the same in Afghanistan), both have identical goals. It is not possible to keep the infrastructure that produces support for Afghan Taliban unchanged while attacking the one that produces the TTP – for there is no difference between the goals of this group. In addition when countries as diverse as Iran, Afghanistam, India, China, Russia, US and UK accuse Pakistan of being a breeding ground for terrorist – it is in the country’s own interest to introspect and address root causes for the country widely being thought of as global terror hub or risk gradal global isolation.

    Recommend

  • sabi
    Oct 25, 2012 - 11:38PM

    It first started as Ahraris then alshamas and albadar then majlis shoora of zia then mujahideen then taliban.Now these militant groups are every where joining hand in hand with each other having commen intrests and that is to kill the hen to get all the golden eggs for once.But they must know its not a hen it’s Pakistan and it will kill all those (internal enemies) who want to kill it:However mercy for those who will mend their ways.Pakistan will have to fight this war from Peshawar to karachi to queta to gilgit.Fata will be small story.Pakistan will win sure.

    Recommend

  • Midhat
    Oct 26, 2012 - 2:28AM

    @observer:
    “If,
    Drones do not attack the TTP.
    Then,
    The Khan’s claim that the TTP draws sustenance from Drone attacks is false.
    …Some body give copies of this to the PTI jiyalas.

    PTI jiyalas already know that The Drones do not attack the TTP..It kills more Civilinas,
    Then,
    The Khan’s claim that the TTP draws sustenance from Drone attacks is still TRUERecommend

  • Something Clever
    Oct 26, 2012 - 4:00AM

    @Midhat:
    “PTI jiyalas already know that The Drones do not attack the TTP..It kills more Civilinas”
    Even your inaccurate, weirdly erratic and inexplicably wide margin figures to back anti-drone claims say that more militants die than civilians.
    Then, PTI jiyalas are most certainly people not to be acknowledged when it comes to quoting facts and reaching informed conclusions.

    Recommend

  • wonderer
    Oct 26, 2012 - 9:58AM

    What can one do about the support enjoyed by TTP among general public? This support may be small in terms of votes, but all political parties, specially the religious ones, think those votes are substantial enough to make a difference to their electoral prospects. Pakistan, needless to say. is experimenting with democracy at the moment. We must therefore wait till the next government is formed.

    Recommend

  • Sultan
    Oct 26, 2012 - 6:15PM

    Here is a quick examination of how things went wrong: we supported the US in destroying USSR in Afghanistan to satisfy their desire to seek revenge over the humiliation in Vietnam. In return, the US looked the other way and we got the Big Bomb–a brilliant bargain extracted by our security establishment. With this feather in their cap, our armed forces then imported the Jihadi culture–so effectively used in Afghanistan–into Pakistan and the public lapped it up: we all gave donations in mosques and bukray ki khalain for Eid to theses outfits to liberate Kashmir to seek revenge for the humiliation in East Pakistan. It was another brilliant move by our security establishment to weaken indian defenses for as long as it worked–with a handful of “assets”, we were able to bog down 500,000 indian soldiers in Kashmir. Unfortunately, the laughter in Rawalpindi stopped after our holy warrior Muslim brother, OBL, decided to flatten the Twin Towers to seek revenge against various real and imagined atrocities committed by the US against the canard called “Muslim Ummah”. The world changed after 9/11 and America threatened Pakistan to seek revenge for the humiliation in New York. We obliged under the threat of annihilation and tried our best to tame ours “assets”; however, our assets–who had by now acquired a hero status and deep following within the population–had other plans and revolted against us to become a liability, especially after Lal masjid incident. Now these renegade “assets” are trying to destroy the Pakistani state to seek revenge for the humiliation of Lal Masjid, with their leader being shown on national TV escaping in a burqa! Does this litany of seeking revenge adequately explains the 30 years of trading in coal, which has sullied the hands of the entire nation now or shall I write a Phd. dissertation on it?

    Enough melodrama and introspection–this is not a Bollywood tear jerker. We are all adults and know fully well what happened, what we gained and what we lost. It is time now to get out of the coal business, wash our hands clean, say a prayer and charge ahead at full speed. We still have a lovely piece of real estate+a big army+nuclear deterrent and some very smart people to help build us a better future.

    Recommend

  • Cautious
    Oct 26, 2012 - 7:17PM

    One of the greatest US foreign policy
    successes since the 9/11 attacks has
    been to redefine terrorism as the use
    of violence for political aims, but
    only when wielded by Muslims

    Rubbish. Intentional attacks on civilians are the common denominator – not the religion. The fact that most of those attacks these days are committed by Muslims isn’t the fault of the American’s.

    Recommend

  • Sultan
    Oct 26, 2012 - 8:35PM

    @Cautious:

    I agree with you. I clearly remembered how the US gave a dozen brand new drones to the Sri Lankan government as X-mas present to eliminate the Tamil terrorists!

    Recommend

  • gp65
    Oct 26, 2012 - 8:47PM

    @Sultan:

    Some observations regarding your very interesting post.
    1. US is widely credited to have lost in Vietnam, so Russia had nothing to avenge. 1979 Afghanistan is unrelated to Vietnam.
    2. If sending jihadis to India in 1980s and 1990s was due to a desire for revenge of 1971, pls. tell me why did Pakistan send soldiers dressed up as tribals in 1965? Proactive revenge – eh? Also do tell us – did India order Tiger Niazi to kill and rape your Bengali citizens – which led to the creation of Bangladesh?
    3. You say Imran wants to get out of the coal business. He also says that sometimes depending on the audience he is addressing. His actions such as endorsing (rather than engaging DPC) appear not to match his words.

    Recommend

  • Sultan
    Oct 26, 2012 - 9:20PM

    @gp65:

    Oh, Miss Piffle is back with more drivel. Can you read English? I said US wanted to avenge Vietnam, you are saying Russia had nothing to avenge! Stop drinking the absinthe now before you go completely blind. What a regal idiot!

    Recommend

  • thor
    Oct 26, 2012 - 10:12PM

    @Sultan:
    You sure everyone will get out of this coal business?….i mean….this is still a profitable business for many…Many swear this is what the almighty has ordered them to do..Many want this coal business to flourish since thy will be out of job in case it gets fizzled out.

    Recommend

  • thor
    Oct 26, 2012 - 10:17PM

    a lovely piece of real estate+a big army+nuclear deterrent and some very smart people

    I think all you need is an identity…a clear understanding of who you are..that would solve everything..

    Recommend

  • thor
    Oct 26, 2012 - 10:30PM

    @Sultan:
    We obliged under the threat of annihilation and tried our best to tame ours “assets”;

    Everyone in Pakistan says these very people were mujaheddin or so called holy warriors & now they have become terrorist..
    I think during 80′s mujaheddin were the hired gun utilized by US/Pakistan for some different purpose & now Pakistan Army is the hired gun used for another purpose.

    Recommend

  • gp65
    Oct 27, 2012 - 12:46AM

    @Sultan:
    1. Yes I can read and comprehend English. Thank you for asking. The word their could have qualified US or USSR. IT wasn’t clear the way the sentence was constructed. Since it was USSR that initiated the aggression in Afghanistan, I assumed you were referring to that.
    2. Thank you for your concern for my health.

    Recommend

  • Sultan
    Oct 27, 2012 - 12:58AM

    @thor:

    You should try to dig out this old video with US Secretary of State Zbigniew Brzezinski standing in the middle of a ring of ferocious looking, gun toting Pathans, praising their cause as defending God and country and blah and blah and blah and even addressed them as the “Mujahideen” in his typical contorted polish american accent. Gulbadin Hikmatyar, known as the “butcher of Kabul” in Afghanistan was wined and dined at the White House to help facilitate an oil deal with US oil firm Unocal. Before you decide to drop your Thor’s hammer on Pakistanis, please acquaint yourself with a bit of history–in this hamman, the are many naked people!

    Recommend

  • Sultan
    Oct 27, 2012 - 5:03AM

    @gp65:

    @Sultan:
    1. Yes I can read and comprehend English

    Barley!

    Recommend

  • thor
    Oct 27, 2012 - 8:13AM

    @Sultan:
    a bit of history–
    Pakistan started destablising Afghanistan before 1979 by Z.A. Bhutto to discourage the idea of Pashtunistan by Sardar Daud. So he with the help of Gen.Naseerullah Babar, trained Gulbadin & Masood. The AFghan Govt was sticked to the wall by insurgencies , so they invited Russia to Help …then USA got an opportunity to take revenge of Veitnam. Pakistan & Saudi played role of front line states to do jihaad for USA. Actually the super powers were dragged into the AFGHAN indirectly by Pakistan.

    Recommend

  • mind control
    Oct 27, 2012 - 9:59AM

    @Sultan:

    and some very smart people to help build us a better future.

    Smart enough to first ‘Invent’ and then ‘Defend’ the ‘Water Car’?

    You bet they don’t come any smarter anywhere else in the world.
    The future is all yours.

    Recommend

  • observer
    Oct 27, 2012 - 4:43PM

    CAVEAT EMPTOR

    We still have a lovely piece of real estate+a big army+nuclear deterrent and some very smart people to help build us a better future.

    Don’t get lured by the spiel of the Real Estate Agent. He is trying to cover up a ‘Coal Infestation’ problem with the real estate. If you look closely you will find,

    A. The Coal , washed or unwashed, is in no hurry to go anywhere. The Coal occupies huge swathes of the fancy Real Estate and is in fact capable of Blackening anything anywhere on the Estate.Sample, GHQ,Lal Masjid,BB assassination, Mehran etc.etc.

    B. The Coal wants to impose its own Coal of Conduct on the land in order to convert the Real Estate into a Coalistani Emirate

    C. Those who could have and should have put the Coal underground, 6 feet or more, are either incapable or plain scared of confronting them.. Though they do show their strength to some civilians once in a while.

    D. And the ‘Bums’? As you know Coal is a source of energy and nuclear energy is a source of energy. The Coal believes that this greater source of energy should be theirs . And as we have seen, the Big Army does not have the stomach (which is quite big otherwise) to fight the coal.

    E. And the Real Estate Agent in Chief keeps trying to convince everyone that there is no Coal Problem. Actually all our problems stem from a Bale of Cotton in the neighbourhood.

    F. If the people are as smart as they are being made out, they will see through the obfuscation.

    So, as I said, Beware.

    Recommend

  • Sultan
    Oct 27, 2012 - 4:57PM

    @mind control:

    You had similarly “smart” people inventing and then defending a water car in the US, Japan, India, Sri Lanka and many more but your reflexive anti Pakistan hatemongering has rendered you blind to all these examples. So now, you think “smart” people only exist in Pakistan?

    Your pathetic drivel serves no purpose–it only strips you bare for the world to see the putrid cauldron of hatred boiling in your belly!

    Recommend

  • observer
    Oct 27, 2012 - 7:09PM

    @Sultan:

    and then defending a water car in the US, Japan, India, Sri Lanka and many more

    Including ‘Nuclear Scientists and heads of Science Academy’? I will need proof greater than your word.
    Are you up to it?

    Recommend

  • Sultan
    Oct 27, 2012 - 8:00PM

    Really? For every scientist that supported this fraud, there were two who spoke against it. You should look up Atta ur Rehman, Hoodbhoy, Samarmand, etc. The cauldron is ready to spill over now!

    Recommend

  • Sultan
    Oct 28, 2012 - 12:03AM

    @thor:

    Mostly correct analysis but I disagree with your last assertion. You should read “Charlie Wilson’s War”– it is perhaps the best account of why the US got involved and then who did what. I actually met a FedEx pilot by accident in Germany who used to transport mules from a farm in Kentucky to Peshawar in his Boeing 727 for use in the Jihad!!! Now that is strategic thinking at its best ;)

    Recommend

  • thor
    Oct 28, 2012 - 6:13PM

    @Sultan:
    I have watched the movie Charlie Wilson’s War.
    Charlie came in to the picture after Soviet had invaded Afghanistan.
    He did what was in the best interest for US during that period(cold war).
    I was discussing about period before 1979.

    Recommend

  • thor
    Oct 28, 2012 - 6:32PM

    @Sultan:
    Frankly speaking,… the way the Afghan issue was dealt by all the players during that period was wrong.They should have found some other way out.The idea of fighting communism through extremism was wrong.
    I am not an expert on Pakistan..but as i know..Pakistan used to be a liberal society prior to that & this Afghan issue could have been one of the factor why Zia choose to go for Islamic way.

    Recommend

  • Sultan
    Oct 28, 2012 - 7:53PM

    @thor:

    I am sorry Thor, you have to restate your pint–I have no idea what you are trying to say so cannot give a reply. Bhutto took Wali Khan to trial and National Awami Party (the predecessor of current ANP) was banned for treason and sedition for colluding with Afghan Pashtuns to create Pakhtunistan. I am not sure how Naseerullah Babar, et al are relevant here.

    Recommend

  • thor
    Oct 29, 2012 - 3:42PM

    @Sultan:
    As i have said i am no expert..
    But you can ask some military veteran about Gen. Naseerullah Babar & his role in suppressing the government of Doud Khan.You will get your answer..

    Recommend

  • thor
    Oct 29, 2012 - 5:06PM

    @Sultan:
    OK..let me rephrase it..
    when i said the way the Afghan issue was dealt by all the players during that period was wrong…i meant the period after Soviet had attacked Afghanistan..
    when i said about Naseerullah Babar,…it was period before Soviet had attacked Afghanistan.
    Hope this makes my statements clear..

    Recommend

  • observer
    Oct 29, 2012 - 11:04PM

    @Sultan:

    Now that the fun and games are over, can we have some evidence of similarly “smart” people inventing and then defending a water car in the US, Japan, India, Sri Lanka and many more?

    Even one ‘nuclear scientist’ from nay of these countries ‘inventing and /or defending’ the water car would be considered evidence enough.

    Moderator ET- I think. asking for evidence is far more responsible than making a wild claim, and hope you think so too.

    Recommend

  • Sultan
    Oct 29, 2012 - 11:51PM

    @observer:

    Typical indian skulduggery, when you provide an answer, he moves on to reframe the question. And again and again. Take my advice: next time, list all possible angles to your hatemongering dressed up as a question in clear English in one comment and then I will provide the answers to strip your garb of fake intellect for all to see the boiling cauldron of hatred churning in your stomach.

    Recommend

  • observer
    Oct 30, 2012 - 9:20PM

    @Sultan:

    No need to get so hot under the collar. You made a statement. I asked you to substantiate it. If you have nothing to substantiate it with and do not like the feeling, be more circumspect next time. Recommend

More in Opinion