Drone myth put to rest?

Published: March 9, 2011
Some 1,800 tribesmen stage demonstration against the continuous attacks.

Some 1,800 tribesmen stage demonstration against the continuous attacks.

The General Officer Commanding 7-Division, a two-star major-general, has said on record, speaking at a briefing in Mirali in North Waziristan, that “many of those killed in drone strikes are hardcore elements” and that “a sizeable number” were “foreigners”. He added that “there are a few civilian casualties in such precision strikes, but a majority of those eliminated are terrorists”. According to the officer, between 2007 and 2011 about 164 predator strikes had been carried out and over 964 terrorists killed. Of those killed, 793 were locals and 171 foreigners. Under US President Barack Obama, 2010 was the deadliest year, with the attacks leaving more than 423 terrorists dead.

The officer in charge of troops in North Waziristan has given reasons why Pakistan doesn’t like the US policy of drones: “The attacks have a negative fallout, scaring the local population and causing their migration”, bringing law enforcement agencies under pressure.

The statement is, however, an important rebuttal of the claim made by a part of the media: That the drones mostly kill innocent Pakistani tribesmen. Here, a distinction must be carefully recognised: Those killed are mostly local people but they fall in the category of terrorists. The tribesmen killed were mostly ‘not innocent’ and were considered as fighting for al Qaeda. Yet the tribesmen who gathered in Islamabad some time ago as ‘victims of drones’ all claimed to be innocent and strengthened the stance of the Islamabad government against the drones.

Once again, a distinction will have to be made between the terrorist tribesmen, who possibly did not come to Islamabad to register their protest and, those who lost their dear ones as ‘collateral damage’. Not even the Americans deny this collateral damage. The soldiers of 7-Division, who are valiantly fighting foreign and home-grown terrorists and their local henchmen, know very well who the bad guys are. They are certainly less influenced by the anti-American propaganda than the rest of us are.

Since the media in Pakistan is free — but not without its biases — a lonely voice of dissent about the drones has been raised too. The Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy (AIRRA), a thinktank of researchers and political activists from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Fata has contested the ‘official’ view that drone attacks are harming Pakistan. The AIIRA teams visited areas in South Waziristan, North Waziristan and Kurram Agency in 2009. The teams handed out 650 structured questionnaires to people in these areas. The questionnaires were answered by 550 respondents (100 declined to answer) from professions related to business, education, health and transport.

The following replies were received: Do you think the drones are accurate in their strikes? Response: ‘Yes’ 52 per cent, ‘no’ 48 per cent. Do you think anti-American feelings in the area increased due to drone attacks recently? Response: ‘Yes’ 42 per cent, ‘no’ 58 per cent. Should the Pakistan military carry out targeted strikes on members of militant organisations? Response: ‘Yes’ 70 per cent, ‘no’ 30 per cent. Do militant organisations get damaged due to drone attacks? Response: ‘Yes’ 60 per cent, ‘no’ 40 per cent. AIRRA drew the following conclusions: “The popular notion outside the Pakhtun belt that a large majority of the local population supports the Taliban movement lacks substance. The notion that anti-Americanism in the region has increased due to drone attacks is rejected by this survey. The study supports the notion that a large majority of the people in the Pakhtun belt wants to be incorporated with the state and integrate with the rest of the world.”

The fact is that Fata has been an ‘ungoverned space’ within Pakistan for a long time. The state has been drawing its non-state actors from this area for its covert wars. The area has been left undeveloped and foreign terrorist organisations have entered Fata and are using Pakistani territory for attacks across Pakistan’s borders, which greatly damages the legal ground for our demand that drone attacks be stopped. If we are so against foreign drones targeting the militants, we should be prepared to do this job ourselves.

Published in The Express Tribune, March 10th, 2011.

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Reader Comments (15)

  • Mar 9, 2011 - 10:25PM

    For a very long time many people have argued, quite rightly, that the drone attacks could not have been sustained for so long without support from intelligence sources amongst the local population. Then again, whether the drone attacks kill 99 terrorists and 1 innocent or vice versa isnt really the issue. The issue her is the legality and the extra judicial nature of the drone attacks themselves. For even if they are all guilty, they are guilty to varying degrees and not all will deserve death. A hardcore terrorist leader and a petty informant who is coerced into supporting the organization are not one and the same. Perhaps it would be better to present this argument to Shireen Mazari and see what she has to say about it. Recommend

  • Abdul-Mughis Rana
    Mar 9, 2011 - 11:32PM

    Americans must stop this killing business selling/practicing their arsenals.
    If any one is wrong in his actions or beleifs, who gives America or any body this right to kill? Why not dialogue? We did ‘nt agree to the Germans/Hitler’s massacre of Jews?
    If this killing could ensure safe heaven for Americans would’nt this be terribly bad. Pakistani Govt. helping Americans NATO i.e. foreigners. I am sure that America is definitely playing double role under the root of terrorism. Pakistan should not have blindly relied on NATO or American!!!
    Always remember they don’t give a damn whether good one dies or a bad one whereas if you look at Muslims many out of us will stand for them if anything crosses limits because we do for ALLAH’s sake and that is required from us.
    Muslims have a responsibility from ALLAH SWT! Recommend

  • faraz sadiq
    Mar 10, 2011 - 8:48AM

    The drones are a gift from allah.they are doing what our own govt. is too weak to do.They are removing these religious barbarians from this country.

    My only regret is that these attacks are restricted to fata & kp,the drones cleanup operation should be extended to southern punjab,karachi & balochistan also to remove a lot of the religious savage filth we have living & multiplying in these areas.

    Our army should get drones of its own & start sending these depraved islamic fundamentalists to meet their 72 virgins.Recommend

  • tanvir aklaq
    Mar 10, 2011 - 9:03AM

    May Allah bless these drones,they are weeding out the depraved religious terrorists from our midst.
    Why can’t america,england,canada take all of our religious barbarians to guantanamo bay or to their other prisons.Just taking away that religious nut case aafia isn’t enough,we have millions of deranged jihadi aafias in our land & they are raising another generation of misogynistic,homophobic,intolerant,bigoted religious barbarians.The majority of our population can’t stand nonmuslims,they don’t eat or drink from the same utensils as they say that nonmuslims are “napaak” & “paleet”.Please america take away the rest of our religious scum,they’re killing dozens of people everyday so please hurry.Recommend

  • Yousuf Nazar
    Mar 10, 2011 - 9:07AM

    I think the whole argument that terrorists or actually an insurgency can be fought with air strikes is wrong and is not supported by the history of how these are tackled. You say that Pakistani general ought to know. You wish! If they did, we would not be in such a mess. You seem to be quite unaware of the drone attacks’ history. The violence and suicide bombings have grown at an exponential rate since they started. You quote at length from an institute that has a short history and little credibility in terms of track record. If you are influenced by American or a certain lobby within the Army, it is a different matter but it is dishonest on your part not to mention that the Army spokesperson Maj Gen. Athar Abbas has termed the remarks given by GCO-7th division as his personal. Now even the Army generals do not agree and you have written such a definitive editorial because you believe in that line and not because the facts point in that directionRecommend

  • faraz
    Mar 10, 2011 - 9:32AM

    Drone certainly fuels hatred for the state, the army should take control over FATA and bring it to the mainstream. If drones are accurate, then why dont we own it?Recommend

  • Fazal Gafur
    Mar 10, 2011 - 2:10PM

    Well I guess CIA succeeded to over come on ISI, MI & and the entire Pakistani Army if we look at the back ground if this Army General..

    I feel Shame on you guys now our Army Generals…..

    I guess there are lots similar in Egypt, Tunisia and Libya and cases in Pakistan.

    If our Army Generals keep on helping US and Speaking their thinking and applying US policies here in Pakistan.

    Now i’m convinced by a lawyer statement that Pakistan is a Failed state on this earth now.

    No one thinks for the common citizens everyone including Army official and Political Officials.
    That is the worst case and will lead the country to the stone age again i’m sure.Recommend

  • Cautious
    Mar 10, 2011 - 7:08PM

    It’s not rocket science. You allow terrorist to use your country as a base for operations – either because your too weak to control that territory or lack the will to eliminate them (maybe a bit of both). The USA won’t allow terrorist to operate with impunity so they have offered to go into that territory along with Pakistani soldiers to clean it out – Pakistan has refused. Drones are a compromise – not the first choice of the USA. All the hubbub about civilian casualties has been nonsense from day one – just part of the Pakistani xenophobia and national pride which argues that the USA should not enter Pakistan territory and conveniently ignores the fact that foreigners and Pakistani’s use that territory as a base for attacks against NATO troops.Recommend

  • *Let there be light*
    Mar 11, 2011 - 10:57AM

    Drones or knives,who ever kills this filth I am for it.They have become Butchers they are like a dog with Rabies,one has no choice but to kill it.And mind you they may have Muslim names but,they are not Muslims.Eliminate this filth ,and believe me this is their punishment from their LORD.First the humiliation then death this is what Pakistani Taliban deserve.Recommend

  • Jeddy
    Mar 11, 2011 - 1:13PM

    Drones should be flown inside Afghanistan and used there only.Recommend

  • Arsalan
    Mar 11, 2011 - 2:30PM

    Talibans or TPP or whatever they are or could be called – they are pure terrorists.

    If bad job is being done by drones – so what ? I am pleased that members are Pak Army are not getting hurt in killing those killers.Recommend

  • All BS
    Mar 11, 2011 - 5:56PM

    Because drones are so good for us, and through pinpoint accuracy target terrorists and not civilians. I want drones to be used in Karachi, Lahore and other cities of Pakistan. What say Mr Editor, how would you feel with drones in your city?Recommend

  • Bangash
    Mar 11, 2011 - 9:24PM

    If Karachi and Lahore became HQ of Taliban, the way FATA is , then I would be fine with using drones in Karachi and Lahore as well.Recommend

  • Jeddy
    Mar 12, 2011 - 11:32AM

    Some people are very happy that almost 50% innocent Pakistanis are being killed by drone attacks. Are they happy because the drones are piloted by the USA? Recommend

  • Klish
    Mar 16, 2011 - 1:47AM


    Jeddy, please get your facts straight. Where do you get the 50% innocent Pakistanis number? According to polls and statements from Pakistanis the vast majority of those killed are indeed terrorist. Recommend

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