A question lurks within the mind of every Pakistani: where are we headed with this war on/of terror? Is Pakistan a simple ‘franchisee’ or are we developing our own long-term interests in this war? The strategy to hit out at selected al Qaeda targets unfolded in early 2007 when our government offered facilities for launching drones remotely controlled by joystick operators in distant lands. The decision to kill was left in the hands of ‘informers’ on the ground who planted homing devices near houses that needed to be bombed. A menacing ‘whistle’ precedes the actual impact, many running for cover not knowing ‘for whom the bell tolls’, leaving many unintentionally dead and others maimed for life. So-called ‘collateral damage’, has been a sterile term. Women and children wailing and shrieking, mourners lifting their dead. The psychological impact has swung any remnant of anti-al Qaeda sentiment into anti-military and anti-US anger.
‘Pakistan Body Count’ – an initiative by a Pakistani graduate of Florida Tech – has documented suicide and drone casualties in Pakistan since 2004. Over 258 suicide attacks have left 3,832 dead and 9,562 injured, which comes out to an astonishing 51 innocent Pakistanis killed or maimed per attack. The death toll of drone attacks is equally worrisome. In the 142 reported drone attacks only 39 al Qaeda activists were killed as opposed to 1,651 innocent people. A kill ratio of 2.12 per cent is not high collateral damage but wanton murder. Brookings Institution has called the attacks “horrendously indiscriminate in nature”. They violate not only our sovereignty but Article 2(4) of the UN Charter, the Geneva Conventions and the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights. The latter prohibits extrajudicial executions stating that “every individual has the inherent right to life and no one shall be arbitrarily deprived of his life.” Article 6(2) stipulates that the penalty of death can only be decided by a competent court of law. One must question who is the judge, jury and executioner in this war of terror.
History reminds us of the Northern Ireland conflict which saw indiscriminate killings by terrorists, but the British government kept bringing the murderous gangs to the negotiating table until finally a selective truce was achieved. But recall the Lal Masjid episode. More and more evidence is piling up that many suicide bombers stemmed from that single incident. Had the logic of ‘control of terror by more terror’ been worth anything the initial ‘shock and awe’ would have been enough.
No matter how inhumane these new breed of terrorists are, why have we totally shunned dialogue? A strong military presence with very limited and precise strikes alongside attempts for dialogue may lead to solutions. We are digging our own grave on the behest of the US by involving our army to do their dirty work. Let not the ‘bell toll for thee’.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 18th, 2010.
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