For the first time, Pakistan has come up with a distinct plan on the handling of the controversial drone attacks which have created much havoc in the country. A senior security establishment official speaking to this newspaper provided some details of the plan under which the CIA would be involved in surveillance. It would then pass on information regarding the location of ‘high value’ targets to the Pakistanis who would then act as they see fit. To ensure action, the official said that the US would be welcome to carry out monitoring operations using drones, if required.
This proposal builds upon the new trust that is being developed stage by stage between Washington and Islamabad. In the past, the lack of US faith in Pakistan’s real intentions and its suspicions that the country was playing a ‘double game’ had led to a host of problems. The official stressed that Islamabad was keen on doing away with any duality of purpose and creating a working system with the US that would allow militants to be brought down, but in a manner that could lessen the degree of public anger regarding US-led drone strikes. It has also been made clear that ground action by US forces will not be permitted.
This suggestion marks a key step forward. Till now, Pakistan had offered no real solutions to the drone problem and the repercussions it caused. The official also said that the number of civilian casualties was not as high as that portrayed by some NGOs and that ‘the taking out’ of top al Qaeda figures helped both countries. Let us hope that things can move forward from this point. The mechanism laid out makes a lot of sense. What is important, however, is that Washington be convinced that the mechanism will be acted upon and that action — not just words — form part of the plan. Pakistan, at last, has shown that it has the ability to be proactive and this is a good step forward in the battle against terrorism and in maintaining good relations with Washington.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 20th, 2012.