Sovereignty is a very complex issue even though it may seem simple enough. While the issue of US drones violating our sovereignty has come up again and again, former Pakistan ambassador to the US Husain Haqqani has raised a relevant point concerning other violations of sovereignty. Speaking in Washington at the launch of the Asia Society’s report on the US and South Asia after Afghanistan, the former ambassador spoke candidly, stating that his country was not using its full force against the militants operating from its territory and also violating its sovereignty.
This is an issue that has not been discussed often enough in our own country, with hype built only around the drone strikes. The fact, however, is that the militants, as anti-State players, are misusing Pakistan’s territory and need to be stopped. They are undoubtedly the real culprits. Logically speaking, if there were no militants, there would be no drones. The entire problem would be solved. But as Haqqani stated, Pakistan is not demonstrating the will required to root out militants. This needs to be found along with the recognition that the real threat to our nation comes from the heavily armed outfits marching across our northern areas, rather than the strikes made by unmanned planes. It is true that such strikes ignite a degree of anger and thus spur on militancy but this is a relatively minor matter, blown out of proportion compared to the threat of militancy from within. It would be worth compiling a list of just how many top militant figures the drones have taken out since 2004.
The key challenge is to fight militancy more forcefully from within the country. Washington’s strategies need to be based around persuading Islamabad to work towards this. A broader approach is needed. As Haqqani said, engagement with the military and intelligence apparatus alone has not been effective. It is not hard to say why. Nonetheless, civilians need to be involved in the campaign against militancy and a problem that acts as a major threat to our nation needs to be discussed far more openly and widely on all possible forums to do away with the current fixation on drones alone.
Published in The Express Tribune, December 13th, 2012.