ISLAMABAD: Being more vocal than ever regarding the controversial drone campaign, Pakistan is seeking a ban on the unilateral use of pilotless lethal aircraft against sovereign countries.
Officials have revealed that Islamabad has insisted that increased reliance on drone strikes for combat operations may cause serious harm to global peace and stability.
When the head of the United Nations team investigating civilian impact of drone use travelled to Pakistan last week, Ben Emmerson was not only conveyed Islamabad’s strong opposition but was also told that the use of pilotless aircraft must be discouraged.
A senior foreign ministry official told The Express Tribune that Islamabad was making all efforts to develop consensus at the UN against the unilateral drone use for counter-terrorism operations in any country.
“The drone technology is now very common and if its unilateral use is not discouraged, it will set a dangerous precedent,” said the official requesting anonymity. The official was part of Pakistan’s team which had briefed Emmerson on the implications of the continued US drone attacks in the tribal areas of the country.
Islamabad’s opposition to the use of combat drones stems from its fears that other countries may emulate this policy particularly in South Asia where certain states have festering political disputes.
“Therefore, we don’t want this technology to be used for combat operations,” the official explained.
Even within the United States, which was the first country to use drones for counter-terrorism operations, there has been continuous debate on the legal implications of the controversial CIA programme.
“People say what is going to happen when the Chinese and the Russians get this technology? The [US] president is well aware of those concerns and wants to set a standard for the international community on these tools,” said a White House spokesperson recently.
But Pakistan expects that the final UN report to be tabled before the General Assembly later this year will help develop consensus against the use of drones as weapons.
The UN launched investigations into the impact of counter-terrorism efforts, including the use of drones on civilians at the request of several countries, including Pakistan, in January this year.
In a statement issued after his previously unannounced trip, the head of the UN panel concluded that US drone strikes did in fact violate Pakistan’s sovereignty.
He made this observation after reported being convinced by Pakistani authorities that there was no secret understanding with the US on drone attacks.
It was also for the first time Pakistan revealed that at least 400 civilians have died in drone attacks since the campaign was launched in the country’s tribal regions in 2004 by the Bush administration.
But his successor, President Barrack Obama stepped up these attacks causing widespread anti-American sentiment across the country.
Despite Pakistan’s repeated opposition, the US has thus far refused to halt these attacks as it considers the programme crucial to eliminate ‘high value’ targets associated with al Qaeda and the Taliban.
Published in The Express Tribune, March 18th, 2013.
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