The issue of US drones stealing across the border and striking targets in our territory has come up again and again. It is a matter that simply fails to fade away, with strong opinions expressed on the matter during the election campaign and debate continuing in many quarters. A key problem is that we do not quite know what the true official stance on the matter is, and if we are being told anything resembling the truth, or merely a bunch of lies.
Suspicions on this count will be raised further by the leaked comments of the former ISI chief Lieutenant General (retd), Ahmed Shuja Pasha, who told the Abbotabad Commission that the drone attacks “had their uses”. The contents of that document strongly suggest Pakistan has for years covertly backed the drones. The former ISI chief, in his comments, also said it was no longer easy to stop the incursions by unmanned aircraft and that in the past, the Shamsi airbase had indeed been used by the Americans. This has, of course, never been officially acknowledged by our government. It should be noted that the drone attacks, which began in 2004, were initially approved by former army chief General (retd) Pervez Musharraf. He should be asked about his decision.
Given the leaked information, and all the conjecture that existed even before this, it is time to come clean. The PML-N government, now in power, has stated publicly many times that it is opposed to drone attacks and sees them as counterproductive as far as tackling militancy goes. If this is indeed genuinely its position, it needs to take the matter up with the US and make its desire to end the strikes known. If, for any reason, it is unable to do so or if there is a dichotomy of opinion amongst forces within the country, then we must be told about it. After all, we have been lied to for far too long, creating confusion in minds. In a democracy, people must not be fooled on so crucial an issue, central to our sovereignty, but must be informed of the full facts, whatever they may be, as well as the government’s real role in the drone affair and all that it entails.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 11th, 2013.
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