ISLAMABAD: As the government looks for alternatives to convince the US to call off its drone campaign in the tribal areas, the foreign ministry has asked Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif to drop his plan to ask Washington for the transfer of drone technology from his list of options citing ‘legal implications’.
The government was planning to formally request the US for drone technology during the upcoming visit of US Secretary of State John Kerry as part of efforts to end the impasse over the controversial programme.
However, senior foreign ministry officials recently briefed the government on the likely implications of such a policy.
“We have to take a principled stand against drone use. Seeking drone technology shows a contradiction in our policy,” argued a foreign ministry official, speaking on condition of anonymity due to the sensitivity of the issue.
“Killing people without due process of law through drones is illegal. If Pakistan acquires this technology, should it kill people without due process as well?” he said.
The government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif publicly condemns drone attacks and has urged the US to stop such unilateral strikes.
In a recent background briefing, one senior government official told journalists that Islamabad would seek drone technology from the US to deal with the terror threat.
However, the foreign office strongly believes that acquiring drone technology would weaken Pakistan’s case against the illegal use of unmanned aerial vehicles.
“The foreign office has conveyed its position to the government on the issue. It is now up to them to take the final decision,” said another official.
The official recalled that when the head of the UN team investigating the civilian impact of drone use travelled to Pakistan in March this year, Islamabad sought a ban on the unilateral use of drones against sovereign countries. He said Pakistan was engaged in efforts to create consensus for declaring drone use in counter-terrorism operations illegal.
UN special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism Ben Emerson is due to present his report on the legality of drone use before the annual session of world body in September.
Pakistan expects that the final UN report will help develop consensus against use of drones as weapons.
A recent survey conducted by Washington-based Pew Research Center revealed that the US policy of drone use in places such as Pakistan, Yemen and Somalia is facing broad opposition around the world. The survey conducted on the issue in 39 countries, found that more than half of the respondents in 31 of these countries disapproved of US drone attacks against extremist groups. The report noted that in most of the nations polled, there continues to be extensive opposition to the American drone campaign against extremist leaders and organizations.
Published in The Express Tribune, July 22nd, 2013.