Dealing with the drones —Shaukat Qadir


If our political leadership shows some courage, it is possible for us to negotiate with the incoming US a combined strategy to deal with this scourge of terrorism on equal terms

I find it rather amusing when our political leaders harp on the issue of our sovereignty. These leaders bow and scrape to the all-powerful US, run round in circles, begging bowl in hand, and cannot find support even from the so-called ‘friends’ of Pakistan unless the IMF supports us. The only plausible explanation for the imposition of this clause of IMF support by Pakistan’s ‘friends’ is that, with the IMF involved, it will also oversee how donations from other countries are utilised!

Nonetheless, there is no doubt that even for a country with very little tangible sovereignty left, continued US military interventions, employing drones, into our tribal areas is a serious political issue, and some resolution to this ongoing problem must be found.

In defence of the US interventions it must be stated that, while they are still acts of war, in accordance with international law they are, at least partially, retaliatory. What is more, American intelligence has taken a quantum leap in its accuracy in recent times. Until about a month or so ago, the ratio of American kills was, on the average, one known extremist to about a dozen innocent men, women, and children. This trend has virtually reversed, with each strike averaging eight to ten extremists to one or two innocent individuals. By American standards, this is an extremely low percentage of ‘collateral damage’, almost benign!

While those in government seem to be aimlessly looking for viable options, we have non-elected political leaders of the likes of Qazi Hussain Ahmad threatening to block supplies to NATO forces in Afghanistan. And to add insult to the injury to their own intelligence, they inform us that the foreigners in our midst, carrying out suicide bombing attacks, are our brethren who need our protection and assistance in their just cause!

We also heard from the Pakistan ex-Servicemen Association, PESA, which is not the original Pakistan ex-Servicemen’s Society, PESS, under Lt Gen (retd) Faiz Ali Chishti, even though many members are common to both. Having first called upon generals who had been given special benefits by Pervez Musharraf to return their ill-gotten gains, they now suggested that Pakistan could send the US ambassador back home, or block NATO supplies in retaliation.

To be fair with them, on inquiry, since I am associated with neither of these organisations, I was informed that they had actually only spelt out options available to the government, and had been misrepresented by the press.

Our political leadership is unlikely to pick up the courage to do anything; were it to do so and retaliate in any form, there would be complications, economic assistance being a primary concern among them. However, it appears that neither PESA nor the venerable Qazi Sahib have adverted to two aspects in this issue.

Firstly, that those who violate our territorial integrity are only Americans; that the NATO spokesman is on record for having dissociated NATO as a whole from these acts and stated categorically that NATO forces ‘do not know who is responsible for these acts, but are very clear that their mandate extends only up to the Afghanistan side of the Durand Line’. And that while NATO has an alternative supply route through Central Asia, so that our severing their supply lines would cause them no more than some inconvenience and additional expense, by doing so, we will strain our relations with not only the US, but with all other NATO countries that actually support our point of view.

Secondly, that sending the American Ambassador is an ill considered diplomatic move which, like our severance of NATO supply lines, is unlikely to achieve the desired effect and can only cause embarrassment to us.

Our option is really only one: a military response to a military threat. Finally, even the recently appointed air chief marshal has issued a public statement that the Pakistan Air Force can patrol our borders and bring down intruding drones, if the political government permits us to do so.

When American intrusions initially began to increase earlier this year, the PAF was called upon to respond; one drone had been shot down a couple of years ago; this time they were forced to return by the threat of patrolling PAF aircraft. What is more, our ground forces engaged US/Afghan forces in a firefight, forcing them to retreat.

I reiterate that, to the best of my knowledge, these strikes are being carried out by the CIA and are not ordered by the American ground forces commander in Afghanistan. Had we the courage, this interim period, with a lame-duck outgoing US president and the world awaiting the new administration, was ideal for drawing the lines of what we are prepared to accept from the US and where we will be forced to retaliate.

Certainly, our engaging the intruding drones and bringing some of them down would ruffle a lot of feathers and there will be those Americans who will call for punitive action against such an audacious, insignificant country. But the truth is that the US cannot afford to go to war against us — unless it decides to nuke us out of existence. We are neither Afghanistan nor Iraq.

However, our continued lack of response continues to embolden the US. If our political leadership shows some courage, it is possible for us to negotiate with the incoming US a combined strategy to deal with this scourge of terrorism on equal terms. I am fairly certain that my plea, like the air chief marshal’s statement, is likely to fall on deaf ears.

This article is a modified version of one originally written for the daily National

Reproduced by permission of DT

http://www.dailytimes.com.pk/default.asp?page=2008\11\29\story_29-11-2008_pg3_4

 

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