By Asifa Ali
Undoubtedly, drone attacks that impinge on our sovereignty are condemnable and damaging as they generate sympathy for the militants and breed more. It is also a fact that USA is continuing drone attacks as they serve two purposes; eliminate militant leaders not serving their interests and Pakistan faces the backlash. All this is known and discussed unabated on media. What, we fail to, however, discuss is answers to the following:-
TTP has claimed responsibility for killing over 40000 Pakistani civilians / soldiers. They have also claimed responsibility for destroying military assets and, causing aspersions worldwide on Pakistan’s ability to defend its strategic assets. Should not they be held accountable and who would do that?
Are Pakistani militants within their right to go across into Afghanistan to strike at the NATO / Afghan forces? To find an answer to this question, there is a need to determine whether Pakistan is a nation-state or is it an Islamic ideological state based on concept of Islamic nationalism or is there any co-relationship between the two concepts with regard to creation of Pakistan. We need to be clear on this aspect as while our ideology provides us a strong base for existence, it also provides the clergy with the leverage to interpret Islam for their vested interests.
Assuming that Pakistan is an ideological state, the Islamic concept of nationalism does not recognize any boundaries and advocates the concept of ‘ummah’. In that case, local militants, in their perception, are doing the right thing by helping their Muslim brothers in Afghanistan to oust the perceived occupation forces. Since they have declared ‘Jihad’ against the NATO Forces operating across the border, the latter have the right to retaliate and hit them back (as no borders are recognized by the former). Then, why cry hoarse?
If Pakistan is a nation-state, then defence of Afghanistan is not our problem. In any case, UN mandated forces operating in Afghanistan are fully supported by Afghan representative government and according to international law local militants have no right to undertake military operations in Afghanistan.
We also need to deliberate and provide answer to the question that if the local militants do not accept Pakistan Government’s writ and go across into Afghanistan to hit the NATO / Afghan forces, how should the Pakistan Government respond to any counter action by the NATO forces? Should we put our country at stake for those who do not even accept government’s writ. In fact, that is what they actually want. Poverty, anarchy and disillusionment would suit such groups as these provide them opportunities for recruitment.
A friendly and stable Afghanistan is in Pakistan’s interest. This being the objective, are local militants part of the solution or part of the problem? If they are part of the problem, their infrastructure is needed to be dismantled and leadership eliminated. Who would do that? Efficacy of armed drone as an effective weapon to achieve that is well established. Who operates this weapon is the issue which is to be deliberated upon.
Notwithstanding emotional outbursts which some of our leaders display, is the nation prepared to face the consequences of local militants’ continued declared interference into the internal affairs of Afghanistan? If not, how to stop them? As a matter of fact, Pakistani law enforcement agencies still do not have the capacity to hit them in their hideouts and our judiciary in unable to punish apprehended militants for one reason or another. Resultantly, before the commencement of drone attacks, with nothing at stake the people of the village to whom a suicide bomber belonged, used to rejoice and congratulate the parents of the suicide bomber for assured ‘Paradise’. Now they are also being hurt.
Though loss of innocent lives due to collateral damage cannot be condoned, we need to ponder as to why do the locals permit the militants to live and operate from their abodes and why do the militants locate themselves at inhabited places and use locals as human shields?
The militants, while preparing the suicide bombers, indoctrinate the teen-agers by telling them that they, along with the victims other than the intended target (collateral damage), would enter the paradise immediately as they die of explosion. Drones provide the similar option to the top leadership and those around them to enter paradise. Should not the other militants rejoice ‘entry of their colleagues into paradise’ instead of making hue and cry?
Finally, though the use of drones by USA does impinge on our sovereignty, yet where we have compromised our sovereignty at the strategic plane, needs to be deliberated and remedial measures undertaken. An economically unviable, internally destabilized, religiously polarized and ethnically divided nation, led by incapable / corrupt leadership with no vision, has to relinquish its sovereignty and that is the issue at hand. If we can put our own house in order, no country, however powerful it may be, would dare to cast an evil eye on us.