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Drone strikes and national interest

May 29, 2013

TO much amusement, a very weird kind of situation exists regarding drone policies in America’s top echelon. President Obama’s speech at the National Defence University in Washington regarding drones was a mundane one.

He didn’t explain the legality of drone strikes in Pakistan. In fact, he and the US have nowhere any legal view to back up their drone policy.

These drone strikes have put both countries’ relations in a straightjacket. Now these strikes are not against high-value targets but rather innocent civilians of tribal areas are being ruthlessly killed. And even their funerals have not been spared by these drones.

Following the elections in Pakistan, the US has announced that drone strikes will continue. Now the newly-elected government must take steps to get rid of US drones. It is, on the one hand, violation of our sovereignty and, on the other hand, killing of our own innocent civilians.

Pakistan can make use of the legal clauses of international law in restricting the spectre of drones. Pakistan can evoke Article 2 (4) of the UN Charter, which says that the use of force or threat against any state is unlawful.

But there are three exceptions to this clause in the context of Pakistan. One, the US can make an argument that they are facing a potential threat from the militants in the tribal areas. Second, there is consent from Pakistan, and third, Pakistan is avoiding taking action against the militants.

The first and the second argument is not valid, so to speak. But regarding the third one, if terrorist would be killed, then the matter would be different. But, unfortunately, it is apparent that only innocent civilians are being killed.

In the recent past, a Muslim cleric, Anwar al-Awlaki, and his 16-year-old son, both US citizens, were killed in a US drone strike. Such killings of innocent civilians are an open challenge to the world.

Keeping in view the above arguments, it is necessary for Pakistan to defend its frontiers and the people. It is our due right, both internally and externally. If in response to this the US tries to impose sanctions on Pakistan or use soft power, we can live without the US just the way we lived in the 1990s and just as Iran, Cuba and North Korea are living. Although, for this action, we have to bear some brunt as national interest/territorial sovereignty is the number one choice for any respectable nation.

MUHAMMAD IBRAHIM Islamabad