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Drone timing

Published Jul 07, 2012 10:09pm


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FRIDAY night’s drone attack brings to mind another one from March 2011. Raymond Davis had barely left Pakistan when a strike killed 40 men at a jirga in North Waziristan. Like the Nato supplies stand-off, the Davis incident had fuelled anti-Americanism in Pakistan, become a bone of contention in the US-Pakistan relationship and was only solved after prolonged wrangling. Now the resolution of another crisis in ties — except this one lasted seven months, and had more significant consequences — has also been marked by a drone attack, this one killing 20 people. Although they are more likely to have been militants this time, the message was obvious: America intends to get back to business immediately, and will not let Pakistani concerns get in the way of its counterterrorism goals. But the sheer insensitivity — and imprudence — of the timing demonstrates that, after a rocky year and a half with Pakistan, the US still hasn’t realised how carefully certain aspects of the relationship need to be handled.

Friday’s strike will play right into the hands of opposition parties and right-wing elements that are inciting public opinion against the reopening of Nato supply routes; a lack of resolution on the drone programme was precisely one of the points they have been bringing up. It also has the potential to increase the security risk to truckers and the communities they pass through. And the attack has exposed the fact that, despite parliament having taken a strong stand against unilateral drone strikes and despite the public rhetoric of Pakistani officials, a new approach was not developed behind the scenes as the two countries tried to revive the relationship. Which also suggests that the US views this moment not as a new chapter in ties, but as a continuation of the old story now that one inconvenient road block has been removed.

Pakistan need not deny that the drone strikes have done this country good too, taking out senior figures in the Pakistani Taliban. Despite their civilian casualties, they are more precise than conventional Pakistani air strikes can ever be. And this country has not played its cards right either, supporting the programme in private conversations with American officials — at least historically — while railing against it in public. Ultimately, though, these are now unilateral strikes carried out by a foreign country on Pakistani soil, and they anger citizens across the ideological spectrum. A joint mechanism to run the drone programme needs to be developed and made public. And until then, it would be wise to ensure that the biggest strikes do not take place at the worst possible times.

Comments (15) Closed

sadaf Jul 08, 2012 07:59pm
Agree with u sir,its the matter of country's sovereignty not the statement or a piece of apology document.
shankar Jul 08, 2012 09:21am
While we welcome your proposition to streghthen ties & trade with neighbours! But how is it right to expect US not to tackion on cross border attacks. Pakistan should understand that US is not India. India can only helplessly watch as pakistan bleeds it with a thousand terrorist cuts but US has its drones!
Feroz Jul 08, 2012 07:37am
Pakistan needed the money as well as a face saver which they have got. Now the Yanks will carry on with their merry ways,if there are complaints they will be addressed - "now that you have got the money please shut up" !
David Salmon Jul 08, 2012 11:21pm
The US is ready to leave Afghanistan in peace. The real question is: Is Pakistan ready to leave Afghanistan (and India) in peace.?
ashwani dogra Jul 08, 2012 10:22am
Mr Ghosh and Mr Malik have beautifully summarised the reality of the situation. Pakistan has been 'found out', and nobody pays attention to its trumped up outrage. What really sticks in the craw is the thousands of our shaheeds who have been needlessly sacrificed fighting Frankenstein's monsters created and nurtured by our own ISI. The billions of aid money has made life very comfortable for our generals, whereas the riff-raff suffer from hours of power cuts, illiteracy and malnourishment. Blaming US for using drones to kill those encouraged to kill americans and their allies - whilst safely housed and trained within our borders, - is hypocritical and risible. Gross violation of 'sovereignty' only seems to apply US air strikes, but not to the physical presence of Bin Ladin, his family and cohorts.
cautious Jul 08, 2012 10:19am
American's once again use a drone to kill terrorist that Pakistan allows to live freely in the tribal territories -- and Dawn's big concern is how it makes your govt appear weak. Well hears a heads up -- your govt and military are weak otherwise you would control the territory these militants are using as a de-facto sanctuary.
Amar Singh Jul 08, 2012 10:14am
The reality is that Pakistan (especialy the ISI and the Army) have been double dealing with the USA for too long. The whole world now knows that Pakistan has used US money to forment unrest in neighbouring countries and in many other countries by training and sending terrorists. And, you now expect Pakistan's neighbours to forget the past and trust Pakistan to be a good neighbour! Dream on!! You need to wake up and first put your own house in order by rooting out the cancer within your system.
nameless Jul 09, 2012 12:06pm
Well said.
@PaxTolerans Jul 08, 2012 09:35am
The drone strikes have done more damage than good, so I'll disagree with the editor when he says they've done good too. Arresting and bringing declared terrorists to justice & offering them a fair trial would've not just been the civilised way but also would've asserted the state's writ, which it so desperately needs. It'd have denied the sympathisers of the militants the right to display their resentment so publicly and most importantly would've saved so many innocent lives. What the world seems to have forgotten is that expedience never actually solves a problem, it just complicates it and the very purpose of the existence of the law has some wisdom behind it. How can the Americans & the west at large justify assasinations when at home they increasingly advocate for abolishing capital punishment? Surely punishing the criminal with death sentence after due process is a thousand times better than "Bug splat". If Pakistani authorities don't find it feasible to arrest alleged terrorists in it's tribal areas then it is the incompetence of theirs' to blame for that, after all it is still FATA not the DRC we're talking about. In short these drone strikes undermine the legitimacy of all those involved except that of those who turn to extremism to avenge them.
Tanvir Jul 08, 2012 01:46pm
Before we ask Americans to leave the region, we should be asking our corrupt leaders to leave the country. Most of them are not loyal to their country and do not represent the real thinking of their people on the ground. One must remember, that no armies leave a country until they suffers heavy casualties. Remember Vietnam and Afghanistan. Both the Americans and the Russians left their occupied countries after losing over 50,000 men in combat. Of course, the occupied countries also paid a 5-10 time higher price. Only real serious countries are willing to pay a higher prices to defend themselves at all cost and show their resolve and character to the world. A great nation does not rise by suffering as a victim, but rather by fighting back.
conecerned Jul 08, 2012 03:45am
Way you care...can you go to these place to verify anything? they will kill any journalist or government official who goes to these places. why you keep saying these are innocent people? and why you say this is your sovereignty? people just laugh at your hypocrisy. why you cannot still lift your head out of the sand and see what others see?
anwar Jul 08, 2012 04:38am
"Although they are more likely to have been militants this time" And you know this, how?
M.A.Malik Jul 08, 2012 05:00am
Pakistan never asked the Americans to recognize its sovereignty. It only asked for an apology as it would mean compensation for the families of the killed soldiers. For a Pakistani politician a healthy sign as exchange of money would take place. Panetta on the other hand after his recent visit to Pakistan and India had made it very clear that US will continue drone attacks regardless a clear indication that recognition of Pakistan's sovereignty was not on the cards and will never be. US knew all along that it can 'buy' the opening of supply route, it was only a matter of price tag. Our politicians are least concerned with the sovereignty of Pakistan. If we can sell our mother for financial gains, selling our motherland hardly poses a problem. As long as the Americans are based in Afghanistan, in whatever form and shape, it is a threat to Pakistan, Iran and the region as a whole. As Pakistanis we should not be asking for apologies and higher rates per truck crossing into Afghanistan. All we should be asking US to do is leave this region and leave us in peace. Pakistan should be concentrating on strengthening its ties with its neighbours both in good relations and trade. US is Not our neighbour. It firmly belives in occupation and opression!
Gen. (Retd) Ghosh Jul 08, 2012 05:09am
Like Pakistan Army, the editorial board of Dawn too seems to be looking both ways. Not a word about who provides strike co-ordinates to the drones. From this write-up one would have to presume that drone operators sitting 5000 miles away pick up leads from the sky, which is not the case. Should Pakistani official agencies not feed the co-ordinates there can be no drone strikes.
Amar Singh Jul 08, 2012 06:57am
Pakistanis do not appear to understand that they are dealing with the USA, a superpower, and not India! Unlike India, the USA will not sit back and simply ask Pakistan to take action against ISI trained terrorists who continue to be sent across the border to kill and maim Americans, Afgans, etc. They will turn the screw slowly but surely until you do what they want you to do. A bankcrupt and friendless Pakistan just cannot standup to them! This should be obvious from the reopenning of NATO tranist route, continued drone attacks, slaughter of Pakistani soilders on the Afgan/Pak border and not a country in the world willing to help you because the game is up. Everyone in the world knows that the Pakistan establishment uses terrorism to further its interests which is unacceptable to even its 'all weather' friend like China! So, stop blaming others for your self created problems and first put your own house in order.