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The drone debate

Published Oct 12, 2012 12:19pm


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On the eve of December 27th 2007; I was slaving away in my office in Leeds when I got a call that left me shocked, what I felt afterwards included amongst other things embarrassment on being a Pakistani. A similar shrill went down my spine when I watched the news to find that there had been a cowardly assassination attempt on the shining star from Swat; our very own Malala Yousafzai.

Perhaps the hate and anger for those who did this was further heightened because my own mother is a Yousafzai and also because I hate what the Radio-vangelist Fazallullah had done to my favourite Holiday destination. While hate and anger is fine and justified, reacting without thought and analysis is not. It has been over 11 years since we became the ally on this war against terror and over eight years since we became a proxy.

Perceptions are often far more important than realities; as they say in Urdu ‘bad say badnaam bura’. And as any decent doctor will tell you treating symptoms and not the causes will get you nowhere.  Hence, diagnosis is key. This is our war there is no mistake about it; with barbarians running wild in state territory killing, abducting and blowing up at will, we would be fools to think otherwise. But unless one of the ‘lets drone them’ advocates have a special tool that can scan and differentiate between a normal Pushtun and a Taliban, we are banking on a very ‘hit and hope’ strategy.

In the words of Thoreau ‘For every thousand hacking at the leaves of evil, there is one striking at the root’. Militancy and ideological extremism is a problem, but the use of the military is not a solution. Yes, I hear the Anglophile calling me a talib-sympathiser but lets all remember these cowards won’t assemble on a plane like samurai warriors and fight till their last breath. All they have to lose is to not win; you can win battles against them but not the war. They will just disperse and then hit back once things seem to have calmed down; the Malala incident testifies that.

A war of hearts and minds cannot be won without engaging in dialogue. Who with, you ask? Well every one, every one who holds any position of authority in the 30+ TTP groups and its splinters, even tribal chiefs and elders’. Because only by engaging them can we ascertain the ideological element from the criminals who have joined them for their own agenda, and most importantly the reactionary element. Yes, I can hear the Brown Sahibs again. Even Google will tell you that Clause 3 of the ‘Pushtunwali’ (the Pushtun honor code) is called Badal (revenge/to seek their version of justice). And in case you missed the little media attention given to the IDP’s of Waziristan, the message was loud and clear: ‘we will seek revenge from America, even if it’s after a thousand years’ (one said).

Madness is repeating the same method and expecting different results, our strategy is flawed. The Taliban won’t win but they certainly won’t lose, and until we can annihilate the ideological element be it even militarily, we first need to ascertain them from those fighting for other reasons.

Impressionable minds are easy to recruit; even Husain Haqqani was a Jamiat President in his early days, how easy would it be to recruit an illiterate youth who has just lost innocent, loved ones in a predator drone bombing?

While our hearts go out to Malala and we all unite in praying for her speedy recovery, let’s not forget the toddlers bombed to shreds by drone attacks. After all they were human souls too not plastic toys.

To the lay person who doesn’t want to understand the legal arguments, the case against drones is simple and two-pronged; firstly justice requires that no man should be condemned unheard, even Nazi’s received trials and so did Saddam. People should be charged and proven guilty before being sent to the guillotine.

The second is the International law argument, a violation of sovereignty is similar to the following example; if you’ve been a naughty child your parents can discipline you, even slap you. On the other hand, if someone in a different country ‘thinks’ you’ve been a naughty child and slaps you, it’s an entirely different ball game. Capital punishment by elders is wrong but it’s a greater wrong if the person disciplining you has no express or implied authority.

Hence, my understanding of the winning strategy to be is: ‘Engage, identify, ascertain, convince and exterminate’. Only this way can we truly make this our war … and then, win it.


The author is an aspiring lawyer and a socio-political activist.



The views expressed by this blogger and in the following reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.


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The views expressed by this writer and commenters below do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of the Dawn Media Group.

Comments (47) Closed

Saad Saeed Oct 13, 2012 01:37pm
Drone stikes and the attack on Malala are the two sides of the same coin of terror. Why are we taking sides? Injustice and barbarity does not become justifiable solely because it is being perpetrated by the Drones or vice versa
USA Oct 13, 2012 12:37am
If drones do not work let us use daisy cutters. This is the only language they understand
Andre Luis Oct 13, 2012 01:24am
Nonsense. Not being able to exterminate all of your enemies was never a problem when the enemy was India, because Pakistan have the nuclear weapons to go to end with India. Not being able to go to the end was never a problem when the enemy was the Soviet Union, because Pakistan had USA behind it. Your country hadn
Muhammad Oct 12, 2012 09:21pm
1)I am kind of getting sick of brain dead argument about the sovereignty of the country being violated. What sovereignty ?! There is no control of Pakistani state WHATSOEVER in Waziristan. The sovereignty has been surrendered by the state way back before the drone attacks. 2) These acts of lunacy were a part Pakistani life even before 9/11 when no one has has even heard of drones. Hundreds of people were being killed by these lunatics. Some how people like this writer and Imran Khan conveniently ignore this OR is it because the casualties before 2001 were Shias, Christians, Hindus and other minorities so they do not count ! ? We have to understand one thing these monsters WILL NOT stop killing people no matter how many negotiations you do. The only way to deal with is an unequivocal response against them without offering any moral space for them by writting these moronic articles. Enough of these idiotics analysts!
kdspirited Oct 12, 2012 02:01pm
Very well written . Precisely what the message should be to people who think protesting against drone attacks on our soil is somehow siding with the Taliban. What these minds dont understand is that is makes more Talibans and adds to their armour. What we need is to deal with our problems ourselves. Our Military needs to stop making these people into strategic assets and go after them with full force. The people of waziristan have been displaced already but for them to come back to their homes peacefully they need to be assured they can sleep soundly at night. We should stop allowing foreign elements to do our dirty job for us. No drones are neccearry if we go after these goons with all the sincerity in our hearts and will to destroy them Oct 13, 2012 04:13pm
Thousands of Malala's have been killed by Drones. Drones are actually creating more revenge elements.
Sibghat Oct 13, 2012 07:29am
Perfect analysis. I don't know whether the writer is a Pushtun or not but he knows something about Pushtun culture which most of the English language media people do not have a clue about. And I feel sorry that most of the time they are grossly mistaken in their analysis of the issue. I myself am a Pushtun belonging to the same area where the action is happening (currently settled outside the country) and have no love lost for Taliban at all. In my opinion the modus operandi to deal with these bastards is the one which the writer has proposed and which PTI and some other parties are also propagating.
Kausik Oct 12, 2012 11:49pm
Excellent very well written who understands the cultural background and many thanks to Dawn for publishing as miss malal represents the aspirations of millions of Muslim and non Muslim women to seek education which is not a crime.To confuse with other issues by any body is crime against humanity.My heart bleeds for ordeal mala's family going through.I hope and pray there is some non violent way to change the attitude of these misguided Taliban leaders and followers.
jay komerath Oct 13, 2012 03:19pm
This article is nonsense-We asre dealing with killers,who have no concept of democray or justice-Justice to them is only on their terms.FINISH THEMFIRST.If they want peace,let them come crawling.
Pakistani Oct 13, 2012 02:51pm
An excellent analysis. Engage we must to solve the problem being faced by the whole nation. As it is well accepted that in dire situations also, help does not come to those who donot help themselves. Killing each other is not a solution, it's destruction.
Rafiq Ahmed Oct 13, 2012 08:22pm
You may be correct, but that does not take away the fact that the Taliban tried to kill this child
deva Oct 12, 2012 02:14pm
i think author is sleeping and think that Talib will come to court and discuss like normal people. They are killing machine and Terror is their language and it's adviceable if u return in the same. Not sure my comment will be published as it's a hard truth
deva Oct 12, 2012 02:02pm
do u think whole world and pak govt is wrong and pakistan people right that drone attack should be stopped? Drone killed less then few hundred people and in that also max are terrorist. there is no comaprision between Malala incident, they are exactly opposite, one's objective to kill terrorist and others kill future/progress of World/Pakistan
Ad Oct 13, 2012 10:36pm
Realistic and unbiased analysis! Better people and intellectuals listen to Imran Khan rather than blaming him! Keep the emotions away and solve the problem should be our goal!
Keti Zilgish Oct 12, 2012 06:17pm
The author of this article has written: "People should be charged and proven guilty before being sent to the guillotine". Agreed. The question is: Have the people of FATA ever recognized the jurisdiction of Pakistani courts?
citizen Oct 12, 2012 06:18pm
The Ideal in front of us should always be justice... be it for the victims of drones or the victims of the Taliban... when any one takes a position in support of the one and remains silent on the other it makes them partisan at the cost of standing for the ideal principle of justice. This is what is unfortunately missing in the popular discourse on this issue in the media both mainstream and social.
BRR Oct 12, 2012 06:34pm
Again, yet another writer who is incapable of separating concerns, and realizing that no amount of equivocation can justify harming a child or killing a child. The Taliban have been cruel, and misogynists for a long time, even before 9/11. They have bombed schools for girls for a long time. What has that got to do with drones? By writing about Malala and drones in the same article, the writer seems to buy into the anti-drone campaign by PTI and the Taliban themselves. Such a confused mind even in an educated person, or an educated ignoramus?
Tamilslevan Oct 12, 2012 12:42pm
Sorry, don't agree with the author. If you are child is misbehaving and if you are not able to take care and the child goes to the neighbourhood and starts behaving bad then authorities will take action on the child and they should. if Pak based Taliban is creating trouble in Pakistan and if they are able to get away with it, it's internal problem but if they go across the border create trouble and hide back in Pakistan it becomes a problem for the rest of the world and should be dealt with drones. Either you take care of it or let the world take care of them
pathanoo Oct 12, 2012 07:29pm
Now this is better said than the article itself.
Asim Oct 12, 2012 07:27pm
very childish- Come on Grow up.
Saim Oct 12, 2012 07:33pm
Yeah and while we, the civilised ones work on such loooooong term strategies to tame this monster, the monster has all the right to go on killing innocents, enacting its very short term but potent plan just because it is not as civilised and ''wise' as we are!
Saim Oct 12, 2012 07:35pm
I agree with you Tamilslevan and the same is applicable for all such 'naughty children' from whereever they are! You know, not all of them are being fed and clothed by Pakistan.
mannam Oct 12, 2012 07:44pm
Very well written, Ali :) I'm proud of you bro.
Anony Oct 12, 2012 07:47pm
you are beating an old drum tune. everyone knows that innocents are killed by drones and that many in return join the taliban for revenge. Its common sense. But nobody will do anything about it. Period.
wellwisher Oct 12, 2012 09:27pm
You have hit the nail on the head. Violent organisation don't pay heed to discussions and good sense. Discussions are effective only when the organisation has been sufficiently weakened by use of persistent force. Uprising of southern USA on issue of continuance of slavery could not be checked by all the discussions. LTTE never listened to even UN and even to use of soft force by Indian army. Sufficient force is needed to exterminate the hard core and then discussions can work on the rest
john Oct 12, 2012 09:44pm
The drones only target the top Al-qaeda and Taliban leaders. There is no mistaking them for "a normal Pushtun". Where is the same "revenge in a thousand years" anger against the Taliban killing innocent civilians? I agree that dialogue is the only way for Pakistan. It should have happened a long time ago. It never happened because the ruling elite, political and military, from Punjab never cared for the tribes in the north.
Rajesh Oct 13, 2012 04:02am
"firstly justice requires that no man should be condemned unheard" Agreed, but during war you cannot hold trial of every single soldier from the opposing side and sentence them.
Silajit Oct 13, 2012 04:50am
Sorry but this is complete drivel. I don't see a logical sequence of steps or even reasoning. Just because of something called "badal", we are going to sit around and watch innocents being killed? What kind of cowardice is this?
Kamalov Oct 13, 2012 05:00am
Raj, You explained each n every thought of mine in best possible way and it is the thinking of each n every Pakistani right now. But alas, innocent Pakistani is being hijacked by the media who are fueled by imperialists.
Sry Oct 13, 2012 05:20am
The American military inflicts pain and suffering upon people beyond American borders(obviously), would you support drone attacks on American soldiers as well ?
kausik Oct 13, 2012 07:38am
This is direct question to the author of this blog as he seems to mix the issues of education of girls and the TTP to singularly cause premeditated quote him While our hearts go out to Malala and we all unite in praying for her speedy recovery, let
Ahmed Zeeshan Oct 14, 2012 03:20am
Hats off bro.. this article is no doubt one of the best i have read in last few months on DAWN News Blogs...
hitesh Oct 14, 2012 04:27am
Hindus of sub-continent engaged the invader for more than thousand years. They tried to understand them, accommodate them and even made adjustments in their social,political and religious system to appease them. What we got ? In present day India that experiment is till continue without any fruits. What do you expect from the rationale minded West to learn from the history of sub-continent ?
Numbersnumbers Oct 14, 2012 02:23am
Please give us a reference for your "thousands of Malalas have been killed by drones" comment!
Taimoor Oct 13, 2012 02:11am
Agreed those that think this is not a root cause are being delusional, Before 2005 or 2006 I had never heard of daily bombings, murder like the kind we see today. #1 they occured due to us invading our own territory and turning our own guns at our citizens, #2 Drones now are the major driving force today as military ops have seized today. We have declared all of Waziristan as criminal and have begun terrorizing them with these drone strikes. You never know when one might be targetting not you but the car or house next to you. Fear has a way to be spread out the US today lives in fear, paranoia at its peak. Every little thing today is scrutinized. We must educate and provide well paying jobs to our citizens, the terror business today is one of the most lucrative in the world.
Kausik Oct 13, 2012 12:00am
The author's arguments based on legalities of drones has nothing to do with planned intention to kill for attending school for education.The preplanned nature of attack even calling her name in the bus shows premeditation cannot be confused with international power wars.
Naved Oct 13, 2012 11:22am
Finally a person with logical reasoning coming with the right strategy to deal with the problem. I thought for a moment all educated people have lost heir minds propagating violence n revenge but I was wrong, a good analysis
Ummer Khan Oct 12, 2012 08:40pm
Very right.
Amer Oct 13, 2012 11:00am
Finally a sensible piece in an English daily! Thank you!
Gulap Oct 13, 2012 09:22am
Good article but based on some assumptions. This is not 'just' about militancy - or drones - its also about 'strategic depth'.
wahidkk Oct 12, 2012 03:17pm
At the first place, who created these militants in the name of Islamic Jehad against USSR?
Syed Oct 12, 2012 06:00pm
"It has been over 11 years since we became the ally on this war against terror and over eight years since we became a proxy ..." The reality is, Pakistanis never considered it their war, only an opportunity to make some money. When does a brother of yours stop being a brother, it seems not even after killing your child.
ehtesham Oct 12, 2012 05:30pm
Well-argued, logical, sane as much as humane, and based on grasp of ground realities.
Ata Oct 12, 2012 01:22pm
Engage, identify, ascertain, convince and exterminate
arslan Oct 12, 2012 12:51pm
very well written
Umer Khilji Oct 12, 2012 01:29pm
Mr. Kunwar: Wonderful and astute assessment of the situation. Though I wish the solution was easy and straight-forward as you have suggested. You are probably missing on, or may have chosen not to mention another important factor, which is the intelligence agencies of this country. We have a proverb in Pashtu which says that "the snake-keeper's death comes from a snake bite". All these monsters that are firing back at Pakistan were created for some other purpose and by the intelligence agencies themselves. These seem to be the side affects of the remedies made in isolation by a few Generals without the consent of the nation, because they believed that they knew the symptoms, but alas, the side affects are growing bigger than the disease itself.
wahidkk Oct 12, 2012 01:37pm
Important thing is - How to convince Pakistanis that it is our war? And the next important thing might be How to remove the external factor from Pak-Afghan area. There are major interests of some states that want to see a weak Pakistan that becomes weaker everyday. Economy of a country varies directly with peace (there are other lesser important factors too). These external powers, unfortunately have a lot of influence on the Pakistani leadership; be it Military or Civil. To achieve their objectives, they must install a coalition government or military dictatorship. I don't see much light at the end of the tunnel because none sees the end of the tunnel.