What’s behind Pakistan’s Sudden Silence on Drones

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Pakistan’s government has gone dead silent on drone attacks despite its rhetorical reaction to first such strike after Nawaz Sharif sworn in as Prime Minister of Pakistan. On July 14th the CIA killed two more human beings in North Waziristan who were riding on a motor bike. Anonymous Pakistani intelligence officials keeping the business ‘as usual’ told newsmen that both the victims were militants. The official stance of Pakistan is that drone strikes by CIA is clear violation of its sovereignty but to everyone’s surprise Pakistan’s ‘anonymous’ security officials work like spokesperson of the CIA. The Conflict Monitoring Center has been monitoring drone attacks for years and has noticed that most of the time the source of the news of drone attacks were ‘anonymous’ Pakistani security officials. And as if they were assigned the task to protect public image of the CIA, they almost always declared that the victims were militants. Independent researches now revealed that hundreds of the victims were innocent civilians including women and children.

These so called Pakistani security officials some time try to save public image of the CIA at the cost of Pakistan’s own pride and credibility. On March 17, 2011, a drone strike killed 40 people in a tribal Jirga just one day after Raymond Davis was released. Later, the Associated Press in its exclusive report had revealed that the strike was a ‘revenge’ attack. Pakistani Army Chief General Ashfaq Pervez Kayani publically condemned that attack. But the ‘anonymous’ Pakistani security officials had initially declared that all the victims were militants.

Now the question is that whether these ‘anonymous’ Pakistani officials are really Pakistanis or the CIA uses this term in the media through its ‘moles’ to create a sense of legitimacy that Pakistan’s security establishment supports drone attacks.

There is a need of transparency in reporting the drone strikes. The prime responsibility lies with Pak Army’s 15th Corp which is fighting against a faceless enemy in the tribal belt. It must assign the task of collecting correct information about drone victims and then share with the public. All the ‘anonymous’ officials must be banned or if there is a policy then that policy must be ended as it hampers the efforts to find out who was actually killed in drone strikes. The role of respective political agents is also important. Though in current situation the Political Agents (Federal Government’s administrative representative) has limited role in security related matters however, it must work to collect the identities of those killed in drone attacks.

There is no doubt that Pakistan has benefitted from drone attacks as militant commanders like Baitullah Mehsud, Qari Hussain, Ilyas Kashmiri and Wali ur Rehman were eliminated by drone strikes. However, this tactical benefit was at the cost of country’s sovereignty. Moreover, Pakistan’s role in the past helped the CIA to hide civilian casualties.

Nawaz Sharif government’s knee jerk reaction to first drone attack and then sudden silence raises questions. If the civilian government came to know during multiple briefings on security issues that drones strikes are actually ‘useful’ and if ‘anonymous’ security officials have convinced Nawaz Sharif to tone down his reaction on drones then the government must share this with the public as it is the right of the Pakistani citizen to know what is going on in the name of ‘national’ interest. Richard Armitage has rightly said last week that if Pakistan wants to stop drone attacks it can do so. Is there anybody who will tell the nation the ‘truth’ behind drone attacks and the actual role of Pakistan?

 

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