Say No to drone attacks!

Ziyad Faisal has sent this contribution for Pak Tea House with a preamble. We are publishing this to enrich the ongoing debate on drone attacks. Raza Rumi

This is the first piece of writing which I have ever submitted to Pak Tea House. Since PTH upholds the beautiful tradition of free debate nurtured at the original Pak Tea House (a small tea-shop in Lahore), I request the management of this blog to publish my humble response to a recent article on US drone attacks in Pakistan. Before I begin, I wish to assure my dear friends at PTH that whatever decision they might take, I will remain a loyal and regular reader. Since I am writing a response to an article by another writer, I would also like to assure the said writer that I mean no personal offence.

I also owe many thanks to Kathy Kelly, the acclaimed US peace activist who needs no introduction, for providing me with many valuable references on the issue of the drone attacks. As a Pakistani student, I salute her courage in organizing protests against drone attacks carried out by US armed forces against the Pakistani people. Kathy was recently arrested for protesting near a US base in Nevada, which is part of the command-and-control system for the drone attacks against Pakistan. It is a heartening sight to see veteran members of the US peace movement upholding the right of the Pakistani people to live free from NATO aggression.

The recent article on US drone attacks in Pakistan, as published by PTH, is deeply flawed in many ways. It comes, purportedly, from a Pakistani student who is very concerned about “foreign militants” in north-western Pakistan. Not only are the arguments presented there based on a total divorce from the facts on the ground, they are also couched in foul language which is highly unbecoming for an educated person. If education does not teach our people the commonly-accepted norms of decency in putting forward an opinion, it will not teach us much more.

In a very offensive manner, the article refers to Tanzanian-born militants killed by US drone attacks in Pakistan as “black Tanzania terrorists”. This is just one example of the poorly-disguised racism in the article.

To return to the issue at hand, I find it very disturbing that any Pakistani student could ever support US drone attacks, which are a flagrant violation of international law and of all commonly-accepted norms of justice in the world.

These strikes are un-constitutional even from the perspective of US law. The US armed forces and the CIA are not permitted to engage in operations which assassinate individuals on foreign (i.e. non-US) territory. In the case of the drone attacks in Pakistan, the US forces are adding to the criminal nature of their actions through their total disregard for civilian casualties.

From a Pakistani point of view, these drone attacks represent clear and pre-meditated aggression against our people and our sovereignty.

The writer of the recent article published by PTH presents us with a grotesque imitation of what a military contractor in the US would say in a briefing to Pentagon officials while marketing their latest destructive toy: the MQ 1 Predator and MQ 9 Reaper drone aircraft. The sad part is that the writer of that article is actually serious. The writer actually believes that these murderous attacks on Pakistani territory are helping to fight Islamist militants.

Let us begin with some facts and figures. We will also be looking into something which the writer of the original article failed to provide: i.e. the actual sources for any assertions one makes.

Based on figures provided by the New Republic, a US publication which has developed a reputation for hawkish positions on foreign policy, the drone attacks in Pakistan have resulted in the elimination of around 10 mid- to high-level Al-Qaeda leaders in Pakistan, as of June 03, 2009.

The Brookings Institute, a US-based think-tank, estimated on July 14, 2009, that more than 600 Pakistani civilians had died in the drone attacks. From this point on, the mathematics is simple, and the first calculation is my own: 60 or more Pakistani civilians die for each “important” Al-Qaeda militant who is eliminated in Pakistan through US drone attacks. For each ordinary militant who dies in US drone attacks in Pakistan, the Brookings Institute estimates that 10 Pakistani civilians are murdered.

Reports from the Pakistani media are similar. The News estimated on April 10, 2009, that a total of 60 US drone attacks in Pakistan resulted in the deaths of 14 Al-Qaeda militants and 687 Pakistani civilians.

Think of it this way: we lose at least 10-20 civilians for each ordinary foot-soldier of Al-Qaeda who dies in US drone attacks. For each such foot-soldier who dies, many more are ready to take his place. For each civilian who is murdered by the US in this way, a whole family (and this includes an extended family) is radicalized and filled with anger. What does this desire for vengeance lead to? We Pakistanis have seen it very often on the streets of our cities: terrorist attacks which lead to terrible casualty figures. If only 600 civilians have died so far in US drone attacks, that represents 600 families who are angry and clamoring for revenge against the US military as well as the Pakistani state which allows these outrages to occur on our soil. Is this what we want?

Isn’t it abundantly clear that US drone attacks are merely providing the Al-Qaeda militants and Taliban with a wonderful propaganda opportunity, to recruit yet more people using the destruction from US attacks as an excuse?

The writer of the recent PTH article goes on to say that the drone attacks have psychologically-debilitating impact on Islamic militants in Pakistan’s north-west. Now we have no way of confirming this, since the writer cannot back up these claims with proof of the supposed ‘fear’ which the militants experience, except exaggerated conclusions drawn from an unverified Al-Qaeda video on the internet.
The writer admits that these militants are brain-washed into a morbid desire for death, so that they can attain their supposed Paradise, with 72 houris and other celestial pleasures. Why, then, would they feel any fear from US drone attacks?

What can be proven, however, is the destructive psychological impact of US drone attacks on Pakistani civilians in the affected areas. I quote from an MSNBC piece, from January 26, 2009:

But many locals argue that innocent civilians are the main victims of the attacks. In North Waziristan, the drone strikes are leading to mental disorders, especially among women and children, according to Dr. Munir Ahmad, a 50-year-old psychiatrist in Miranshah, a city on the border with Afghanistan that is North Waziristan’s main population center.
“The situation among the people is alarming,” he said. “The women and children are so frightened from hours of drones circling overhead and then the thunderous noise of the missile attacks that now even a door slamming frightens them to uncontrollable tears,” he said.
Ahmad, who specializes in treating the effects of violence, told us that two years ago he used to treat about 10 patients a day for different mental disorders – he said he now sees around 160 patients a day suffering from uncontrollable fear and rage. “I am especially worried about long-term affects on the children,” he said.

Mohammed Yaqoob, a grammar school teacher in Miranshah, blames the Pakistani government for failing to protect people from the drone attacks.
“The children are so afraid that they can’t concentrate on their lessons,” Yaqoob told us. “They just sit in the classroom and look towards the sky watching the three or four drones that continuously hover over the town,” he said.  Yaqoob said that over 30 high schools have closed in North Waziristan because parents have pulled their kids out of school and sent them to live with relatives in safer cities.
The writer to whom I am writing a response is actually right. There is indeed a drone above you, i.e. the people of Pakistan. It is indeed something to be afraid of, dear readers.

The writer relishes the imaginary fear and dread which the US drone attacks inspire among a handful of fanatic fighters, while completely ignoring the very real psychological (and physical!) havoc wreaked by US drone attacks on Pakistani civilians, especially children.

The writer of the recent PTH article correctly points out the destruction of girls’ schools by the Taliban in north-western Pakistan. Nobody is denying the destructive nature of the Islamist insurgents in north-western Pakistan. They are indeed inspired by a world-view which leaves little room for education, social progress or pluralism. They are a menace which we Pakistanis ought to oppose tooth and nail.

But one is left wondering why the writer supports US drone attacks, based on some hypothetical psychological effects on the militants, while ignoring the very real psychological (and physical) danger to Pakistani children in the affected areas.

The writer goes on to suggest that those who “negate” drone attacks should move to Iraq or Afghanistan. Such comments sound ridiculous when one remembers the fact that the writer and all those who support drone attacks (i.e. those who support foreign aggression) are a tiny minority in Pakistan. The Pakistani people have every right to be outraged by US drone attacks which kill ordinary civilians in the tribal areas of Pakistan. The US has a long history of using Pakistan as a front-line state and then abandoning it to military dictators, brutal agricultural landlords and corrupt bureaucrats. If the majority of Pakistani people are furious at this newest assault on their brothers and sisters, it is because these people have a history of oppression and betrayal by the US.

Eventually, it seems that the writer loses all touch with reality, and begins to make the most ludicrous assertions. First, according to the writer, the drone attacks are being directed by Pakistani ISI agents who throw micro-chips at the enemy to designate a target for the US-controlled drones. Firstly, targets for air-raids cannot be designated by throwing micro-chips around at militants. Secondly, the writer actually has the naiveté to believe that the US military authorities would rely on the ISI to designate targets. In case it escaped the notice of the writer, the US and its allies in Europe do not trust the ISI at all. The ISI maintained close ties with Islamist militant groups, both in the past and in the present. There is no reason to assume that the ISI would want to throw away its own pets, or that the NATO forces would suddenly start trusting the ISI to do so.

There can be little doubt that US drone attacks have only made the situation worse for those unfortunate Pakistanis who find themselves caught in the conflict between the Pakistani Army and its former allies, the Taliban. US drone attacks constitute a flagrant violation of our sovereignty. If we Pakistanis cannot protect our borders from naked foreign aggression, then why does the writer show so much concern about how the militant Islamists will over-run Pakistan? Will it really matter?

If the writer recognizes the role of the US in the Middle East as an aggressive neo-colonial power, why does US aggression in Afghanistan and Pakistan appear so benign?

Furthermore, if the writer believes that US drone attacks on militant training camps are a good idea, why should the Pashtun people alone pay the price for the follies of the Pakistani and American establishments? Why shouldn’t the writer call for a bombardment of certain targets in the cities of Lahore, Faisalabad, Sialkot and elsewhere? I’m sure we could easily come up with a list of targets in Punjab which are as valid as those in the tribal areas of north-western Pakistan. Why is it that the destruction spread by US policies seems so acceptable when it takes place in faraway Waziristan, Swat, etc rather than in Lahore, Karachi and other metropolises?
Would the writer support US drone attacks in parts of Punjab, to destroy Islamist militant training camps?

Would the writer have supported Indian air-strikes against militant groups based in Pakistan, soon after the Mumbai attacks?

I too am a student who was born and brought up in Pakistan. Like the majority of my people, I cannot bring myself to endorse US aggression against a people whose lives are already torn apart by conflict.

Why should Pakistani students embark on a programme which can only end in increasing influence for the Taliban, and a possible full-scale military intervention by the US?

Why shouldn’t the Pakistani youth unite around a progressive banner and demand an end to foreign aggression as well as Talibanization? Why can we not demand an end to the exploitation of our economy by the First World? Why can we not demand an end to the supremacy of the Pakistani military in our politics? Why can we not demand an end to the oppression of people based on class, gender or ethnic background?

There are students all over Pakistan who are united by the ideals of democracy, social justice and the brotherhood of all peoples, and they are organizing in many different ways. I have the honor to know many students who are organizing themselves in progressive youth organizations, such as the NSF (National Students’ Federation).

Those who want to change things in this country cannot rely on our current Pakistani rulers or on American troops. Only the millions of Pakistani people, through their conscious efforts, can change the destiny of this troubled, imploding entity.

Those who want us to be pulled into a spiral of further conflict and destruction can continue to cheer for their favorite brand of barbarian, be it the Islamic fundamentalist militants or the NATO forces.

I, for one, beg to differ with them.

So does the majority of people in Pakistan.

31 Comments

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31 responses to “Say No to drone attacks!

  1. kabir

    Ziyad, thanks for this article. It was really well-written and provided good food for thought. I agree with you that the drone attacks are morally problematic and cause unnecessary civilian casualties. In fact, I even thought that taking out Baitullah and his wife in a drone strike was morally problematic because in the case of his wife, she has not been accused of any crimes, and in the case of Baitullah, he should have been tried and convicted of his crimes instead of killed in this manner.

    That said, however, I wonder what better means are available to the US and the Pak Army to combat terrorism? Could one possibly make the arguement that the drone attacks, horrible as they are, are still the best option to deal with the Taliban/Al Qaeda menace–people who have shown that they cannot be negotiated with?

    I say all this as a Pakistani-American student. To me the attacks are troubling from a moral/philosophical perspective but I’m also not sure that in the real world of political policy we have better options.

  2. Ahmed Chowdhry

    @Ziyad – I do understand your point of view but unfortunately it is completely divorced from the realities. No one likes foreign attacks on one’ solid but the fact of the matter is that we do not have the capability or maybe the willingness to eliminate these terrorists. I don’t know where your nationalistic rhetoric is when these same so called ‘tribesman’ are taking out Pakistan Army and Soldiers and civilians.

    The drone attacks have been pretty effective in eliminating some really hardcore Al Qaeeda elements bent on the destruction of the state of Pakistan by attacks on the security services of the country as well as through suicide bombings.

    There can no better example of the effectiveness of the drones other than the recent elimination of the terrorist at large – Behtullah Mehsud. A tribal warlord who held a Nuclear power hostage with his campaign of suicide bombings and other acts of terrorism. Now i am sure that you would not count BM as Shaheed as the JI chief recently did. If that is not an act of treason than i don’t know what is.

  3. haq

    For one I still seriously doubt that these attacks are taking place without the consent of Pakistan (military and civil both). Simply because despite our dependence on the US we can get them to stop these if we really want to.

    Second, I do not know how credible the data of civil or militant casualties is. Given the ground realities there I seriously doubt the data.

    The problem is that despite their limitations, air strikes are the only viable option available. When you are in a policy making position, you have to take a decision and act on the basis of the limited information. You do not have the luxury of being philosophical about things.

    Any analysis or opinion which does not take this into account is not practical and unrealistic int he world that we live in.

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  5. Hayyer 48

    If I may defend Ziyad Faisal’s point of view.
    Civilian deaths in drone attacks should not be passed of as collateral damage. Such an attitude underscore a callous indifference to loss of innocent lives.
    Now one can paraphrase the argument of certain Palestinian groups in the sixties that no one is innocent as long as America is under threat, but would these levels be acceptable if the dead were American civilians.
    The Pakistani state puts on a brave front but it too would not accept the same sort of thing in, say, Lahore.
    Are all Pakhtuns living in FATA complicit and therefore deserving of collateral extinction if it comes their way?
    The guilt of the frontier Pakhtuns is of historical circumstance, and contemporary political opportunism; but it is not only the androgynous males of the frontier who are responsible for the death and destruction. Were they not used?
    The kill ratio of 60:1, if true, is shocking. If BM had 20,000 fighters will Pakistan sacrifice a million of its civilians to take them out. More to the point, can it afford to?. The strategy is unsustainable.

  6. Bloody Civilian

    H48

    ignoring the blunder of not taking ownership of drone attacks a few years ago, drones are or should only be used for high value targets. that is the context in which the kill ratio ought to be looked at (assuming that the figure quoted is true). so the 20,000:1m ratio is not valid. they don’t even need to kill 20,000 fighters… by any method, drone or non-drone.

    they just arrested an injured saifullah, baitullah’s bro, from islamabad, along with accomplices incl hosts in islamabad. saifullah was injured in the drone attack that is suspected to have killed baitullah. he was in isloo for med treatment.

    civilian/innocent deaths are of course regretable. no less regretable than those who died in marriot or other terrorist attacks. so there should be no let up in intel efforts. intel must be of the highest quality possible.

  7. kabir

    “Are all Pakhtuns living in FATA complicit and therefore deserving of collateral extinction if it comes their way?”

    I think this is a key question and I would argue that the answer is unequivicolly NO. Most people living in FATA are people just like you and me who simply want to go about their lives. It’s certainly not justifiable to treat them as collateral damage. This is why I find the drone attacks morally problematic.

    The problem is that given today’s political realities, we perhaps don’t have a better choice than the drone attacks (and I agree that they are taking place with the tacit consent of the Govt. of Pakistan). Ziyad’s view is very idealistic and morally correct, but that’s not the way the world works (unfortunately).

  8. Junaid

    The reason the writer supports drone attacks is because he is a Punjabi sitting some where in a Pakistani city, has never been to the tribal areas and considers the people of FATA to be cannon fodder.

    Kind Regards

    Junaid

  9. YLH

    Junaid mian,

    Everything is not about Pushtun or Punjabi. Get off your high horse.

    Besides the writer doesn’t support the drone attacks. Perhaps reading the article before mouthing off is a good idea?

  10. AZW

    Ziyad:

    This is a well written post. I am myself conflicted about drones and feel that loss of innocent lives is unsustainable, and ought to be questioned.

    Let me tell you that I was not impressed with the original piece supporting the drone attacks that you have responded to. I thought it was too emotionally charged and made no good arguments except to make some unverifiable reports, empty suggestions, and occasional use of foul language.

    However, I feel in your enthusiasm to condemn drone attacks, you have simplified a complex world into a simplified black and white universe. I do feel that you have made some emotional points devoid of good reasoning. I can only wish the world is as simple as our emotions would like it to be.

    I have a few observations/questions:

    1) Let’s define sovereignty. Is sovereignty violation always true during US drone attacks? What about the murderous group/s that took over the tribal areas with the help of local warlords, went on to launch attacks in US, Europe and Asia while sitting comfortably on our soil, mercilessly killed hundreds of tribals and Pakistanis outside the tribal areas who opposed these militants.

    I have seen some condemnation of these fanatics in your post. However the condemnation did not refer to Al-Qaeda or Taliban violating Pakistani sovereignty. Do you think that US violated Pakistani sovereignty first or the militants.

    2) Almost every terrorist attack that happened in the world over past 13 years can be traced back to tribal areas in terms of either/all idea origination, planning, financing, or execution. We doubt that Al-Qaeda and their allies would have stopped had they been left alone. Now Pakistan was not willing to act against these guys up to 2008. These militants had vowed to bring destruction to the United States, starting with Bin Laden’s famous fatwa in 1998 where killings of American civilians were completely justified.

    So what is United States going to act? Should it sit back home and try to stave off the attacks at its soil while our dear militants come up with yet another magic formula for most destruction?

    3) If you believe that militants would have run amok in Pakistan (and the rest of the world) had they not been stopped, then let’s hear the alternative way to deal with the problem. South Waziristan is a treacherous mountainous region. All out ground invasion will likely result in far more destruction and loss of life. We have already seen how civilians were killed and more than 3 million displaced by the ground invasion by Pakistani army in Swat. Do you believe that alternative of a war agains the militants would be less bloody? If Pakistan does not go to war with the militants, then what is the alternative strategy?

    4) You asked “Would the writer have supported Indian air-strikes against militant groups based in Pakistan, soon after the Mumbai attacks?”

    I can honestly say with a heavy heart that if “non state actors” were given a free hand after Mumbai attacks, and would have attacked Delhi or Calcutta or Varanasi resulting in hundreds or thousands of deaths, Pakistan’s sovereignty would have been violated by India. I would also say that it was the case of Indian sovereignty be violated first, though Pakistanis are fixated somehow on their very own sovereignty and would have ignored the other violation behind all sorts of fancy conspiracy theories.

    Not convinced? Let me give you an actual example that told me how serious the situation was for Pakistan. In May 2009, another radical Sunni outfit named Jundullah carried out suicide attacks in Zahedan, Iran killing 25 people. This brazen attack was a follow-up of a series of cross border attacks planned and executed by Jundullah where, in one particular gruesome incident, Jundullah decapitated 16 Iranian border guards on camera.

    Iran closed down the border, and Iran issued a chilling warning that “it has the power and military means to trace and hunt down terrorist groups in Pakistan if such activity is not stopped by Pakistan”.

    There is a fundamental issue here: If a country’s soil is used to launch attacks on other countries, the host country is failing its primary responsibility of being a peaceful neighbor. If Pakistan cannot take care of the groups operating out of its soil, it cannot expect others to stand pat and see havoc brought within their borders from Pakistani soil.

    5) From the legal standpoint, I completely agree that drone attacks is a violation of international airspace. However recent reports have suggested that Pakistani intelligence is actively cooperating with US forces in coordinating reconnaissance as well as actual attacks (http://articles.latimes.com/2009/may/13/world/fg-predator13). If Pakistan is actively helping out US itself, can Pakistan itself cry foul over violation of its sovereignty?

    All of my above points should not be taken as criticism of your arguments. We are seeing loss of innocent lives, and we ought to question every action by both parties. However, we have to realize that drones are attacking a clear enemy; the enemy is violent, and is driven by a nihilistic and bloody view of the world. If not tackled here, the violence will grow manifold.

    Now, my following points are a direct criticism of some statements that you have made later in your post. Now you seem to reaching beyond drone attacks and raising your emotionally charged proclaimations with empty statements. Let’s see them one by one:

    1) “Why can we not demand an end to the exploitation of our economy by the First World?”. Shall we default on all of our outstanding liabilities that we accrued due to our mismanagement? Shall we switch to other funding to bridge our deficits beside IMF. Last time I checked they were the only lender in town as Pakistan was teetering on the verge of bankruptcy. Kindly explain further this blanket statement that tells us very little as it is right now

    2) “Why can we not demand an end to the oppression of people based on class, gender or ethnic background?”.

    Who is the oppressor, who is oppressed?

    3) “Those who want to change things in this country cannot rely on our current Pakistani rulers or on American troops. Only the millions of Pakistani people, through their conscious efforts, can change the destiny of this troubled, imploding entity”

    We have a functioning democracy in our country, elected by the people. The government was elected by majority of population that expressed its vote in quite fair elections a year ago. So what do you mean by “we cannot rely on our current Pakistani rulers”? Who is the replacement? Does the replacement need to have democratic credentials? How will they change the destiny of Pakistan?

    Regards,

    Adnann

  11. Ziyad,

    A very well-written that underscores even my own conflicting position on the role of drone attacks in the ‘war’ we are purported to be waging against militants.

    Given the success of targeting Baitullah, the obvious question arises: Do the ends justify the mean?

    Do we treat the innocent civilians killed as mentioned here, collateral damage we seem to be treating so callously. This indifferent nature of course is the consequence of sitting on luxury on comfortable seats in places far away.

    I think, by singularizing drone attacks as a strategy, we are relieving the government of its responsibilities. As its duty to the people, the government should be pushing development projects (should have been for a long long time now) the logistics of which will be difficult but the bare minimum should at least be a willingness to help. Right now, the people are helpless caught between the militants and the drones hovering above (talk about being caught between a rock and a hard place).

    Drone attacks seem to be the only option available to a hapless state at the moment but do we really want to radicalize generations?

    What do we want? To inflict ‘comfort’ damage in a war which won’t end until the intelligence agencies sever their machinations with the enemy and the army finally moves in? Or do we want to win back our country, one which we have left moth-eaten through years of neglect, power hunger, greed and a forgetting of the Quaid’s vision for Pakistan?

    Answering questions may lead to more questions. But I think, those subsequent questions hold the key to unraveling our own contradictions.

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  13. Ali Abbas

    AZW/Adnan,

    You have made some good observations.

    However, the narrative amongst the civil society elites is skewed towards selective studies that support their exclusive narrative. In that regard, Sehar’s view in support of drone attacks, whilst being emotionally charged at certain points cannot be dismissed outright.

    There is a collective anmensia and a subconscious acceptance of the mass murder of Pakistani citizens, especially the contining massacre of Shias in Parachinar, D.I.Khan and Gilgit by the establishment sponsored Talibans.

    The predominant narrative (and there are minor exceptions) is as follows:

    1. A democratically elected Govt. that has a weak electoral presence in North Urban Punjab is unacceptable.

    2. A democratically elected President who ardently supports peace with India and is unequivocal in his condemnation of Islamist militias is unacceptable.

    3. Nawaz Sharif/Imran Khan/Jamaat Islami/Hamid Gul/Roedad Khan are the heros of a “pro-democracy” and “pro-judiciary” “movement”.

    4. There are different standards; one that applies to Nawaz Sharif/establishment/bureaucrats/Islamists and another that applies to the PPP.

    5. Inspite of mass evidence to the contrary, the Taliban are still viewed as marxist guerillas and Pushtoon nationalists against Swati Feudals and US imperialism. Their heinous crimes are brushed over and apologized for by a Jamaat Islami dominated local media.

    6. All attacks that are linked to Pakistan are a grand Zionist/Hindu/CIA conspiracy to defame the country. Pakistan has to support the “Afghan” Taliban, who are in no way linked to the various Islamist groups who are wrecking havoc from Karachi to the Karakoram. The Afghan Taliban are fighing “occupation” and are the only option against Indian influence in Afghanistan; the Afghans and the development of their institutions and infrastructure (work that is being undertaken by India) are irrelevant to Pakistan’s interest in Afghanistan.

    In a culture that celebrates conspiracy theory delusions by fawning on its pedlars and where urban myth and drawing room gossip are substituted for a nuanced understanding of socio-political considerations, one is likely see continued and unqualified condemnation for the drone attacks and a tacit acceptance of the Taliban as a movement based on legitimate grievances.

  14. Ali Abbas

    If targets to collateral damage ratios are taken into account, what about Baitullahs media issued threats to Benazir prior to her Oct. 18th return. What were the ratios then, 180:0 (she survived that one)!

    How about the actions of the Taliban’s ideological brethern in Iraq where hundreds of thousands of Shais have been killed in indiscriminate sucide attacks.

    Unless ofcourse, morality and legalities are a reserved right of the few

  15. Nazish Zahoor

    Why make such a binary that if you are not in favor of drone attacks then you definitely are on side taliban. I agree with ziad and as far as I have understood he condemned both the drone attacks and taliban.
    I just don’t understand that killing one baitullah mehsud means elimination of the taliban phenomenon as whole. its not simple. If people really are against taliban then they should look for the cause of this menace. it is our own state. The codemnation should begin from our constitution, our curriculum taught at the schools, our military, the ISI who created taliban and many other reasons that provide idealogical grouds for the creation of the taliban.
    if people think that such use of aggrssion can eliminate taliban, then my question is that how far has the US been successful in eliminating taliban in Afghanistan, which it physically has occupied.
    if someone can really end this talibanisation, then it’s only the people of pakistan. Not US drones neither the Pakistan state because they have many other reasons for not doing so. The people should unite and put an end to it, by demanding the US to stop the drone attacks and by demanding our state to change their geo-stratigic priorities.

  16. Junaid

    Junaid mian,

    Everything is not about Pushtun or Punjabi. Get off your high horse.

    Besides the writer doesn’t support the drone attacks. Perhaps reading the article before mouthing off is a good idea?

    @YLH

    May be before announcing your verdict of guilty which you normally do, it is good to do a little bit of investigation.

    The author I am referring to is the one who SUPPORTS drone attacks.

    I am not referring to the author who DOES NOT support drone attacks.

    See there are two authors involved in the discussion.

    Any 5th grader would be able to tell which author I am referring to. I wonder why you are unable to do so.

    Last of all, I can guarantee that the person who is supporting drone attacks is a Punjabi living some where in La-Whore.

    And yes this is to do with him being a Punjabi and the ones being killed in drone attacks being Pathans.

    Kind Regards

    Junaid

  17. AZW

    Farhat Taj, who frequently contributes to The News, published the results of a survey conducted by The Aryana Institute for Regional Research and Advocacy, a think tank of researchers and political activists from the NWFP and FATA.

    I am quoting the relevant portions of Farhat’s writeup. The results are quite interesting. Contrary to what the outright condemners of drone attacks would like us to believe, Pushtuns and FATA residents are divided on the issue. In fact, a slim majority has given responses that welcome targeted strikes. A clear majority (70%) would have favoured Pakistani Army doing the similar targeted strikes by itself.

    So much so for Junaid’s theory of a happy Punjabi singing drone attack praises, while treating FATA residents as canon fodder. And slanging the name of one of my favourite cities in the world is just in poor taste.

    http://letusbuildpakistan.blogspot.com/2009/03/farhat-taj-survey-of-drone-attacks-in.html


    Between last November and January AIRRA sent five teams, each made up of five researchers, to the parts of FATA that are often hit by American drones, to conduct a survey of public opinion about the attacks. The team visited Wana (South Waziristan), Ladda (South Waziristan), Miranshah (North Waziristan), Razmak (North Waziristan) and Parachinar (Kurram Agency). The teams handed out 650 structured questionnaires to people in the areas. The questionnaires were in Pashto, English and Urdu. The 550 respondents (100 declined to answer) were from professions related to business, education, health and transport. Following are the questions and the responses of the people of FATA.

    — Do you see drone attacks bringing about fear and terror in the common people? (Yes 45%, No 55%)

    — Do you think the drones are accurate in their strikes? (Yes 52%, No 48%)

    — Do you think anti-American feelings in the area increased due to drone attacks recently? (Yes 42%, No 58%)

    — Should Pakistan military carry out targeted strikes at the militant organisations? (Yes 70%, No 30%)

    — Do the militant organisations get damaged due to drone attacks? (Yes 60%, No 40%)

    A group of researchers at AIRRA draw these conclusions from the survey. The popular notion outside the Pakhtun belt that a large majority of the local population supports the Taliban movement lacks substance. The notion that anti-Americanism in the region has not increased due to drone attacks is rejected. The study supports the notion that a large majority of the people in the Pakhtun belt wants to be incorporated with the state and wants to integrate with the rest of the world.

    The survey also reinforces my own ethnographic interactions with people of FATA, both inside FATA and the FATA IDP’s in the NWFP. This includes people I personally met and those I am in contact with through telephone calls and emails. This includes men and women, from illiterate to people with university level education. The number is well over 2000. I asked almost all those people if they see the US drone attacks on FATA as violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty. More than two-third said they did not. Pakistan’s sovereignty, they argued, was insulted and annihilated by Al-Qaeda and the Taliban, whose territory FATA is after Pakistan lost it to them. The US is violating the sovereignty of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, not of Pakistan. Almost half the people said that the US drones attacking Islamabad or Lahore will be violation of the sovereignty of Pakistan, because these areas are not taken over by the Taliban and Al Qaeda. Many people laughed when I mentioned the word sovereignty with respect to Pakistan.

    Over two-thirds of the people viewed Al-Qaeda and the Taliban as enemy number one, and wanted the Pakistani army to clear the area of the militants. A little under two-thirds want the Americans to continue the drone attack because the Pakistani army is unable or unwilling to retake the territory from the Taliban.

  18. AZW

    The quotes tag in my previous response did not work. All of the writeup after the website link is actually quoted from Fahat Taj’s article, and should be treated as such.

    Adnann

  19. Ziyad Faisal

    Dear friends,

    Thanks for all the comments, and sorry for not replying earlier.

    A lot of people responded by saying, “well what other options do we have, except the drone attacks, for dealing with Al-Qaeda and the Taliban?”

    I tried to address this very point in my arguments in the piece I wrote.

    I tried to prove, through some facts and figures, that the drone attacks are NOT helping in curbing Al-Qaeda or the Taliban, but are merely adding more fuel to the fire. The situation in the Pakistani north-west is dangerous enough even if you remove US drone attacks from the equation.

    US drone attacks might occasionally wipe out an insurgent leader, but their human cost and their general inaccuracy more than outweigh the benefits of wiping out any single leader.

    The Taliban cannot be defeated by bombing them out of existence. There are too many of them ready to take the place of any martyr. Each atrocity committed by US forces or by Pakistani forces only adds to popular resentment. The Taliban and Al-Qaeda are very adept at feeding off this resentment.

    If we, as the Pakistani youth, cannot come up with a better answer to the Taliban than US drone attacks, then we must seriously question why we are fighting these people in the first place.

    Are we warlords, who fight without principles? Or are we concerned and responsible citizens of a troubled country?

    There are ten Baitullah Mehsuds waiting to take the place of each who is killed in this way.

    To those who ask me how else we can fight the Taliban and Al-Qaeda, I say, first of all we have to be clear WHY we’re fighting them.

    As a Pakistani, I personally have no desire to help the US in its “War on Terror”, because this is a war which we have nothing to do with. It was the US government which, in the 80s, armed Islamic fundamentalists, and it is the same government which now wants to fight them. Where do we, the Pakistani people, fit into the picture? Are we to be silent pawns throughout this game?

    Of course, I do believe that the Taliban and Al-Qaeda have to be defeated, within Pakistan. But if we are to win this struggle, we must offer the people of the North-west something much much better than the Taliban.

    Think about the Pakistani state that you live in. Or think about the NATO occupying forces in Afghanistan.

    These are the only two alternatives we are offering to the war-weary people of the north-west. Personally, I do not see these alternatives as being significantly better than the Taliban right now.

    This is not a nihilistic excuse for doing nothing. On the other hand, I’m inviting readers to THINK about this war, and why they believe it needs to be fought.

    If you want to truly help the people of the Pakistani north-west, then you must have an alternative programme which they can really flock towards, so that the Taliban and Al-Qaeda are isolated in a social and political sense.

    If you have no better alternative than building a Pakistani Army cantonment in Swat and allowing the vicious NATO forces to commit naked aggression against helpless people, then I’m sorry, this war is lost before it was even begun.

    So here’s the bottom-line: Think about this war. Think about why you want it to be fought. And then you will understand the answers to your questions.

    Thanks a lot to everyone who read this and sent in replies.

    Regards,
    Ziyad

  20. Ziyad, we are fighting this war so that girls can practice their right to obtain an education, so that music can be enjoyed, so that no one flogs a young girl for refusing to marry someone….

    The Taliban and Al- Qaeda are inhuman and are not “Islamic” by any stretch of the imagination.

    I do agree with you though that drone attacks are not a good option, but it’s the best option we have right now. Winning “hearts and minds” of the people of NWFP and FATA is a much much longer process and one that is not going to help us defeat terrorist insurgenies in the short term.

  21. D_a_n

    @Ziyad…

    ‘These are the only two alternatives we are offering to the war-weary people of the north-west. Personally, I do not see these alternatives as being significantly better than the Taliban right now’

    So what you are saying is that the life that the people of Swat had say 4 years ago and what the Taliban shoved down their throats….there isnt much difference between the two?

    are you Kidding me? Have you even met of spoke to anyone who has actually lived under them?

    Or do you mean to tell me that the life the Shia of Kurram had 5 years ago isnt much different than what it is today? I guess then in your view, there isnt much difference between you being able to educate your women folk and not being able to educate them…
    and that to you, there isnt much of a difference between being beheaded and not being beheaded…

    My suggestion would be, go and live under the animals we fight now and I guarantee you, you will not only be writing articles about how to make war on them but will be sending out CVs to ‘Drones r Us’ as an assembly line worker…

    you further wrote:

    ‘Each atrocity committed ……. by Pakistani forces…’

    I’m so sorry that we have not been able to treat your friends with the Tender Loving Care that you think they deserve…surely we have overdone it as all the talib really needed was a time out…
    such BS is getting harder and harder and harder to stomach…

    There are men who are our fighting and dying for you in the most vicious combat taking place on the planet and you call them war criminals…..this is ungratefulness at it’s finest.
    for Goodness sake man where in the world are you getting this crap from?
    just how do you think it happens…a unit simply wakes up one day for random ‘atrocity day’?

    In case saving your sorry backside in spite of you is an atrocity then atrocity away I say!

  22. AZW

    Ziyad:

    I am sorry but your words in your final comment convey nothing. They seem to take no position; they condemn US strikes, give no single plausible alternative, and seem to satisfy your paranois against US and condemnation against being “silent pawns throughout this game”.

    First of all, it is not a game. This is a war of survival for Pakistan as we know it. And rather than beating around the bush, decide who is your enemy, what he wants, why we are here in this sorry state, and how to get out of here.

    The enemy that Pakistan refused to recognize for the past 8 years has and still is Taliban and Al-Qaeda. That Pakistan and US face a common enemy is the reality. Therefore, simply condemning NATO aggression and trying to paint it as “not my war” is not going to get you anywhere.

    The atrocities against Hazaras, Shias at Mizar-e-Sharif, sectarian violence in Pakistan since early 90s can all be traced back to the training camps and the extremist ideology that had started sending out recruits to Pakistan, Middle East, Europe and North America. 9/11 was one in a series of terrorist attacks that these guys had planned as part of their global Jihad.

    Try to read Sayyed Qutub and Moudoudi writings that shape the extremist ideologies of these groups. The Jihad was not declared against the US and the West after 9/11. It was declared long before that epochal event.
    The inherent violence in this extremist ideology will not spare just the Non-Muslims; we are seeing the bloodshed being brought to minorities within Muslim communities for the past two decades.

    I am sorry but our equivocation in identifying our mortal enemy is what got us to this sorry state. You naively state that Pakistan “isolate (Al-Qaeda and Taliban) in a social and political sense”. What social or political framework may I ask? Try telling this fancy idea to murdered tribal chiefs who were systematically eliminated as they rose against Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan. Try telling that to any groups who dared to write against Baitullah Mehsuds, or those newspaper editors who were not allowed to even publish Mehsud’s photograph. Try telling that to Pakistani newpaper chiefs and liberal journalists like Najam Sethi and Jugnu Mohsin who were regularly getting photos of decapitated people (a pretty clear warning for their couragous writings in those dark days of Taliban terror).

    Try reading the actual surveys that point out that FATA residents are actually welcoming the targeted strikes. No one is doubting that innocent civilians get caught when a drone targets the militants. Yet your statement of a few militants dying here and there is simply not correct. Drones have been effective in taking out militants, who do try to live as much as possible with civilians and have been moving out of FATA due to the drone attacks themselves. We are all ears on your ideas of how to deal with this enemy who is hell bent on extending its rule whenever it gets its chance. War is never pretty and an all out assault on South Waziristan will result in a lot more bloodshed.

    I am struck by the responses of FATA residents when quizzed about their views on the drone attacks. The actual souls who bear the brunt of Taliban seem to have a far clearer view of the concept of sovereignty. Kindly read the link I had provided in the previous post. Pakistan’s sovereignty was violated by Taliban and Al-Qaeda, and FATA respondents believe that drones are actually violating the Taliban sovereignty. Taliban have taken over chunks of Pakistani territory where our forces and laws are not remotely applicable. Care about telling us when you felt disturbed on this naked violation of Pakistani sovereignty by the religious extremists?

    Taliban attack on Buner was probably the best wakeup call for Pakistan; otherwise we would still have our heads in sand, and singing the same tune: “Not our war, why are we fighting our own brothers”.

    Regards,

    Adnann

  23. Ziyad Faisal

    Hello everyone!

    Dan, I won’t even bother replying to you in detail. Clearly, you don’t have the common courtesy to have a civilized discussion.

    As for “saving my sorry backside”, I hate to break it to you, but the Pakistani military it not saving anyone’s sorry backside, except its own or that of its allies: i.e. the Islamic fundamentalist proxies which it has repeatedly used against India.

    This is the very same military which has conducted a series of brutal operations against the Baloch people of our country. And now you expect people to trust it in rooting out the Islamist militants which it itself created (along with the Reagan administration in the US)?

    Sorry dude. You’re way off the mark.

    Kabir, thank you for clarifying why you want this war to be fought.

    First off, we have to be clear on one thing. If a counter-insurgency operation against a force like the Taliban is to succeed, we will have to win hearts and minds in the affected areas. There can be no short-term “fix”, unless the long-term aim of winning over the population is not kept in front of us.

    So you say this war is being fought so that girls have the right to go to school, people can listen to music and no girl gets flogged for marrying someone of her own choice.

    Admirable aims. And I agree with them.

    But tell me, does the Pakistani state as we know it provide these things? Does this state provide every girl the “right” to go to school? Or even half of the girls of Pakistan?

    This is a state which spends most of its budget on a fat, bloated military and on repaying debts to First World countries. Education, healthcare and other forms of social spending come at the lowest end of our priorities.

    Structural adjustment programmes imposed on us by international financial institutions have led to the closure of thousands of schools all over the country: so many that the Taliban cannot dream of burning so many in ten lifetimes.

    Is this situation going to attract the war-ravaged people of north-western Pakistan?

    In such circumstances, is it wise to authorize un-bridled military action against militant extremists in the north-west, while having no social welfare programmes to offer, no political autonomy to offer, no fast-and-fair justice-system to offer?

    Shouldn’t there be accountability first?

    Did you know that the HRCP (Human Rights Commission of Pakistan) has called attention to large-scale extra-judicial killings by the Pakistani military in Swat and Malakand during this current operation?

    Will such action convince the people of the Pakistani north-west that this state wants to give them the “right” to girls’ education and freedom to marry and what not?

    Can the Pakistani state guarantee such rights to peasants serving the feudal fiefdoms of Punjabi and Sindhi landlords, who are currently sitting in our government?

    This Pakistani state has so far failed to root out the practice of karo-kari (“honor” killing). And its not armed Taliban militants who have been doing those.

    And you expect this state, whose intelligence agencies remain complicit in funding, training and arming Islamic fundamentalist groups for use against India and Afghanistan, to successfully fight a campaign against the Taliban?

    See, that is the reason why I suggest everyone should THINK about this war before giving it their support.

    To all the “Pak Fauj Zindabad” crowd, all I have to say is this:

    This is not 1965, for heaven’s sake. This conflict which you support is a pathetic, sordid and murderous affair, and our elected government has NO strategy for carrying it out successfully. It is the Pakistani military which is in charge of the operation, and they are not famous for thinking or considering the consequences of their actions.

    After all, as long as the plots of land in the Defence Housing Authority keep piling up, as long as the military-run enterprises roll out the dough, who cares about the people of the country? Not our corrupt, whiskey-swilling, pseudo-Islamist generals for sure!

    AZW, thanks for that reply. I think my reply to kabir covered some of what I wanted to say to you. As for the rest, I’ll reply soon, when I’m done dealing with a splitting headache.

    Regards,
    Ziyad

  24. Lilith

    There seems to be a lot of concern over Pakistan’s sovereignty. But before we all cry ourselves hoarse over this, I would like to know how many people have really tried to think what sovereignty means, and why is it so important?

    Why is it that a State’s sovereignty is placed above the lives of real flesh and blood people? What is a “state” anyway? A bunch of permenant institutions which monolpolize the use of violence over a given territory? And in our case, are the legacy of the brutal British raj.

    And neither is it an absract entity. It consists of our bureaucrats and our army, the “Brown sahibs” who have been lording over and exploiting the rest of the population since the white sahibs left (atleast physically). So when you talk of protecting the State’s sovereignty over ALL other concerns, do think of whose interests are you really protecting.

    I’m at a loss to understand why the lives of some of our countrymen are so very expendible. We keep talking of sacrificing for our country, but it is interesting to consider who is doing the sacrificing, for whose benefit.

    The Army that you are now hailing as the best thing since the invention of the wheel is the same army that got us into this mess. And if I’m not mistaken, many a General, retired or otherwise, was claiming Baitullah to be a patriot until very recently. So have they really changed their policy of supporting Taliban under the table for their much loved “strategic depth”?

    And USA, whose “War” you are now supporting uncritically, is the same USA that has funded and armed the whole bandwagon of these religious fundos. Who has wrecked havoc with people’s lives the world over for years. Who has overthrown progressive democratic govenments, only to install repressive dictatorships and murderous warlords. Who bends and breaks the rules of International Law at its will, with no concern for what anyone else may think.

    If there is one thing we can rest assured of, it is this: USA and our Army and Intelligience are not trying to liberate women from the clutches of Taliban’s policies. Can we be really as naive as to think there was no discrimination against women, no children denied the right of education before the taliban, and in areas where they excercise no influence?

    All these drone attacks achieve is more misery for an already exploited people. It will not make the taliban go away. What will, is like Ziyad pointed, a viable alternate solution: More genuine empowerment for the locals. Otherwise, we shall continue fighting (in vain) the symptom of the problem (Taliban who feed on people’s destituteness to recruit/sideline them) rather than the cause (the poverty, the political disempowerment etc), all the while killing our innocent civilans and exacerbating the cause.

    So i second Ziyad on this. Let’s say no to the drones!

  25. Bloody Civilian

    all those saying No to drones or eve this just war, at least have the honesty to move to Swat, FATA or in to an IDP tent before presuming the power to let these people be beheaded and hung from pylons. or better still, invite the TTP to set up shop in your own neighbourhood instead, in karachi, lahore or wherever… and i’d have a bit more respect for you at least. you can invite the generals, serving or retired, who called baitullah a pakistani patriot to move in to your neighbourhood too… if they don’t already live there… and leave the pak army to do its job.

  26. Lilith

    “you can invite the generals, serving or retired, who called baitullah a pakistani patriot to move in to your neighbourhood too… if they don’t already live there… and leave the pak army to do its job”

    please come back when you have a comment that actually makes sense.

    as for moving to FATA, maybe those who say Yes to the drone attacks should also have the intellectual consistency to try living mortified in fear that Taliban or no Taliban, you can be blown to pieces in a second, while sitting in your own bedroom. Maybe you are implying that is a welcome eventuality?

  27. Gorki

    Ziyad Faisal Sahib:

    The issue of drone attacks is indeed complex and I personally cringe at the sanitized term ‘collateral damage’ therefore my comments below are not a blanket endorsement of this policy but I do have a problem with your position on sovereignty when you say the following:

    “As a Pakistani, I personally have no desire to help the US in its “War on Terror”, because this is a war which we have nothing to do with. It was the US government which, in the 80s, armed Islamic fundamentalists, and it is the same government which now wants to fight them. Where do we, the Pakistani people, fit into the picture? Are we to be silent pawns throughout this game?”

    The US war on terror that you state you have nothing to do with was declared by a certain gentleman who heads the Al Qaeda and has admitted masterminding, funding and unleashing attacks on the US. It is commonly believed that the same gentleman and many of his henchmen are currently using the sovereign Pakistani territory as their base. Similarly not long before he was killed Baitullah Mehsud had specifically threatened to attack the United States; again from the sovereign territory of Pakistan. Unfortunately these acts make Pakistan a part of the larger War even if unwillingly so.

    Thus I am surprised that you claim to speak up for Pakistan the nation, yet take such a lukewarm stand on the efforts of the Pakistani forces fighting in FATA and surrounding territories.
    You may disagree with the conduct of the war on a tactical level (such as drone versus no drones) but how could you not wholeheartedly support the army? Aren’t they fighting to restore the sovereignty of your own nation?

    Or is it your position that it is OK for Pakistan to passively provide logistic support and bases to Al Qaeda against the US and do nothing?
    If so then you are wrong. You see sovereignty is a two way street. Once another sovereign nation is issued a serious threat from your own; you have become involved; the only way to extricate Pakistan from the war is to defeat, destroy or chase away ALL combatants from your backyard.

    It is exactly this that the Pakistani forces are currently engaged in and it is precisely for this reason that they need to be supported by ALL Pakistanis. Staying neutral is not an option; yet.
    Regards

  28. Ziyad, I agree with you that the Pakistani state is doing an abominable job of of providing social services to its people. But, for all it’s faults, I do believe the state is still better than the Taliban/ Al- Queda. I think that the insurgency has to be defeated first before the state can focus on being accountable to the people. Of course, I am with you in condemning extra-judicial killings. I was earlier very disturbed by the way the war was fought and the refugee crisis that was created, but I don’t think that makes the war itself wrong.

    There are a lot of gray areas, and I personally am not comfortable taking a strong position either pro or con. I wholeheartedly wish there was another alternative to defeating the Taliban, but unfortunately I don’t see any right now.

  29. Dean Sayers

    I think it is ridiculous that Pakistanis are endorsing drone attacks on their own land by a foreign nation. As a U.S. citizen, I can tell you that we would never condone – let alone endorse – the same in our backyard.

    The only hope for nations like pakistan, which have a sizeable opposition positioned in and around rural communities, is to engage the moderates and radicals alike in a productive manner. Apparently, it is only the Taliban that is willing to hold legal proceedings in these areas.

    What would you do as a civilian, perhaps a victim of a crime, with no serious government presence and a defacto endorsement of the bombing happening on your doorstep?

  30. Gorki

    As a U.S. citizen, I can tell you that we would never condone – let alone endorse – the same in our backyard.
    ……………………………………………….
    Dean Sayers:

    And what would you do as a US citizen, if a thug like Bin Laden set up shop in say rural Montana and used his sanctuary to plot murder and mayhem in Canada?

    Or maybe make that scenario rural Texas and the US federal marshals were told to stay out?

    Hmmmm let me see…

    A certain town named Waco comes to mind…

  31. Dean Sayers

    The Waco tragedy didn’t represent a response to oppression.