That’s right. Mark your calendars. Today may be a historic day. I agree (partly) with The Nation. The piece I am referring to, even more strangely it seems, is an editorial about drone strikes. What has changed my mind you ask? Nothing. Allow me to explain.
When drone strikes resumed after being stopped following the 26th Novemner NATO attack and Shamsi airbase being vacated, I expected an angry statement from Army, street protests, another media outcry about sovereignty. Of course, what I got instead was silence.
Apparently, I’m not the only one who noticed. Here’s what The Nation said:
The general understanding was that following the vacation of the Shamsi Airbase and discontinuation of NATO supplies to Afghanistan, drones would never again enter Pakistani airspace. It may be recalled that the American television channel MSNBC aired a report saying that on December 12 last year, Prime Minister Gilani and COAS Gen Kayani resolved, at a meeting, that any further drone attack would be considered an act of aggression. Not only this, the report said that the top civil and military leadership has also decided to shoot down any drone entering into Pakistani airspace. It is strange that no action against these invading planes was taken and not even protested.
But is it really so strange?
Consider the next sentence in The Nation’s editorial: “It gives credence to another US newspaper report that Pakistan has agreed to selective drone strikes.”
Yes, it does.
And that’s not the only thing we agree on. Here’s the conclusion reached by The Nation:
The civil and military leadership will have to put their heads together and decide once and for all whether they are going to continue making empty promises to Pakistanis or whether they will finally put their money where their mouth is. People are no longer willing to be hoodwinked about the clarity of the policy on this issue. If there is some renewed understanding with the Americans, that too must be clearly stated, failing which the government may face a strong spate of protest demonstrations. The US too must recognise, that whether or not its drone policy is one it officially recognises, it is having a justifiably negative impact on its perception as a whole in Pakistan.
Guess what? I agree.
I have written several times about drone strikes against militants, and I’ve been accused of everything from having a CIA visa handler to being on the payroll of RAW. I can assure you that none of that is true. Honestly, these comments don’t bother me because the people who know me know that I’m none of these things, and besides I think it’s funny that most of the accusations come from jihadi wannabes commenting from US and UK, anyway.
I’ve personally never been a strong supporter of drones, but I’ve never been strongly against them either. How could I be either when I have so little credible information on which to make a judgment? I’ve always just wanted to have a rational conversation about them. Part of that conversation is two crucially important questions that, until now, nobody has really wanted to ask:
1. Given that militant groups are a problem that must be countered, do drones result in less suffering for innocents than using ground troops?
2. Are officials condemning drones in Pakistan while secretly giving the nod to the Americans?
These are legitimate questions, I think. The first one has already been answered by Pakistani military officers, even though there is so much misinformation and confusion in the media.
The second quesiton has also been answered by Wikileaks, even given later contradictory statements by the COAS and the PM.
And there’s our problem. The subject of drones is being used as a political tool to manipulate the people’s sentimentalities. Let’s be honest – even if the civilians wanted to defy the military and allow the Americans to carry out operations in Pakistan that the military did not approve, they couldn’t. The military controls intelligence. The military controls the borders. The military controls the airspace. Blaming the PM for drones is like blaming the COAS for tax evaders.
Should the Army allow the Americans to carry out drone strikes? I say the military should take the people into confidence and give us the hard and honest truth. Believe me, we can handle it. If the generals honestly think that the drones are making things worse, then tell us – and tell the Americans, too. And lets put an end to this programme once and for all. But if the generals believe that some drone strikes are a necessary evil that will help more quickly bring an end this godforsaken war on terror, then tell us and we will support you 100 per cent.
Just stop telling us one thing and doing something else. We are your fellow countrymen. Please, sirs, we deserve this much at least.