According to a new report including data compiled by Asian Human Rights Commission, 7,170 people were killed and 8,746 injured by violence in Pakistan since the last 11 months. The total number of death by violence includes 188 people killed by drones. Despite accounting for less than 3 per cent of all violent deaths in Pakistan, however, drones continue to be the primary issue for protests. Leaving aside academic questions of international law and sovereignty for the purposes of this post, a question that deserve asking is why there is not a more prominent outcry for the 97 per cent who were not killed by drones.
AHRC separates deaths by ‘terrorist attacks’, ‘suicide attack’, and ‘sectarian violence and target killing’, though these could all be grouped together as ‘terrorism’ if we take the usual definition of using violence against civilians as a to promote a political agenda. Together, those deaths make up 76 per cent of total violent deaths.
What is also worth noting is that AHRC attributes 1,526 deaths to “Killings during different operations conducted by police, army, Para-military forces including Frontier Corps (FC) and Pakistan Rangers”. This is worth mentioning because it means that killings by conventional security forces account for over 700 per cent more deaths than drones.
Pakistan Army has explained that those killed by drones are mostly terrorists – the people responsible for 76 per cent of violent deaths in Pakistan. The fact that the numbers killed by drones as opposed to conventional military operations are not only significantly smaller, but include significantly fewer civilian casualties would also explain why former Chief of Army Staff Gen Kayani was asking for more drone strikes. It would also explain why, despite the bad reputation drones have, Pakistan Army has developed its own fleet of drones which it inducted last week.
Meanwhile, it is drones – and only drones – which stay in the headlines. Imran Khan’s anti-drone protest in KP is entering its 11th day, and he has even exposed the identity of the CIA station chief, a secret previously known only to high ranking ISI officers and, apparently, a retired cricketer. After sinking into obscurity after elections, Difa-e-Pakistan Council has suddenly been resurrected and is leading protests against drones in Punjab.
None of this is a justification for drones. Neither does it mean that people should not protest drones. But we must ask ourselves what it means when we are willing to go to such lengths to protest drones, yet we remain silent about the causes of 97 per cent of the violent deaths in this country. Accounting for only 3 per cent of violent deaths in Pakistan, drones seem to have a disproportionate impact, but not the one we think.