Justice Shaukat Aziz Siddiqui of the Islamabad High Court (IHC) has ordered police to register murder case against the then Islamabad chief of America’s Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) for a drone strike in 2009. One could argue that it is a complete waste of time and resources since the accused is no longer in Pakistan and the chances of US sending their former spy chief to face murder charges here are less than zero. The response being that the case provides not only symbolic importance but the opportunity to fully explore a case that determines a legal precedent about whether or not drone strikes are murder. However, there is an interesting predicament: Last month, Army officially inaugurated Pakistan’s own fleet of armed drones, which Gen Sharif announced would be used in strikes against militants.
If drones strikes qualify as Qatl-e-Amd for former CIA station chief Jonathan Banks, then drone strikes qualify as Qatl-e-Amd for COAS Gen Raheel also. The counter-argument to this would be that the state reserves the right to use force, but there are certain complications with this response.
It is true that states reserve the right to use force in enforcement of the writ of state, but this power is not unlimited. The state cannot anyone kill without justification. It may be easy to bring a case against a CIA chief as that agency is unpopular, but in many parts of FATA, Pakistan Army is unpopular also.
However there is another important point: Even if the state has the power to order drone strikes, the CIA defence could also include the question of whether the CIA drone strikes were carried out under the sanction of state authority. Remember when Wikileaks exposed that Army was secretly requesting more drone strikes in Pakistan even while anti-drone public sentiment was being whipped up?
All of these questions are purely academic in nature, but they present the difficult problems that arise when Army carries out certain policies in secret while whipping up public sentiments against those same policies. This is not a justification for drones, but we have to face the fact that if we truly believe in ‘rule of law’, we can’t do the exact same thing we condemn others for doing and get away with it.