ISLAMABAD: Between 2004 and 2011, total fatalities in terrorist violence in Pakistan stand at 34,017. Over the same period, there have been 2,946 bomb blasts and in the same period there have been 236 drone attacks resulting in 1,968 deaths. Clearly, drones are not public enemy number 1.
On 18 June 2004, Nek Muhammad Wazir was killed. Pakistan Army took responsibility of killing the Ahmadzai militant but it was actually an Unmanned Aerial Vehicle (UAV) operated by CIA’s Special Activities Division (SAD) that killed Nek Muhammad.
On 30 October 2006, up to 80 civilians were killed in Bajaur. Pakistan Army took responsibility of the tragic incident but it was actually CIA’s UAV allegedly aiming to kill Ayman al-Zawahri.
On 9 March 2011, Major General Ghayur Mehmud, General Officer Commanding, XI Corps’ 7th Infantry Division, currently deployed in North Waziristan said that, “a majority of those killed by drone strikes are hardcore Taliban or al-Qaeda elements, especially foreigners, while civilian casualties are few.”
On 17 March 2011, CIA’s MQ-9, long-endurance, high altitude, hunter-killer Reaper, equipped with Lynx II radar and a Multi-spectral Targeting System, carrying AGM Hellfire air-to-ground missiles and GBU-12 Paveway II laser-guided missiles killed 48 in Datta Khel area of North Waziristan.
This time around, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, in an unusually harsh statement said that the killing of 48 was “in complete violation of human rights” and that US unmanned drones were “intolerable and unjustified.”
What is really going on? Here are some relevant facts. One; drone attacks on Pakistani territory have been going on for the past 82 months. Two; in 2004, 2005, 2006 and 2007 there were 1, 1, 3 and 5 drone attacks, respectively. Three; in 2008, 2009, 2010 and 2011 there were 35, 53, 117 and 21 drone attacks, respectively (drone attacks really picked up steam as soon as Obama entered the White House). Four; of the 117 attacks in 2010 a total of 104 targeted North Waziristan. Five; of the 21 attacks in 2011 a total of 17 targeted North Waziristan. Six; of the 117 attacks in 2010 a total of 53 attacks targeted areas controlled by Hafiz Gul Bahadar and 26 targeted areas controlled by the Haqqani Network.
What goes without saying is that there has been tacit approval or some sort of an agreement between Pakistan Army and the CIA. What is also apparent is that by 2010, perhaps in violation of earlier understanding, the CIA had started going overboard. Clearly, Pakistan Army is manoeuvring for a reboot, renegotiating rules of future engagement.
We have been here before. Two years ago, our entire media was up in arms against the Kerry-Lugar Bill and an anti-American sentiment was ‘manufactured’ in order to improve Pakistan’s bargaining position. Then came Raymond Davis and, once again, an anti-American sentiment was ‘manufactured’ in order to improve Pakistan’s bargaining position. Yes, we need to negotiate hard and we need to negotiate tough. But ‘manufacturing’ an anti-American public sentiment in order to leverage Pakistan’s bargaining position is not in Pakistan’s long-term interest.
American drones, beyond any doubt, are not public enemy number 1. We need to think through our actions. Yes, the logistical route into ISAF is our strength right now but will not remain so for all times to come.
Yes, we can raise a Lashkar led by Imran Khan to torch Nato containers but please think it through ... what will happen after that. To be certain, America, being a superpower, definitely has more strategic options than does Pakistan.