Drones are a lesser evil than terrorists

marriott1_991945cTehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), the terror outfit fighting Pakistani State has withdrawn its talks offer and has threatened to avenge the death of its Second-in-Command.Wali-ur-Rehman Mehsud, the number-two in TTP hierarchy, was killed in drone strike on Wednesday. TTP has vowed to extract revenge from Pakistan, though the drone was controlled and operated by the Americans. The newly-elected leadership is in a state of panic. All those elected to power had promised end of drone strikes, and the newest among them had even gone to the extent of promising shooting down of drone. They also extended olive branch to these deadly terrorists and a chief minister had even declared the terrorists as brothers.

Wali-ur-Rehman Mehsud is the second notable target of American drone; the first being TTP’s chief Baitullah Mehsud. The Americans have generally avoided targeting TTP because this outfit fights only Pakistan; it has so far killed around 50,000 Pakistanis including 5,000 security personnel. The drones target Afghan Taliban who attack Western targets in Afghanistan. Total casualties in drones so far number at 3,000 which include terrorists and civilians who happen to be in the killing range of intended target. The Americans dismiss the concerns and grief by calling these casualties as collateral damage.

Over the years, the narrative of drone deaths in public discourse has dominated the narrative of deaths in terror attacks. All those who wish to appease the deadly terrorists, including media and politicians, have helped to distract public attention from 50,000 casualties to 3,000. The number one problem is not bomb blasts and killing of innocents, it is drone attacks. The drone is the problem of terrorists, the bomb blasts and terrorist attacks is the problem of common man. The problem disturbing the terrorists has taken precedent over common man’s problem. Such are political expediencies.

The question is; why drone strikes? The answer is simple; Americans want to eliminate their enemies without sending on ground their troops. It saves them from un-necessary political questions and also keeps the human elements of their military out of the harm’s way. The drones, in nutshell, are the most cost-effective military means in terms of human cost.

Are these drone strikes a violation of national sovereignty?

Of course, the drone strikes mean military attack on another country and the worst kind of violation of territorial integrity and national sovereignty. But equally violative of national sovereignty is the forced presence of foreign militants on a country’s soil and their armed fight against the constitutionally established social order. The killing of civilians at the hands of these militants and their war against the armed forces is the biggest challenge to the writ of the state. No politician has accepted so far that the biggest threat to national sovereignty and security is not the drones alone; the militants are equally enemies of the State.

How can countries like Pakistan stop drones strikes? The answer is very simple; deprive the Americans of the excuse to operate drones. The State should purge its territory of the militants who attack foreign countries from its soil. And purge the terrorists who fight Pakistan and its people. The COAS has rightly described these militants as a major threat to national security, graver than the traditional threat; India.

There are reasons for the security establishment to believe that the militants, particularly those attacking Pakistan’s interests are fighting proxy war of foreign powers against the State of Pakistan. The recent drone strike killing Mehsud may be an attempt to keep TTP terrorists from talking to Pakistan. The intended objective has been achieved. The terrorists will avenge the death of Mehsud at the hands of US drone from the hapless people of Pakistan. The country will continue to reap the benefits of being on the wrong side of history.

The emergence of TTP terrorists and their modes operandi clearly shows that they are not mere criminals. They are fighting with a purpose and are following a well-written script. Akbar Ahmed, in his article, The Drone War is far from Over has described how TTP destroyed the tribal social fabric and killed the elders who were guarantors of peace and order in the tribal region; so much so that Pakistan never felt to deploy appropriate number of troops on its border with Afghanistan. But the Taliban unleashed a reign of terror and as the pace of the violence in the tribal areas increased, the Pakistani Taliban sought to strike the central government. They kidnapped Pakistan’s ambassador to Afghanistan, stormed Army General Headquarters in Rawalpindi, and assaulted a naval base in Karachi. In 2009, fighters attacked a military mosque, killing 36 people, including 17 children. Taking hold of children’s hair and shooting them point-blank, they yelled “Now you know how it feels when other people are killed.”

A country which is taken hostage by terrorists and a country which is being led by cowards cannot ask others to respect its sovereignty.