Does Pakistani State Really Control FATA, which is under CIA’s drones’ attack ?

According to Wikipedia —–“Sovereignty is the right to exercise, within a territory, the functions of a state, exclusive of any other state, and subject to no other authority.”
Keeping aforementioned definition in mind, are we really justified to term drones’ attacks on terrorists’ targets in FATA as a violation of Pakisan’s sovereignty ??
Every sane citizen of Pakistan knows very well that writ of Pakistani state has completely been eroded by Taliban and Al-Qaeda Terrorists in FATA, its adjoining areas and in Swat.
So, in my humble opinion Pakistani nation must come out of state of denial and should recognise the mortal threat posed by growing Talibanisation, which is now creeping in settled areas of NWFP, South Punjab, Pushtoon Belt of Baluchistan, and even in cities of interior Sindh !

Analysing drone attacks —Najmuddin A Shaikh

Increasing discontent in Pakistan over the purport of President Obama’s AfPak policy has many elements.

Let’s begin with the reiteration of an old Obama position: “And we will insist that action be taken — one way or another — when we have intelligence about high-level terrorist targets”.

This has been correctly interpreted as meaning that drone attacks in the tribal areas would continue despite Islamabad’s position that they violate Pakistani sovereignty and are counter-productive. Pakistan has consistently argued that the collateral damage makes this war an even harder sell for any government in Pakistan, causes further alienation and increases support for the common enemies of Pakistan and the United States.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi’s statement at the joint press conference with Richard Holbrooke and Admiral Mike Mullen that Pakistan would neither accept nor offer blank cheques has been widely welcomed as is his assertion that there is a gap between the Pakistani and American positions on the drone attacks and that Pakistan would continue to get the Americans to see the light. Pakistan, it is being said, is now behaving like a self-respecting nation that would not yield to the bullying of a superpower.

And yet, what is the truth about the drone attacks? That such attacks violate Pakistan’s sovereignty is unquestionable. No nation has the right to enter our territory or air space, let alone carry out aerial operations without our permission. But do we control this territory? Do we really know how much collateral damage is caused and how counter-productive it is?

For many months I have read carefully every account that has appeared about the drone attacks in our newspapers. Invariably we are told that the “local Taliban” surround the area of the incident, remove the bodies for burial and take the injured to hospitals of their choice and then let the press know what the collateral damage has been.

Independent corroboration, clearly, is not possible since there is no local authority present, no reporter has access to the area and the local populace is too cowed to offer an account of the incident that differs from what the Taliban have said. We have to fall back on damage assessments offered by the Americans.

We claim that for every innocent civilian killed in these attacks ten new Taliban recruits are created and our effort at dialogue is frustrated. And yet have we asked ourselves the question why among these very people ten new anti-Taliban fighters have not emerged for each of the hundreds perhaps thousands of tribal Maliks and elders that the Taliban and their foreign cohorts have slaughtered even more mercilessly than the drones.

The truth is that the government and our security forces have not been able to reassure the people of the region that they would protect them against the Taliban if they stood up to offer resistance and the local populations, like the people of Swat after an initial period of resistance, have decided that they do not have the means to prevent the small but well-armed Taliban and Al Qaeda groups from exercising control and imposing their reign of terror in the region.

Where army operations have been successful, and Bajaur is a prime example, the collateral damage in terms of displacement of the population has been terribly high. More than half a million people from Bajaur have left their homes and have received little assistance in the settled districts to which they have fled. The army has reached a truce with the Taliban in the area on terms that seem to suggest a Taliban acceptance of the State’s right to impose its writ. But even this has not been enough to convince the Bajaur people to return to their homes; nor, as far as one can tell, has this led to the return of the local administrators and the commencement of development work.

Why did the Bajaur displacement occur?

I think it would be fair to say that the area had to be softened up by ground artillery and aerial bombardment before troops could move in. The collateral damage was high because Pakistan has precious little by way of precision guided munitions in its arsenal and ordinary bombs and shells kill many more than the people they are aimed at. Perhaps as we acquire more sophisticated equipment and training we will be better able to avoid such collateral damage in our bid to reassert the government’s writ.

But how do you, in the meanwhile, avoid a Bajaur situation and still disrupt Taliban and Al Qaeda dominance of the area.
Let us think at least that the drones may be one way of doing so and rather than the current emphasis on protecting Pakistan’s sovereignty the government should be explaining that this is what the drones are seeking to achieve and that we are trying to acquire the know-how and equipment to do this ourselves.

This is what our conversations with the Americans on this subject should also focus on. Better intelligence sharing, better equipment for and training of our forces and such better coordination as would put us in the driver’s seat with regard to choice of targets and drone targeting. By this I mean that we should be able to target those who are specifically carrying out operations against Pakistani security forces as also those who are attacking NATO forces in Afghanistan.

There has been a great deal of talk about the expanding drone attacks to Balochistan where the Americans believe the leadership of the Afghan Taliban have found safe haven and from where they are said to plan operations in Afghanistan. Balochistan is not the badlands of the Tribal areas and the highly urbanised areas there cannot be treated as such.

I think this is a redline that the Pakistan government has drawn and which the Americans will not cross. I believe that all this talk has been generated to suggest that the Pakistan authorities need to be more aware of American and Afghan concerns on this account and to use their own means to tackle this problem.

While advising the government one would also like to suggest that its spokespersons must also lead the way in convincing the people that Baitullah Mehsud’s claims notwithstanding his suicide bomber attacks in Pakistan are not just retaliation for drone attacks but part of a wider plan to create the sort of instability which allows obscurantist forces to make a bid for power or cause Pakistan to fall apart. One hopes that that in doing so the government will take account of what has been happening under its nose.

There are disquieting reports about the growing influence of extremist forces in parts of the country that should theoretically have the greatest revulsion towards extremism. In Sindh, where the Sufi interpretation of Islam — love and tolerance — has been dominant there has been graffiti according to press reports in which satellite dishes, cable TV and VCRs are described as “three signs of the approaching doomsday”.

A TV channel was forced to cancel a musical show in Nawabshah after the local court issued a restraining order at the behest of a religious party. More recently, with the approval of the local police, a musical dance event was cancelled in Shahdadkot district again at the instance of a religious party. The PPP, a strongly secular party is in power in Sindh; its ally the MQM is even more determinedly secular and yet this happens.

Why is the police acting in this fashion and why is the government not defending freedom of expression in the courts?Up North it is now almost commonplace to see reports such as the one from Mansehra two days ago about the killing of three female workers of the National Rural Support Programme presumably by militants and presumably because they were like other NGO representatives spreading vulgarity by having males and females working together. No reports have yet surfaced about any arrest in connection with the killing of three people last year when militants stormed the office of an NGO in that area. Is this what we will see coming to the rest of the country?

Our free media makes these facts public and, in the absence of a clearly enunciated and forcefully implemented policy of nipping such ominous trends in the bud, civil society remains largely quiescent. What then should the rest of the world think about the direction in which events are moving in Pakistan and what then is likely to happen? Food for thought!

The writer is a former foreign secretary.

SOURCE: DAILY TIMES, 10th April, 09