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The Drone Saga

Posted by yourpakistan on July 24, 2012

PKKH Exclusive | by Mariam Shah

The post 9/11 countering terror episode has seen some of the worst human rights violations in the history of mankind. USA while planning, devising and executing its counter-terror strategies, went beyond countering terror, violating the international humanitarian law and human rights in Afghanistan, Iraq and even in Pakistan. Detentions centers, inhumane behavior of US/NATO troops, civilian killings and drone attacks, these all have received a wide range of condemnation and criticism from across the globe, particularly from humanitarian organizations.

If we take the US invasions and policies as a belligerent and aggressive course of action, we will come to know that the US has poorly failed to contain terrorism; rather the US policies have spread hatred among the suffering masses. Bush went on declaring his invasion of Afghanistan as self-defense and it is very evident that what is happening in Afghanistan is not self-defense; this can be retaliation but not self-defense.

For their own “secret” purposes US has devised new strategies to spread fear and terror especially in Pakistan. The drone attacks are one of the few tactics of the United States. The first drone attack by USA was launched in 2004 in South Waziristan agency and till now there is no stop to these deadly steel birds. An indiscriminate killing of individuals is done through drone attacks, as I am sure drones cannot detect the element of “terrorism” in the targeted individual. After many years, somehow the drone attacks have gain the international attention and few of the human rights organization have highlighted this issue. The main reason of their criticism is that they fire indiscriminately and no one can imagine the amount of destruction and psychological strain they cause to the local people.

This Drone Saga is absolutely out of my understanding and logical boundaries and I am yet to find a justification for these attacks. When our own territorial army is locked on to eliminate insurgents and terrorists from the northern region for the last decade, what’s the rationale behind these deadly attacks? Our military is constantly fighting and is determined to rule out the miscreants from this land. It’s very much clear that this war is not an ordinary war; enemy and frontiers are not defined in this war; every individual living in the tribal areas is not a terrorist; every youth there is not having a missile. One is not legitimized by any morale to blindly shoot or bomb the area as it will cause damage to the infrastructure and a huge loss to innocent lives.  Where ever it is needed, our military has the ability to conduct an operation. These drones are not in any case providing any defined gain in this complex war. It is evident that the majority of those who died in these deadly drone attacks were innocent; families were targeted and a large number of children have been killed. Overall the civilian life is becoming the victim of this violence. These drones are causing further complications for Pakistan military and bitterness and helplessness among the people living there.

It is evident that whenever the nations have bargained human rights with security, they have got neither of them. States should not negate human rights rather emphasize their indispensability while devising security measures. UN official Alston on extrajudicial killing also raised the similar argument in 2009, when he stated that the way these drone attacks are operated there is a great chance of the violation of human rights and international human rights laws. Since 2004, hundreds of civilians have died and there is great damage to the infrastructure as well. Many of the human rights organization and international community have condemned these drone attacks and also held USA answerable for these attacks. Human Rights Watch in 2010 also charged USA of violating laws of war and killing thousands of civilians in the name of suspects.

According to a website whose data is based on the statistics available in the newspapers and news channels and it regularly updates data related to suicide blasts and drone attacks in Pakistan, there have been 2324 civilian casualties and 1125 injured in more than 300 drone attacks in Pakistan and only 39 suspects have been killed.  These all figures are the ones reported in newspapers and there is a probability that the statistics of injured and killed civilians may go up, as many times the accurate figures are not reported.

Drone attacks are one of the most controversial issues after 9/11, because they have been violating Pakistan’s sovereignty for more than eight years, targeting the so called “militants”. The issue of the state’s sovereignty can’t be neglected in the case of drone attacks as they are in a complete violation of international law and UN charter (1945), which clearly states that, all the member states should abstain from the use of force against the sovereignty of any state. This is also interesting to know that US military is not involved in carrying out these drone attacks rather CIA is in control of all these operations. One can raise thousands of questions that why CIA is in control of the drone attacks and what’s identification of the targets and what actually the surveillance reports reveals?

According to BBC News (2001), the frequency of the drone attacks has increased since President Obama came in power. More than 100 attacks were reported in the Pakistan in 2010 and more than 60 in 2011.  While analyzing the legality of drone attacks in Pakistan one can concluded that they are in complete violations of international laws and human rights in the name of security. These drones are depriving the individuals from their basic rights and civilian fatalities are termed as collateral damage in this unpredictable war. And we, as a nation, silently let it happen, somehow.

Mariam Shah is a regular contributor at and a ( Columnist @ The Fortress Magazine), She is a Human Rights, Youth and Peace Activist and doing MPhil  in ”Peace and Conflict Studies” From NDU. She Can be reached at and she tweets at @mareium



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