drone attacks in pakistan


Can the continuation of U.S drone attacks in Pakistan be justified?

I would like to give credit to all the sites from which I have collected the information. 

Drones are the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (UAVs) which operate autonomously by a pre-programmed mission(Freakyworld).The earliest recorded use of UAV for war fighting occurred on August 22,1849,when Austrians attacked Venice with unmanned balloons loaded with explosives(The Nation).Although drones have only recently been the subject of significant public debate, they are not new as their use can be traced back to World War I(Living under drones).As technology progressed, the drones were modified and were made smarter. Smaller drones were developed which could fly into unsafe areas like war zones and were able to drop bombs in a military strike (pacans).The question arises that, ‘what caused U.S to start the drone attacks in various countries?’It was after the September 11, 2001 attack on World Trade center when the Bush administration initiated drone strikes against suspected members of Al-Qaeda and the other armed groups. The CIA carried out its first targeted drone killing in 2002 in Afghanistan in an effort to kill Osama Bin Laden.Additionally, after the U.S invasion of Afghanistan, a number of Taliban fighters fled across the border and came into Pakistan in the regions of FATA and North Waziristan. This  in turn caused U.S to start drone attacks in Pakistan in 2004 in order to target the extremist group members which  have continued till date.Morever, the strikes have accelerated under Obama administration as he considers drone as an effective and precise technology to combat militant groups(Living under the Drones).Drone strikes have now become a key part of the US government to combat terrorism as it enables US to kill afar without any risk to the US citizens(Stanford, NYU Living under drones).It has been recorded by Bureao of Investigative journalism that there were 52 drone strikes under Bush administration whereas there have been 318 strikes under Obama administration until now.(TBIJ)

Furthermore, according to the research done by Stanford Law School, “the number of high level targets killed as a percentage of total casualties is extremely low-estimated at just two percent” (LivingUnderDrones) which shows the ineffectiveness of these drones. This compels one to ask that, ‘can the continuation of U.S drone attacks in Pakistan be justified?’ Despite the fact that Obama officials have announced to continue the drone strikes (Aljazeera), U.S government should be forced to dismiss this practice as the United Nations secretary general-Ban Ki Moon condemned them and stated that, “The use of armed drones, like any other weapon should be subject to long-standing rules of international law, including international humanitarian law”(Moon,voanews.com).In addition, there have been hundreds of anti-drone protests all over Pakistan which shows that the civilians are unhappy by the U.S drone strikes and thus should be ceased due to their adverse effects. Although the supporters of U.S drone strikes argue that they help in killing the extremist group members, however; they cannot be justified because they destabilize Pakistan’s economy, result in massive civilian casualty and the chemicals from missiles cause fatal diseases to the population.

Advocates of drone strikes believe that they kill the extremist group members and thus help in eradicating terrorism from Pakistan’s soil. According to Sam Bollier, “11% of Pakistani’s have a favorable view about the US drones” (Bollier, Aljazeera).Moreover, Anoop Sarbahi, a political scientist at Stanford university stated that, “Drones disrupt and degrade the terrorist organizations and reduces their ability to conduct attacks” (Sarbahi, Aljazeera).The supporters of drone attacks believe that doing so eliminates the evil from its root and helps in bringing peace in the country. According to data compiled by the New America Foundation, since Obama has been in the White House, U.S. drones have killed an estimated 3,300 al Qaeda, Taliban, and other jihadist operatives in Pakistan and Yemen (Brookings). In addition, President Obama in his speech on drone policy stated that, “Drones are a cure of terrorism”(Obama, nytimes).Alas, the believe that drone attacks on Al Qaeda members and other groups result in declining terrorist activities is a false presumption. Drones on the extremist groups aggravate them and in fact causes their group to strengthen rather than disintegrate. In the entire decade of drone strikes, Pakistan has experienced an increase in terrorist rate. In 2006, there were three drone strikes and nine suicide bombing incidents in Pakistan. Whereas in 2007, the number of drones increased to five causing fifty seven suicide attacks (Tribune).Hence, this shows the relationship that the increase in drone attacks result in a rise in terrorism which heightens the risk for Pakistan.

Moreover, the drone strikes in the tribal areas of FATA and Waziristan have caused Taliban to leave that area and enter into other parts of Pakistan. According to Michael Rubin, “Drone strikes have driven many of the militant leaders out of the mountains, and into the dense urban jungles of the southern Punjab and Karachi,” (Rubin, Aljazeera).This shows that drones have been ineffective in targeting the right person and eliminating terrorism. The death of one militant causes the extremist group to hire more and to take revenge. Consequently, they plant more bombs with the immediate victim being Pakistani community and it also ruptures the country’s economic development. This can be proven from the fact that the killing of  Hakimullah Mehsud on November 1,2013 have caused Pakistani Taliban to vow to take an “unprecedented” revenge(ndtv) which means that targeting militants causes the remaining group members to retaliate and hence results in massive destruction. Pakistani ambassador, Masood Khan stated that, “Drones are a chilling reminder that reprisal strikes by terrorists are around the corner”(Khan, Dawn) .According to Imran Khan, the chairman of PTI, it is now time to hold peace talks with talibans rather than drone strikes in a hope of reducing the terrorist activities(Tribune).Therefore the notion that drones result in decrease in terrorism by killing Taliban and Al-Qaeda members is not true. Instead, every drone attack worsens the situation by causing the militants to result in more disaster in Pakistan and hence the continuation of drone strikes cannot be justified.

In addition, drone strikes destabilize Pakistan’s economy. The Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif said that, “Drones are a violation to the country’s territorial integrity and they destabilize the whole economy” (Sharif, Dawn).These drone strikes have ruined the tribal regions and Waziristan completely. Moreover there has been a loss of massive property and the repeated attacks on houses, mosques, funerals and madrassa’s have made the entire place barren. For instance in June 2012, three houses were destroyed and 23 vehicles were badly damaged (TheNews). Professor Akbar Ahmed, the Ibn Khaldun Chair of Islamic Studies at American University and former Pakistan Ambassador to the United Kingdom stated that, “this has caused a large number of local populations to flee their homes and these destitute communities are now scattered in the bigger cities. However it is difficult for them to survive due to limited financial resources” (Ahmed, The cost of our drone war). Also, these tribal men are unable to find jobs which affect the economy of Pakistan in an adverse manner. As a result, the victims suffer from extreme economic hardships. The attacks on madrassas and schools have made the children scared of going to schools which has destroyed the education system in these areas.Faheem Qureshi, a resident of North Waziristan stated in an interview that, “Drones have affected our education adversely, of course… we cannot learn things because we are always in fear of the drones hovering over us, and it really scares the small kids who go to school” (Qureshi, Living under drones). Most often the staff and the teachers also do not come to schools because of the constant threat of drone attack which has completely distorted the education system in the tribal zones. Additionally, Pakistan’s economic outlook has taken stagnation and because of the insecurity and instability there has been a decline in Foreign Direct Investment (FDI) in Pakistan (Passive voices).   Moreover, the economy of Pakistan has further been destabilized due to the drone strikes in settled areas of Khyber Paktunkhwa. According to Professor Akbar Ahmed, “These attacks have broken the fragile link between the Pakhtun tribes and Pakistan’s central government, violated their tribal code of honor and destabilized their hierarchy”(Ahmed, The cost of our drone war).There was a drone strike in Bannu district of KPK a few years ago and recently there was an attack in Hangu near a Degree college which flared the residents (Nation).These attacks have caused Paktuns to go against the government as they have lost their faith in the state. Drones have overall weakened the economy and disintegrated the unity between the communities. This is the reason that PTI chairmen, Imran Khan held a rally and protested againt drone attacks. Thus, the continuous drone attacks have destabilized the government and the economy which is one of the reasons why Imran Khan and Nawaz Sharif are pressuring US to cease the attacks by blocking the NATO supply from reaching the American soldiers in Afghanistan (World. time).

 Furthermore, drone strikes result in a high civilian casualty which makes the continued use of them unjustified. From the data collected by Bureau of Investigative Journalism, “From June 2004 through mid September 2012, approximately 500 civilians have been killed of which 176 were children (Stanford NYU Living under drones). Also there are several unreported strikes which would have killed even greater number of civilians (Stanford NYU Living under drones).This shows that drones have been counterproductive in killing the target and instead result in the killing of bystanders, many of whom have no idea about America and the Al-Qaeda. On 30th October, 2006 there was an attack on madrassa in Waziristan which took the lives of 69 innocent children who were under the age of 17(Tribune).There was also a drone strike in June 2006 near Datta Khel which killed the young miners and woodcutters (Stanford NYU Living under drones).Moreover, Momina Bibi who was the grandmother of Nabila died in 2012 due to the explosion from drone while she was out of the home picking okra and her body was blown into pieces. A second strike minutes later injured family members tending her (Telegraph).The killing of any ones child or a family member is unjustified and is prohibited by the international humanitarian law. Amnesty international announced that the drone attacks result in unlawful killings that contribute in extra judicial executions and war crimes(daily mail).Therefore drones are a striking failure of technology as they are inaccurate in targeting the right person and result in massive collateral damage (the guardian).

Additionally, the killing of hundreds of civilians in Pakistan by a remote control cannot be justified while in US the government morns for even the death of a single US citizen. For example: President Obama condemned the Boston bombing which occurred on April 15, 2013 killing three US citizens (BBC).Obama stated in his speech that, “The American people will say a prayer for Boston tonight and Michelle and I send our deepest thoughts and prayers to the families of the victims in the wake of this senseless loss”( Obama, Whitehouse.gov).The question put forward is that, ‘why should the world remain silent for the death of the civilians in drone attack?’ Drones are unjustified because it takes the lives of many civilians, most of whose death is not even recorded and hence the world should not remain silent. Benjamin, the leading anti-war activist reported an incident that, “In one village, the Americans thought a wedding party was a Taliban gathering. One minute, forty-three relatives were joyously celebrating and the next minute, their appendages were hanging off the limbs of trees” (Drone Warfare, 3).This once again proves the ineffectiveness of drones and the massive loss of innocent lives. The report stated that, “To accept such a policy would be to endorse state practices that fundamentally undermine crucial human rights protections that have been painstakingly developed over more than a century of international law-making,” (The guardian).Also, Pakistan’s UN ambassador Masood Khan stated that, “The killing of unarmed ,innocent civilians is a clear breach of international law” (Khan, nation).Hence, the continuation of US drone attacks is against humanity and cannot be justified as civilians are indiscriminately killed under heavy drone assaults (tv.global research).

Another reason for which drone attacks cannot be justified is that the chemicals from missile of drone strikes cause fatal diseases and psychological trauma to the remaining   population. Pakistani physicians have revealed that the deadly chemical materials used in the missiles have caused the survivors to suffer from complicated skin, eye and respiratory diseases(Press TV).The journalist, Safdar Dawar told that, “Since these drone strikes have been carried out, peculiar disease cases have been witnessed, and the press club have been frequently visited by those complainants, who have developed skin and bronchial diseases in the aftermath of drone airstrikes”(Dawar, Press TV).In addition, the radiation from these chemical explosion  cause fatal diseases. An expert from Waziristan told that his daughter died of blood cancer soon after she had developed a skin disease, which occurred due to the poisonous effect of chemical substances used in the non-UN-sanctioned drone strikes (Press TV).Missiles fired from drones release powerful waves which are capable of crushing the internal organs. The people who survive the drone strikes suffer from limb amputation and disfiguring burns and shrapnel wounds.A survivor of drone attack who lost her legs in the explosion told Benjamin (an anti war activist) in an interview that it is better to die because surviving as a crippled widow with no income and no family was too much to bear (Drone Warfare page 3).

Also, the frequent drone strikes in Waziristan have traumatized the civilians. The survey done by Stanford law school and NYU found out from the mental health professionals in Pakistan that there have been several cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder among their patients in Waziristan due to the constant presence of drones (Stanford NYU Living under drones).Drones fly at a visible height and their continuous presence in the sky frightens the people. Ismail Hussaini, a resident of Waziristan told the interviewer that, “Before this we were all very happy. We lived a very good life. But after these drones attacks a lot of people are victims and  have developed mental illnesses”(Hussaini, Living under drones).Dawood Ishaq, another resident stated that “people are scared of coming out of their house as they can hear the circling of drone in the sky. People know that they can be the next target” (Ishaq, Living under drones).There is a constant buzzing in the sky which cause people to avoid going out.In addition, drones have left deep scars on the population (Amnesty International). Dr Peter Schaapveld, a clinical and forensic psychologist reported that drone strikes are having an adverse psychological impact on children especially. The children are always traumatized, suffer from a form of phychological torture and are unable to form relationship or play with other children (Schaapveld, Chanel4).In addition, the witnessing of drone strikes and the destruction taking place will have a devastating impact on the personality development of children. Therefore drones affect the lives of the survivors in a detrimental manner. The lethal chemicals result in deadly diseases and witnessing such incident develop emotional trauma and anxiety among the victims which makes it difficult for them to lead a normal life. Hence, drones cannot be justified under any circumstances as they are affecting the lives of the future generations in a negative way.

Despite the fact that drone strikes kill the Al-Qaeda leaders and Taliban members, however drones have proven counterproductive as they aggravate the extremists to carry out more terrorist activities. Moreover, drone strikes destabilizes Pakistan’s economy, cause enormous civilian casualty and the chemicals from missile cause fatal diseases. Therefore the continuation of U.S drone strikes in Pakistan cannot be justified because it has more disadvantages. In conclusion, Pakistan’s government should pressurize U.S to cease the drone strikes which will be for the betterment of the entire Pakistan’s economy as Naeema Kishwar Khan,a member of JUI urged to stop the drone attacks as they are the violation of the UN Charter, humanitarian norms and International laws(the news).


4 responses »

  1. thank you for such a thoughtful and necessary essay on this horrible topic. as an american, i am ashamed of this country’s high-handeness and over-reaching intrusion in your part of the world. we have no business dictating policy or exerting military operations in Pakistan or elsewhere. i am in deep opposition to our involvement in theses affairs. i totally agree with your statement: “however drones have proven counterproductive as they aggravate the extremists to carry out more terrorist activities.” violence begets violence and hatred begets hatred. thank you for your words.

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