So it’s Musharraf who first allowed drone strikes, after all. The truth came out in his talk with the CNN at Islamabad on Friday. It has been long since, nine years, that the pilot-less planes began hitting Pakistan’s tribal areas with the ostensible purpose of taking out militants. The number of unwary civilians who are among the victims continues to climb. And as the hits became more frequent and more lethal with time, so did the tempers of Pakistanis rise and both the US and their own government came under severe criticism, more particularly after the Musharraf’s exit. Pakistani leaders, aware that these attacks, carried out without taking Pakistan into confidence, became more vociferous in castigating the US for violating Pakistan sovereignty and causing deaths of innocent civilians and hatred of it among the masses.
There were, off and on, rebuttals of the charge that the US was using the drones on its own; American officials, congressmen and media would counter the criticism by averring that there had been a secret deal between the two governments on the issue and that there was a clear understanding of the Pakistan government to their use. However, despite protestations, the PPP-led government did not actively pursue the unambiguous mandate it had received from the parliamentarians to see to it that no more drones are seen in the country’s skies.
Musharraf’s remark that there was a caveat to the strike i.e. they were allowed “only on a few occasion, when a target was absolutely isolated and no chance of collateral damage” and that there was no time for our own army to act is of little value, even if it is true. It is like giving someone an inch and he will take a mile and the superpower is not likely to stop at the mile. With a life-long service in the army and as a military strategist, he should have known this time-honoured reality. Besides, the drone permission makes a mockery of all the denunciation of the US and the protest. As for his defence that the issue was cleared at the military and intelligence level, the charge is grave and cannot escape notice, for the same cadres would have the public believe they have always vehemently opposed drone strikes. Musharraf’s confession lays him open to the accusation that he is fully responsible for all the deaths and devastation that the merciless missiles have been inflicting on the tribal region. Already facing a treason charge for subverting the constitution, he must be made accountable for this insidious crime as well.