LAHORE - A team of Western media visited the sites of 10 recent drone strikes in Pakistan and concluded that out of 194 deaths, 56 were that of civilians.
Out of them, approximately 800 were civilians and 170 children.
According to an authentic report, only one out of every 7 drone attacks in Pakistan kills a militant leader.
The majority of those killed in such strikes were not important insurgent commanders rather they were later identified as low-level fighters alongwith a small number of civilians.
Reportedly, al Qaeda and TTP recruitment campaign witnessed a great upsurge as affectees of drone attacks joined terrorists to avenge Americans.
The resultant grievances of local tribesmen have led majority of them to join hands with terrorists while others in anger or desperation developed negative sentiments towards law-enforcement agencies.
CIA is surely seeking to kill terrorists yet these drones are launched with full knowledge that civilians are likely to be killed alongwith the target.
Locals are often afraid to offer aid to victims in the aftermath of a strike because the drones continue to hover overhead.
In June 2009, a drone attack targeted a funeral gathering of about 5,000 people with reports that Baitullah Mehsud would be attending the funeral, but Mehsud escaped unharmed.
Instead, around 83 people, including children and tribal elders, died in that failed operation. American drones have also targeted weddings and State sanctioned anti-Taliban jirgas, like the one set up to solve a local dispute in Datta Khel in March 2011 where 53 people, including children and tribal elders, were killed.
Majority of Pakistanis believe that US drone attacks in Pakistan are infact an attack on their country’s sovereignty and lack morality.
A resident of Peshawar, Shahzad Khan Aurakzai, said that he did not know whether US was interested in realising or not but continuous drone attacks were creating more and more hatred against Americans.
Recent polls have also revealed that 97 per cent of Pakistanis disapprove drones attacks and 73 per cent view America unfavourably. Moreover, plurality of respondents in Tribal Areas is of the conviction that US is primarily responsible for violence in the region.
Recently, a short film on drone attacks in Pakistan titled “The Other Side”, made by students of Iqra University, was awarded with ‘Best Audience Award at National Film Festival for Talented Youth in Washington DC.
The 20-minute film revolved around the idea of assessing social, psychological and economic effects of drones on people in Tribal Areas.
The film identified problems faced by families who became victims of drone missiles and unearthed how terrorist groups exploit victimised families for their vested interests.
But unfortunately, US persistently stressed that drones were effective only against terrorists and were genuinely legal.
John Brennan, the US Counter Terrorism Adviser, might have not thoroughly studied his own country’s Constitution and UN Charter while stressing that US drone strikes were legal, ethical and wise. If legality of these attacks in terms of international law is considered, the first point of concern is that US is indifferently carrying out these attacks without consent of Pakistani government, thus infringing on its sovereignty.
Similarly, Richard Flak, professor of international affairs and politics at Princeton University believed that the widespread killing of civilians in drone strikes established the act as “war crimes.”
An American writer Conor Murphy also criticised US President Barack Obama’s increasingly hawkish foreign policy, asserting that the US leader lacked Constitutional or international authority to pursue drone attacks against Pakistan.
The criticism does not end here. Another international law expert Professor Mary Ellen O, Connell seriously questioned the legality of drone attacks in Pakistan in a powerful testimony before the US Congress.
She ascertained that as US was not at war with Pakistan ,therefore, using the justification of war to authorise the killings was “to violate fundamental human rights principle.”
To annul the present standoff between Pak-US relationship, a comprehensive joint drone strategy by the two countries is needed, which may ensure minimal collateral damage and killings of hardcore militants.
One thing is clear that the US existing drone strategy in Pakistan is proving counter- productive, strengthening militants’ hands and eventually benefitting US and Pakistan’s common enemy. US think-tanks and policymakers must give this a serious thought that whether drones are part of the solution or problem?.