THE BLOG

The Reality of the Drone War in Pakistan

27/07/2016 13:08 | Updated 27 July 2016

The international community works not in mysterious ways, as Pakistani politicians like to believe. It engages in cooperation on the basis of broad guiding principles found in international treaties and covenants. The All Parties Conference (APC) decided (as a rather late reaction) to take up the issue of drones in the UNSC. If this is being hailed as a sensible decision, let's just clarify a few misconceptions. While the Pakistani position on drones remains confused and without detailed, informed legal basis, the US Administration has carefully evolved their legal standing on the issue. We have merely used the slogans of "sovereignty," "human rights," and other fluffy concepts without ever understanding their legal implications.

Sovereignty has evolved drastically as a concept since the Peace of Westphalia, whether our inept politicians like to accept it or not. There have been charters and concepts that have eroded the idea of absolute sovereignty. In the 21st Century, for better or worse, there is no longer absolute sovereignty. Have the bright minds that attended the APC ever heard of humanitarian intervention or Responsibility to Protect (R2P)? Have they even read their own Constitution which technically does not even make clear whether the people of FATA have fundamental rights or not? I doubt any of our politicians can even begin to understand the implications of Article 267 of the Constitution. The Article clearly states that FATA is an area where even the Superior courts cannot exercise jurisdiction relating to certain matters. It has a series of implications that are unexplored as there is no clear judicial precedent on what exactly the status of FATA is since it is not treated in the same manner as any other region in the country.

The fact that drone strikes are carried out in an area where we're not even sure on what our classification of that area is has given the US room to formulate a clever justification founded on concrete international law principles. And what is the Pakistani position? A little condemnation here, and a little sloganeering there. The sincerest advice one could give our politicians, who remain blissfully unaware, is to get together a legal team to formulate an actual position on drone strikes. A legal position. The UN Security Council does not care, and in-fact will laugh, at our representatives if they go on using words they have no understanding of. Yes, drone attacks violate our sovereignty but the US has given a justification to that - have we formulated a legal response? Or are we just going to go on and use a refuted argument. Technically, if FATA isn't even governed under the same laws as Pakistan, the US has no problem justifying the sovereignty issue.

Yes drone attacks violate human rights - but the US has also made it clear that they are in a state of war with terrorists. What this means is that the law of war governs their actions - not the law of peace. It might be a good idea to get a grip on those concepts and develop a legal justification as to why the law of peace operates.

Lastly, yes drone attacks are counterproductive. Unfortunately, the international community is running out of options to deal with terrorists - if our representatives want to go and tell them "let us deal with the problem," don't expect the drone strikes to stop. Develop a policy and please put an end to our beloved country being made fun of on an international level.

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