Ground the Drones in 2013

LAHORE – Although 2012 saw an accelerating drawdown of United States and NATO forces’ in Afghanistan, a grim aspect of that decade-long war – reliance on air strikes by unmanned drones – continued unabated. Indeed, those attacks were stepped up, with America’s use of drone warfare in Pakistan reaching an unprecedented height over the past year. With President Barack Obama re-elected and no longer facing the pressure of a campaign, it would be in America’s interest – and certainly in the interests of my country, Pakistan – to use the first year of his new term to de-escalate the violence.

America’s drone strikes in Pakistan reflect an arrogant frame of mind that fails to distinguish between the guilty and the innocent, between the perpetrator and the afflicted, and between the criminal and the aggrieved. By banishing all trappings of justice, this mindset is oblivious to the suffering of the peace-loving civilians who comprise the vast majority of those living in Pakistan’s tribal areas.

The US drone strikes have left behind a long trail of death of innocent civilians, with no one being held accountable. These remote-controlled flying machines are programmed to decimate, brutally and indiscriminately. It is shameful that a country known for its democratic values and its unparalleled commitment to human freedom should stoop so low as to kill innocent men, women, and children.

As a result, instead of winning hearts and minds, the US, with the constant humming of killer drones in the air, is driving fear into every living soul in the tribal areas. Indeed, the bloody irony is that the strategy is utterly counter-productive; the people of the tribal areas, with their warrior past, end up joining the militants, justifying their actions as jihad against the forces occupying Afghanistan and their helpers in Pakistan.