By Dr. Raja Muhammad Khan

On March 17, 2011, a CIA driven US drone attack killed forty-six innocent tribal of the Madakhel tribe on the open fields of Nevi Adda Shega in Dattakhel, North Waziristan Agency.  Notables of the tribe had convened a jirga for reaching on to some consensus on the issue of chromites mine located in the area.  Among dead there were personnel of the Khasadar force and other local officials of this Tribal agency. This drone attack was one of the deadliest, ever since 2007. In so far over 250 drone attacks since 2004, thousands of innocent tribal have either lost their lives, wounded or disabled.

North Waziristan Agency has been the main target of these attacks since 2009. Perhaps, this is because that, US has been pressurizing Pakistan to launch a military operation in this agency. US believes that Haqqani network is operative in the area which also supports the Afghan Taliban, embattling the US and NATO forces, occupying Afghanistan. In a recent statement on March 18, 2011, General David Petraeus, ISAF commander, has once again stressed Islamabad to launch a military operation in North Waziristan. He said that, “The fact is that it’s hugely important that there’s a campaign in Northern Waziristan that is putting enormous pressure on the Al-Qaeda sanctuaries there.” Pakistan, however, had a different point of view and believes that, any military actions on its territory has to be undertaken, keeping ground realities in view. After all Pakistan cannot kill its masses on the desires of a foreign power. Why cannot ISAF seal the Afghan side of the Pak-Afghan border, thus ceasing the chances of any infiltration from the Pakistani side?

The current drone attack has lot of connotations.  Just a day earlier, Pakistan released a US national, Raymond Davis, a CIA operative, involved in the murder of two Pakistani citizens. Besides, he was involved in spying activities in various parts of the country. His linkages with the militants in Pakistan were no more a secret.  Furthermore, he remained non-cooperative during the investigation process. There must have been many more reasons of his significance for the US, as a man not less than President Obama himself stressed Pakistan for his release.

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Generally, it was expected that his release would obliged US and pave the way for the restoration of the Pak-US bi-lateral relationship, to which there came a chill, sequel to his arrest. But, U.S has behaved otherwise. On March 17, 2011, just a day after the release of Raymond Davis, US drone fired twelve missiles on the innocent Pakistanis, killing 46. This inhuman act of United States otherwise had no logics was a clear indication that, it does not care Pakistan and would take its own course, while dealing with Pakistan and Pakistanis. As per Brigadier (retired) Mahmood Shah, former Secretary FATA, “This is an arrogant US response. Twelve missiles in one day is not routine. The message was clear and categorical: we will do what we want.” As per Mr Khalid Aziz, a former Chief Secretary of the FATA and the current analyst believes that this drone attack is an indication of the America’s continuous “unhappiness with the Pak command structure.”

What has been transpired from the US response that, it is not obliged, if Pakistan has released Mr. Raymond Davis?  US would continue following its policy of dictating its own terms and conditions. It can target any one; militant or otherwise, at anytime and anywhere, without taking Pakistan into confidence. Under such a situation, “Relations are bad and will get worse and will take away from the war on terror.” As a sovereign and independent state, for how long Pakistan would afford the US drone attacks is indeed a big question mark. After all; “We are not Djibouti or Algeria, we are a nuclear state, and we are Pakistani. The Americans need to respect us.” There have been 19 drone attacks in North Waziristan, since January 1, 2011, killing about 95 people. Should American have such a killing license for Pakistanis?

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Prime Minister and Army Chief, General Kayani has condemned the attack and sent strong messages to US for stoppage of such acts in the Pakistani territory.  US ambassador in Pakistan, Cameron Munter was summoned in the Foreign Office and handed over a demarche on the drone attack in Dattakhel area of North Waziristan by Foreign Secretary Salman Bashir.  In retaliation to the US drone attacks Pakistan has also decided to pull out from the tri-lateral ministerial meeting (between Pakistan, US and Afghanistan), scheduled to be held on March 26, 2011.  Earlier, it was planned from February 23-25 in Washington.  Pakistan is also of the opinion that, “fundamentals of our relations need to be revisited.” After all United States should not treat Pakistan as a client state.  US should, “hold back those who have been trying to veer the Pakistan-US relationship away from the track.” US ambassador has apparently acknowledged the Pakistani concern and promised to visit United States for a consultation with the Obama administration.

As per defence analyst, General retired Talat Masood, “the relationship between Pakistan and US is becoming very awkward and unsustainable in the way it is preceding in every aspect.” The former Foreign Minister, Makhdom Shah Mehmood Qureshi, said in a conference that, “US drone attack in North Waziristan was a gift to the Pakistani nation,” especially after the release of the Raymond Davis. On their part the people of Pakistan have strongly reacted against the drone attack as well as the release of the Raymond Davis. The head of the NWA Peace Committee, Malik Jalal Sarhadi Wazir has said that, US is indulging in to the “worst form of human rights violation.” He said that US atrocities have compelled us to wage Jihad against it and also to take revenge for the atrocities on our tribesmen. They totally reject the presence of al Qaeda and Taliban in Fata.

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According to Rahimullah Yusufzai, an analyst on the Pak-Afghan affairs, “Both sides need each other and both sides know it, so there won’t be a break. But, there is no sincerity in the relationship, it is purely opportunistic. So things are bad and will be bad every step of the way.” Pakistan feels that US should be equally responsive if a success is to be attained in the global war on terror. So far there has been one sided affair. Pakistan has done for the US what all it could do, even at the cost of its national interest.

Now US must respect the independence and sovereignty of Pakistan. Its spying agency should not play the double games with Pakistan. However, authorities in Pakistan should safeguard the national interest of Pakistan, and secure the people’s lives at least in our own country. If every American (from President to man in street) was worried for the release of a murderer (Raymond), why we have forgiven him on so many accounts and allowed him an honourable exit. Besides, we are so tolerant a nation to stomach daily drones, killed thousands so far.

In the history of nations, sovereignty and independence are snatched and respected if not cared by others. After all, in the presence of UN Charter, international humanitarian law and global institutions, why should US be allowed to launch drone attacks on Pakistanis, killing thousands  and their people on spying mission or visit visas should kill innocent Pakistani nationals.  Just imagine, could US eliminate, invade or even interfere in the tiny Communist state of Cuba, situated next door to it?  Therefore, the need of the hour is that we must learn to live as a nation without compromising our respect, nationality, integrity, independence and above all the sovereignty.