Just days after being sworn in as prime minister of Pakistan, and declaring that he did not want to sever ties with the United States over the drone strikes that plague parts of his country, Nawaz Sharif (shown) said Monday that two recent U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan have convinced him that his own military is in collusion with the CIA to kill his countrymen.
"The policy of protesting against drone strikes for public consumption, while working behind the scenes to make them happen, is not on," Sharif said, according to the record of statements made at the inaugural meeting of his cabinet.
By taking on the military, Sharif may be outkicking his coverage. In the past, the Pakistani army — described by the Washington Post as one of “the strongest institutions in the country” — has welcomed the presence of the U.S. military, including the drones.
For a bit of context, it’s been just over two weeks since President Obama proclaimed in a major policy address that drones would be used to kill only those “terrorists” whose threat to the security of the homeland was deemed “continuing and imminent.”
Sharif was elected on May 11, and since that day he has decried the drone strikes that have become a central operation in the so-called War on Terror first prosecuted by the George W. Bush administration and perpetuated by President Obama.
In his first comments after his election, Sharif insisted that he did not want to sever ties with the United States over the drone strikes that have killed so many of his countrymen, but he did call out President Obama for violating the sovereignty of Pakistan by ordering the deadly drone missions without the approval of Islamabad.
The Washington Post suggested in a report that Sharif’s stance might evince a forthcoming rescinding of Pakistan’s “grudging compliance” in the prosecution of the death-by-drone program that is such a favorite weapon in President Obama’s demonstrable war on due process hidden behind the Potemkin village of the War on Terror.
“I think we have good relations with the United States of America. We certainly have to listen to each other,” said Sharif immediately after his election. “If there are any concerns on any side, I think we should address those concerns.”
“Drones indeed are challenging our sovereignty,” said Sharif. “I think this is a very serious issue, and our concern must be understood properly.”
Sharif is not the alone in his disdain for the drones.
In an interview with The New American in March, a senior official in Pakistan’s mission to the United Nations said that “everyone in the government” of Pakistan believes the drone missions are assaults not only on the citizens of Pakistan, but on its sovereignty, as well.
Despite such reported unanimity of animosity, there are a couple of obstacles standing between Sharif and the ridding of Pakistani skies of the ubiquitous buzz of U.S. drones.
First, as reported by the Washington Post, Pakistan stands in the very busy queue of countries cashing checks from the U.S. Treasury. In 2012, for example, Pakistan received nearly $3 billion in American humanitarian and military aid.
In the case of Pakistan’s dependence on U.S. largesse, it seems that money talks and sovereignty walks.
Since he was elected, Sharif has witnessed two major drone strikes in his country.
On May 30, the Movement of the Taliban (the Pakistani arm of the Taliban) issued a statement confirming that Waliur Rehman, their deputy leader and an emir, was killed in a U.S. drone strike. According to LongWarJournal.com, “The Taliban vowed to avenge his death and also withdrew the prospects of peace talks with the newly elected Pakistani government.”
Rehman, his deputy Fakhar-ul-Islam, and two Uzbekis were among seven people killed by Hellfire missiles launched at a compound in the village of Chashma in North Waziristan.
The Movement of the Taliban’s statement, as reported in Dawn, declared their decision to reject peace and embrace revenge.
"We are suspending all kinds of contacts and revoke the peace talks offer with the government, soon we shall be responding with full force," said Ihsanullah Ihsan, the Movement’s lead spokesman in Pakistan.
"On one hand the Pakistani government is advocating the mantra of peace talks, and on the other it is colluding with the United States and killing the Taliban leadership," Ihsan continued.
The second attack of the Sharif regime came just days ago.
On June 7, at least six “militants” were summarily executed by the government of the United States when two Hellfire missiles destroyed a compound in the village of Mangroati in the Shawal area of North Waziristan.
The designation of six of these victims as “militants” raises the question: What is a militant?
For President Obama and those pulling the triggers on the joysticks guiding the missiles toward their human targets, “suspected militant” means (presumably) “all military-age males in a strike zone.”
For those of us more concerned with the Constitution and with the rule of law than the president, “suspected militant” in this case appears to mean nothing other than a person not charged with any crime, not afforded even the most perfunctory due process protections, but summarily executed upon order of the president anyway. In this way, we are no better than those we kill in the name of safety.
Beyond the unconscionable murder of thousands, the drone war is doing perhaps irreparable damage to the sovereignty of Pakistan (and Yemen, Afghanistan, Somalia, etc.), the sanctity of the Constitution and the fundamental principles of liberty it protects, and to the likelihood that the ranks of the Taliban and al-Qaeda will shrink in fear of the fire from the sky.
Since 2006, drone strikes have resulted in the death of at least 2,673 Pakistanis, not all of whom qualified as “militants” who are purportedly the target of the drones’ deadly payload.
From “double-tap” strikes (that kill not only the target, but also anyone trying to retrieve the body) to the “signature strikes” (that target groups displaying “militant behavior” rather than individual suspects believed to be planning attacks on the United States), this indiscriminate assassination of those not charged with any crime or suspected of any ill will is creating more enemies than it is eliminating.
Facts reveal that the prosecution of the drone war throughout the region is ironically increasing al-Qaeda’s success in the region. Al-Qaeda couldn’t cook up a more effective recruitment program than the U.S. drone war that is allegedly aimed at eliminating the “terrorist” organization.
In an interview with the Times of India, Akbar Ahmed — diplomat and author of The Thistle and the Drone: How America's War on Terror Became a Global War on Tribal Islam — Ahmed warned about the rise in recruitment among those targeted by Obama’s drone war.
“Apart from the dubious arguments justifying drones, this is a highly ineffective method of checking violence. With every three bad guys killed, there are some 30 innocent women and children who die. And every strike feeds into anti-Americanism — after over a decade of using drones, neither have suicide bombers stopped, nor have those following them dwindled,” he said.
Despite Prime Minister Sharif’s criticism of the U.S. government and his own military, on Wednesday he announced that “Pakistan's cash-strapped new government” somehow found the funds to increase the country’s defense budget by 15 percent. And, according to Indian Express, “the powerful army [gets] the lion's share of the outlay.”
Photo of Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif: AP Images