Monday, August 6, 2012

Top Pakistani official in UK criticizes drone attacks

      Wajid Hasan is Pakistan's High Commissioner to the UK government. He argues that the U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal areas are weakening Pakistani democracy and create a risk that even more people will choose to join extremist groups. He also suggested that there are some in Washington who would prefer to work with one person rather than have to pass policies through parliament.
       Hasan said: ‘What has been the whole outcome of these drone attacks is, that you have rather directly or indirectly contributed to destabilizing or undermining the democratic government. Because people really make fun of the democratic government – when you pass a resolution against drone attacks in the parliament, and nothing happens. The Americans don’t listen to you, and they continue to violate your territory.’  ‘Please don’t embarrass us by violating our territory because people question why the hell we have such a huge standing army, where we spend so much on our national defence budget, when we can’t defend ourselves?’
  Although the Pakistani parliament passed several resolutions demanding the drone strikes stop and also made stopping strikes a condition for reopening NATO transit routes, the strikes did not stop. NATO transit routes have re-opened.
       Hasan realizes that Pakistan cannot really stop the drone strikes except he says through public opinion. If public opinion in Pakistan could have stopped the strikes they would have stopped long ago since over ninety percent of Pakistanis disapprove of the strikes.
  Sherry Rehman the Pakstaini Ambassador to the U.S. also continued the official Pakistani line:‘We will seek an end to drone strikes and there will be no compromise on that.’ The Pakistani armed forces heads as well as intelligence service officials are apparently trying to negotiate a deal that would allow Pakistani forces to carry out any strikes against terrorists. Such a deal is quite unlikely since the U.S. wants to attack some groups that may have links to Pakistani intelligence. The Pakistanis would not sanction attacks on them even by Pakistani armed forces.
 Hasan says that agreement is necessary because of the high anti-U.S. sentiment in Pakistan. However that sentiment has been present for ages and seems unlikely to have any effect on U.S. policy. It is U.S. domestic attitudes that count for U.S. policy makers and most Americans are concentrated on domestic issues. Pakistan is probably regarded as an unreliable ally and a recipient of undeserved aid if it is given any thought at all.
   Hasan noted that Pakistan is an ally in the fight against Islamic radicals and  that thousands of Pakistanis have died in terrorist attacks and many soldiers have been killed in trying to eliminate extremists.
Hasan claims drone attacks violate Pakistan's national sovereignty. However in the past it is clear that there has been implicit acceptance of the attacks by the government and armed forces. Perhaps this reality is changing although this not certain. If  it were the case Pakistan would hardly have re-opened NATO transit routes. For more see this article in Juan Cole's blog.



No comments: