Imran Awan writes: The US airstrike last week, which killed the Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) second in command Wali ur Rehman has again raised the contentious issue about the legality of US drone strikes in Pakistan. The United States, like many of its allies across the international community were quick to hail this operation a success. Yet underneath this bravado lays a very serious question and that is” despite killing high profile figures such as Wali ur Rehman and Baitullah Mehsud in 2009, the methods used to target the Taliban may in actual fact be acting as a recruitment tool for extremist organisations in Pakistan who have an apathy towards the Taliban.
The latest airstrike came as the dust was settling from the recent Pakistani elections. At a crucial time when the TPP were willing to hold “peace talks” with the new Pakistani Nawaz Sharif administration, this US airstrike seems to again have reignited anti-US/Pak relations. The drone strikes are mainly used in the federally administered tribal areas, and whilst accurate statistics about the number of drone strikes and casualties are difficult to ascertain because of the nature of access, the Bureau of Investigative Journalists has argued that at least 2,541 to 3,540 people have been killed in drone attacks and almost 411 to 884 of those are civilians.
When Imran Khan, the cricketer turned politician and leader of the Pakistani Tehreek-e-Insaf party famously said he would shoot down a drone if elected as Pakistan’s next prime minister, many commentators viewed it as light satire appealing to the middle class vote. Yet his statement does appear to represent the majority of Pakistani’s views on drone attacks. A 2011 Pew poll of drone attacks, for example, showed that 89% of Pakistani citizens argue that drones kill innocent people. Moreover, a report published by Stanford and New York Universities in 2011 showed the scale of the psychological impact drone attacks had on Pakistani civilians who felt “terrorised” by them. [Continue reading…]