I am against the use of drones.
This one sentence is enough to invite the wrath of many liberal friends of mine who would see me as a rightist. Few would think that I am one of the young PTI enthusiasts. Though I like to think I am not a rightist but I insist that the latter conclusion, if drawn, is definitely incorrect. I am neither of these yet I am against drones.
I do not happen to have any issues with drone identity. I do not see drones as an essential evil force which may raise any terrorist to the status of martyr. Though some senior politician may claim that even if a dog dies in a struggle with America, the dog would be a martyr, I dare to disagree. Actually it is not the nature of drone which offends them; it is the origin of drone. Likewise many may also believe that something as grave as Pakistani nuclear bomb is inherently a force of goodness, but on the contrary drones are actually inherently bad just because they are American. I will beg to differ just like I do not think that by naming a missile Ghauri we can baptize it in some Muslim way. So who is using these drones is of little significance.
I do not have illusions about the question of territorial integrity too. Our generation crammed the concepts of sovereignty in the schools but we are grown up enough to sense that they have no practical usage in Pakistan. How can a drone put a question mark on our territorial integrity when we have already lost half of our country in 71? Moreover, the way terrorists infiltrate in our country, bomb the places, murder the people and hide in the safe havens within our borders, they mock our sovereignty well enough. So the argument that some unqualified sovereignty of the state is violated by these drones is a shallow one. It is too bookish to be even presented. Besides if such sacrosanct authority is violated and all the state can do is condemn and protest against the violation then state actually does not have sovereignty.
The actual issue I see with drone usage is that they place the civilian lives in jeopardy. It does not matter how many terrorists it can potentially kill, the point is that it has killed civilians too. Many would say that the civilians killed are less than 10 per cent. That just would put a question mark on our sensitivity as humans. May be we have lost the ability to empathize. Every life counts! Every life counts but insensitivity is comprehensible too. For how long we can keep the count when we lose many in Karachi and Balochistan on daily basis? We have dug too many graves to be shocked by the sight of blood. Yet the state sovereignty is still an endeared subject. The illusions about integrity, independence and writ of the state persist.
While arguing about state’s authority we often forget that the first and foremost purpose of every state is the security of individual life. From welfare to freedom of thought, everything is of secondary importance. I can quote a dozen prominent political thinkers and philosophers who pointed out that the state evolved as a result of the individuals’ need to survive and coexist; instead I would keep it simple and appeal to common sense. The most important human need is survival and from this need emanates all other needs; be they the need for food or of freedom of expression. Nothing fails a state more than its failure to prevent the loss of human lives. The state confesses that it has failed at least forty thousand times in the last decade. This is a shocking number.
So my opposition to drone usage is based on the following two points. First, it puts the civilian lives at risk. Second, the people of Pakistan have not even been consulted on the issue at all. The things could have been easier if instead of issuing condemning statements, mourning the deaths of the terrorists, the government could come up with a solution. The solution could be bilateral. By bilateral I do not mean involving the government and the terrorists as many of our right wing political parties would like it to be. It should have been between America and Pakistan. By proper dialogs we could have come up with ways to minimize the risk of civilian deaths. If any covert understanding already exists between the two governments, as it has been claimed by various news agencies, then it should be made public to ensure transparency and accountability. Killings of innocent civilians by bullets of security forces, bombs of terrorist, and drones of Americans are equally culpable. As someone rightly said, “When the government’s boot is on your throat, whether it is a left boot or a right boot, is of no consequence.” So I am against drones, bombs and bullets or any such thing which jeopardize human life. More so I am against incompetency of the state.
Twenty six soldiers were killed by the US and we were at daggers drawn with American government. So many civilians die daily yet nothing is done except wailing these atrocities. At most the terrorists are invited to talks. It seems like the ‘bloody civilians’ have the cheaper blood. Yet the blood of our soldiers too is far less revered than that of the terrorists. After all nothing incited the response as harsh as the death of Hakeemullah Mehsud.
Though nothing made me happier in days than demise of Hakeemullah Mehsud yet I am against the use of drones. I guess it is understandable. While wondering about on whose side our political elites are, all we can do is utter a sigh of relief when the drones hit the right targets. As the state does not kill its enemies so we see those being killed by the other agencies while we rejoice by saying one more down.
The writer is a freelance journalist based in Lahore.