Is the Drone War on Pakistan Ever Going to End?

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Nabila Rehman, 9, holds up a picture she drew depicting the US drone strike on her village which killed her grandmother, during her appearance before Congress.
Nabila Rehman, 9, holds up a picture she drew depicting the US drone strike on her village which killed her grandmother, during her appearance before Congress.

Thanks to the continuing US drone strikes, more and more children in Pakistan’s tribal belt are growing up hating America

By Abida Rahmani

Last year while travelling from Karachi to Islamabad through Shaheen Air, an aeronautical engineer of Pakistan Air Force was sitting beside me with his wife.

There were mounting causalities by drones in those days. After every drone attack, there was a hue and cry by the government, the politicians and of course by the people of Pakistan. “It’s an attack on the sovereignty of Pakistan. We just cannot tolerate this,” he said.

I asked him, “what about the Air Force? You don’t have the capability to stop or destroy these drones?”

He smiled sheepishly, “Why not but we are not allowed to do so.”

The United States government has repeatedly said that all this was done with Government of Pakistan’s assent and agreement. There has been a lot of public outrage over civilian casualties. Those were counted in thousands. The news today is that the civilian casualties since 2008 are just 67, only 3% of the total number of militants killed, according to Interior Minister’s statement in National Assembly.

How can we be so certain that those 2700 or 3000 killed were all militants? Do we consider all the males killed in drone attacks terrorists? In fact these numbers are just not reliable and are not rooted in reality.

Code Pink, a women’s organization against war and oppression, raised their voice and efforts for the drone attacks in Pakistan and Yemen. The figures that they have collected about civilian casualties are more than one thousand. I am a silent member of their group.

They joined Imran Khan, the chief of Pakistan Tehrike Inssaf, when he went to protest against the drone attacks in Waziristan. These ladies of course invited me to join but I could not due to my lethargy.

Medea Benjamin has written an exhaustive book on the scourge of drone killings. These ladies travelled all the way to Pakistan to join the protest with Imran Khan and faced a lot of suffering. They protested with other groups here in the United States as well during Obama’s oath taking ceremony and on various occasions.

President Obama has always claimed that the civilian damage or collateral toll damage is quite low and this method is quite efficient in eliminating militants.

Now the Code Pink and Amnesty International have come together, in raising their voices against the drone warfare. They have brought a family of drone attack victims to Washington DC with the help of a congressman. There is a 9- year old girl Nabila, her 13-year old brother Zubair Rahman and their father Rafiq ur Rahman. They met with Congressmen and are making news and giving interviews to press and media. Unlike Malala, they were not targeted by Taliban or the militants. Their case and charges are against the US government which has targeted them in drone warfare. Their 67-years old grandmother Momina Bibi was picking okra with them, it was the 2nd day of Eid ul Adha. When the drone struck its missiles the grandmother got killed and rest of them badly burnt and injured. It happened last year on October 24th 2012.

The family told US lawmakers this week about her killing and their harrowing accounts marked the first time Congress had ever heard from civilian victims of a US drone strike.

Rafiq ur Rehman, a primary school teacher who appeared on Capitol Hill with his children described his mother, Momina Bibi, as the “string that held our family together”. His two children, who were gathering okra with their grandmother the day she was killed, were injured in the attack.

“Nobody has ever told me why my mother was targeted that day,” Rehman said, through a translator. “Some media outlets reported that the attack was on a car, but there is no road alongside my mother’s house. Others reported that the attack was on a house. But the missiles hit a nearby field, not a house. All of them reported that three, four, five militants were killed.”

This is but just one case, one strike that has briefly turned the spotlight on the whole enormous tragedy. They are here to seek justice and to stop these drone attacks. As Rafiqur Rahman says, this way more and more young people are growing up hating America.

The young kids are terrified with the perpetual buzzing sounds of drones and other aircraft hovering over their heads. They say when the weather is cloudy the drone does not come but in clear skies, the drone strikes. Their lives are in a constantly terrifying situation. A drone can encircle the area for at least 14 hours, defining its targets and whoever could be the next target.

Let us see if President Obama, Jon Stewart, Angelina Jolie, Madonna and others would ever fine time to see, meet and listen to these kids, like they so enthusiastically have done in the case of Malala.

They are in no way inferior to Malala. They are the victims of a brutal attack. A hell let loose on them from the sky and they have come to the land of the free, which claims that justice in the end prevails and is never denied, looking for justice.

As I write this there have been two more consecutive drone strikes. The commander of Tehrik Taliban Pakistan Hakimullah Mahsood has been killed along with his aides in one of the strikes.

Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has claimed that he had started negotiating with Taliban. So is this killing going to be a severe blow for Pakistan and all the efforts for peace and reconciliation done on this front now in recent days and weeks? Were they sincere efforts from both sides?

Sharif came all the way to meet the US President, read him a letter and was confident that he has done all he could to persuade President Obama to stop the drone attacks. Is this again stabbing Pakistan in the back or this has been done with mutual understanding all over again?

Abida-Rahmani*Abida Rahmani is a Pakistani writer, translator and interpreter based in Toronto, Canada.

2 COMMENTS

  1. This shows the hypocritical stance of USA on the issue of so called WOT. Malala and Nabila can never hold the same status because the common man hardly understands the after effects of a drone strike. If the drones strikes are so invincible and paramount for hunting terrorists then by now they should have been erased from the face of the earth but they are not ready to accept their failure and dereliction.

  2. Thank you Abida for a most thoughtful and inspiring article about the horrific atrocities that are being committed by the presumed leader of the free world against the freedom-and-justice-loving people of Pakistan. Lamentably, indeed tragically, the people who are being terrorized by these deadly drone attacks are the very people who are least served by the corrupt elite of Pakistan. Instead of being provided with decent schools to educate their children and with decent hospitals to improve their public health (and thus, the necessary ingredients of a respectable and sustainable existence), the only “services” they have been getting from their own government are either air strikes that destroy their houses and kill their young and elderly, or a disgraceful complicity with a foreign power to punish them for wanting to have a normal life, free from foreign occupation and free from the bondage of poverty, illiteracy, and oppression. The very survival of Pakistan is at stake because these criminal drone strikes are undermining not only the integrity of the country, but also social cohesion and national loyalty. For loyalty is a two way street: Loyalty to the nation can only be attained, and maintained, when the people feel that their government is genuinely loyal to them.

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