Drone attacks on militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas, ever since they first began in 2004, have offered competing perspectives, acted in contrary ways and elicited opposing responses. Is it then mere coincidence that the Amnesty International, Pakistan’s prime minister, Malala Yusufzai, Taliban spokespersons and even the American media are all harping on the anti-drone tune at one particular time?
It is perhaps time to look at these competing positions held by various stakeholders; also because the US decided to wage another attack soon after in utter disregard of whatever it was told against.
This is where the problem lies — whether you want to align yourself with the legal and moral position or the political reality. And the political reality is that of all available weapons, drones remain the most effective and precise, causing the least collateral damage. The legal/moral argument does not exist in political vacuum either. It talks of another kind of collateral damage — the terror that is produced in retaliation of this unfair exercise which offsets any potential benefit the drones might accrue.
And the duality of position keeps multiplying, it seems. The state narrative gets contradicted by groups like Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch whose reports are again questioned by other (pro-state?) actors who think their facts are as faulty and unreliable.
Truth is that a lot lies in the grey realm when it comes to drones and there is complicity from both sides in keeping it grey. Some reports appearing in the media assure that people in the villages that are hit by drones are happy to see the militants die. Others talk about the psychological impact of living under the constant threat of these unmanned predators. Actually, both reports may not necessarily be mutually exclusive.
It is interesting how people across the world have positioned themselves with reference to drones. Generally, there is an either/or or for/against positioning. In Pakistan, those who are opposed to drones are considered pro-Taliban. The liberals here have opted for a pro-drone position which could either be a pro-US position or a plain response to the pro-Taliban position. Interestingly, this is at variance with the posturing in the West. In a way, thus, the liberals in Pakistan look like the neo-cons of the West while the liberals of the West seem to be supportive of the anti-drone Taliban.
It is these competing perspectives that are a part of today’s Special Report, though we tend to agree that drones remain “coercive instruments” that take the states away from being “legitimate and effective”.