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Pakistan Observer

Published Date: Oct 5, 2012


A mixed reaction was witnessed here at a seminar on Thursday where most speakers challenged the legality of U.S. drone attacks in Pakistan. The majority of experts noted that the United State policy of using aerial drones to carry out targeted killings is in major conflict with the system of international law.

Drone strikes were termed as “unethical, illegal and a severe violation of international law” Dr Maria Sultan, Director General of South Asian Strategic Stability Institute. Highlighting lack of transparency and accountability in drone strikes, she said, “international law does not allow spy agencies to conduct militarized operation in sovereign countries.”

Renowned analysts were part of the discussion on the legality of drones, and its use at political, strategic and operational levels, at the seminar titled “Drone Strikes: Are Operational Concerns Guiding Strategy?” organized by Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI).

Focusing on the aspects of international law, Professor Sikandar Shah from LUMS University said that “invitation from the targeted country and the right of self defense with certain legalities are the only two ways through which drone strikes can be justified on sovereign countries” according to international law. And these prepositions, he said, make drone strikes totally illegal in Pakistan.

Zahid Hussain, journalist and media analyst, said that it was important to discuss legalities of drone war which was unacknowledged so far, until last year when US officially admitted drone operations in Pakistan.

“Pakistan’s moral stance on drone gets weaker every time when a killing of some important Al-Qaida leader is hailed in Pakistan.

We also need to hold ourselves accountable for compromising sovereignty before criticizing USA for violation of our sovereignty”, he believed.

Speaking at the seminar, Major General (Retd) Athar Abbas, former DG of Inter Service Public Relations

(ISPR), affirmed that “the drone strikes in Pakistan are shrinking the space created by Pakistan Army after successful operations in areas like Swat, Bajour and South Waziristan.”

He also identified the tough war between ISI and CIA as the reason for rise in drone attacks and deterioration of relations.

Sharing the findings of a study, Naveed Ahmad Shinwari, Chief Executive of Community Appraisal & Motivation Programme (CAMP), informed the audience that “majority of people in FATA are against drone strikes and favored Pakistan Army operation to clear out militants from their areas” according to the study.

During the discussion, Richard N. Leiby, Pakistan Bureau Chief of The Washington Post highlighted towards the aspect of increase in drone strikes during Obama regime.

Increasing militarization of US foreign policy, which is lately being dictated by pentagon, on issues related to Afghanistan and Pakistan, was one major reason for the increase in drone strikes, pointed out Ali Sarwar Naqvi, Director of Center for International Strategic Studies.

Some of the other eminent analysts at the discussion include Air Commodore (Retd) Khalid Banuri; Ambassador (Retd) Shafqat Kakakhel; Fahd Hussain, journalist and Hussain Nadim, researcher.