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The Drone of Drones
by Suresh Mandan Bookmark and Share
The Drone (Pakistan) of Drones (pilotless planes of USA)

If one looks for the meaning of word Drone, the dictionary shows almost five meanings:
1) A stingless male bee: whose job is to reproduce.
2) Some one who lags behind.
3) an aircraft without a pilot operated by a remote
4) Pipe of a bag pipe that is tuned to produce a single monotonous tone
5) a Single intonation endlessly.

And, analyzing the ongoing tug of words between Pakistan and USA on the subject of Drones operating over the sovereign territory of a nation, it appears that all the five meanings of the word drone work here.
Pakistan appears as a stingless bee. It has been complaining but does not order specifically that USA should stop the drone attacks over its territory. Pakistan lags behind in over all developement. The USA has been operating drones through remote since couple of years over Pakistan. The Govt of Pakistan has been monotonously objecting to the use of drones but does not do it emphatically. Pakistani People endlessly sing the song of stoping drones but cannot force its own Government to do something beyond making a noise.

The CIA once a month sends fax to the Chief of ISI outlining broad areas where the US intends to conduct drone strikes. The Pakistan government publicly shouts against these attacks but does not respond officially to this fax. The CIA, (read USA) considers non response as a tacit approval for conducting the raids.
In the earlier years, before 2008, list of specific individuals to be targeted on Pakistani soil was approved by the Government of Pakistan, but since over four years, the USA Government is conducting these raids alone, sending only a fax as specified above. The ISI does send a fax acknowledging the receipt of the fax and that is what USA takes as approval.

The Pakistan Government has complained at the U.N. General Assembly podium challenging the legality of these operations by stating that "Drone strikes and civilian casualities on our territory add to the complexity of our battle for hearts and minds through this epic struggle." These were the words of Mr. Asaf Ali Zardari, the Pakistan President while addressing the UN General assembly just last week. Perhaps Pakistan wants to eat the cake and keep it too because inwardly it feels that what drones can do, the Pakistan ISI or Army cannot do but shows a different face among the people because people are strongly against these raids.

There is no doubt that Pakistan has suffered maximum from the extremists, and from the fall out of the drone operations, but other than making single noise, it feels it cannot do anything. The only tangible step it took was to close the only CIA drone base in the Pakistan about 10 months ago. The Pakistanis did feel like shooting the drone over its territory to assuage the feelings of the people but felt that it would be too provocative for beseiged country like Pakistan.

The USA has been quiet successful in eliminating some of the frontline terrorist leaders through these drone strikes, like Abu Yahya al-libi, Atiyah Abd al Rehman (both of Al Qaeda) and many more but now it feels that there should be sustainable framework for how governments should use such programmes. It is afraid that it has met no legal challenges in running this programme, either at home or outside till now, but is not sure about the future, lest some other country like Russia or China  may follow suit.
In a meeting with the Pakistani Chief of ISI Lt. Gen Zahir ul Islam during the third week of September, the US officials did say that the programme would be toned down but gave no specific indications. However since some quite some time,the frequency of these drone strikes have been turned down to about 4 to 5 a month as against 10 to 12 in the past years.

It would be difficult for the American legal buffs to give a firm legal footing to the drone strikes since that would mean disclosing the names of the targets and a detailed criteria for choosing these targets. Any such revealations in a country like USA is bound to raise a hue and cry from the people, many of whom have a greater worry for human beings than their feelings for a nation. Till then, Pakistan would keep droning against drones.
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