Drone Attack in North Waziristan Sparks Another Controversy

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Context
The US-Pakistan relations continue to be in hot waters. Only a day after Raymond Davis left Pakistan, a controversy is emerging over a drone attack conducted today in Datta Khel area of North Waziristan, killing about 38 people. Contradictory details have emerged regarding the target of the attack. However, Pakistan has issued stern condemnation, with its Army Chief calling it ‘irresponsible’ and ‘callous’. This article examines the strong reaction of Pakistan’s military to the drone attack today.

Analysis

 

Media reports indicated earlier that a drone strike by US unmanned aircraft left at least 38 suspected militants dead at a training camp in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal area. The men killed in the attack were believed to be militants of a Pakistani Taliban leader, Hafiz Gul Bahadur. The area is a hub for fighters of Afghan Taliban leader Jalaluddin Haqqani and Al-Qaeda. The attack was the fifth in less than four days in Pakistan’s tribal belt along the border with Afghanistan.

However, reports that have emerged ever since reveal that the attack has targeted a local jirga and has resulted in the death of tribal elders and 5 to 7 Khassadars.

Pakistan Army Chief General Kiyani has issued a strong condemnation of the attack calling them ‘careless’ and ‘callous’. He went on to state:

“In complete violation of human rights, such acts of violence take us away from our objective of elimination of terrorism. It is imperative to understand that this critical objective cannot be sacrificed for temporary tactical gains. Security of people of Pakistan, in any case, stands above all,” he added.

“I strongly condemn this drone attack. A tribal jirga (council) was targeted in which several tribal elders and tribal policemen were martyred,” said Syed Masood Kausar, the Governor of northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.

“We want to make it clear that the government of Pakistan and its people will not tolerate such attacks. These attacks are against the sovereignty of Pakistan,” his statement added.

Recent statements from Pakistan army had indicated that drone attacks do kill the extremists. The following comments came on March 8th from the commander of Pakistan’s 7th Division, Major General Gahyur Mehmood, who is also in charge of troops in North Waziristan:

“Myths and rumours about US predator strikes and the casualty figures are many, but it’s a reality that many of those being killed in these strikes are hardcore elements, a sizeable number of them foreigners.

“Yes there are a few civilian casualties in such precision strikes, but a majority of those eliminated are terrorists, including foreign terrorist elements.”

The US-Pakistan relations continue to be in hot waters. The incident has occurred only a day after CIA Contractor Raymond Davis was released from Pakistan and major protests are planned for Friday.

The strong statements coming from the Chief of Army Staff could be meant for domestic consumption, and to temper the public protests planned tomorrow. Additionally, it may also be to counter the perception that Pakistan Army has changed its position in anyway, after the Raymond Davis related US Pakistan strategic discussions, by allowing drone attacks on Hafiz Gul Bahadur in North Waziristan.

 

 

 

 

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