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    May 29, 2016

Detail

 
Sovereignty debate

Dear editor,

THE US drone strike that killed Afghan Taliban leader Akhtar Mansour was unquestionably a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.

The fact that it was a violation does not change whether Pakistani officials were informed before or after the strike. And even if some Pakistani officials, military or otherwise, secretly coordinated with the Americans to allow the drone strike, it would still be a violation of territorial sovereignty.

Simply put, the territorial and aerial sovereignty of Pakistan cannot be bartered, bargained or handed away by officials colluding with outsiders.

No matter what the officials’ rank or seniority, they have no jurisdiction or authority to make such decisions.

A drone strike in Balochistan, very much inside Pakistani territory, conducted unilaterally by the US or in collusion with officials here, ought to be an unacceptable red line.

The days of secret pacts under a military dictator are over, as is the logic that may have once applied to allowing drone strikes in remote areas of Fata.

Gone, hopefully forever, are the days when the Waziristan agencies were under the virtual control of militants.

And yet perhaps the most significant-ever drone strike did take place on Saturday in Balochistan. Why?

In the unapologetic and blunt statement of US President Barack Obama yesterday lies perhaps the unwelcome answer: Pakistan, President Obama implied, continues to be a place where extremist networks that threaten the region and the world continue to find a safe haven.

So murky is the Pakistani record against global militants and terrorists that even when Mullah Mansour, who only days ago the US was still publicly hoping to draw into dialogue with the Afghan government via the Quadrilateral Coordination Group, was killed by the US in an act of dubious legality, the focus of the world immediately and fiercely turned to the fact that he was inside Pakistani territory when the attack took place.

While Pakistan may rail against double standards and unfair characterisations of the international community, for much of the outside world it is an article of faith that this is a country that knows only double games and that will inevitably pursue policies that cause harm to other nations.

What makes it so easy for the US to violate the territorial integrity of Pakistan with a drone strike in Balochistan and a night raid in Abbottabad is not the superpower’s military superiority but the weight of global opinion that Pakistan is a country whose own actions make it possible for other states to disregard international law and arguments of sovereignty.

If Osama bin Laden can live undetected for years in Abbottabad, Mullah Omar can allegedly die in Pakistan and Mullah Mansour can hold a Pakistani identity card and passport, the arguments for selective sovereignty, when it comes to drone strikes, ring hollow.



Usman Abbasi
University of karachi,
 

 

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