Sunday, May 17, 2009

Pakistan seeks drones’ ownership by Muhammad Jamil

Drones attack in FATA may have killed a few high-profile al-Qaeda and Taliban leaders but have caused collateral damage killing women and children.

On the whole drones' attacks have been counter-productive for one that Pakistan's sovereignty is violated and secondly when Pakistan looks helpless, this emboldens the militants, as it gives an impression of weakness of the government as well as armed forces that they cannot safeguard territorial sovereignty of the country. Pakistan has, therefore, asked Washington for ownership of US drones that carry out attacks on its territory. "Democracy doesn't believe in half measures. We have asked for the ownership of the drones," President Zardari said, when asked about reports that the US has agreed to pass control of drone aircraft to Islamabad. Speaking in London after talks with British Prime Minister Gordon Brown, Zardari said Islamabad was "negotiating terms" with the US over the drones, which have long been a source of tension between Washington and Islamabad. Meanwhile, Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff, Admiral Mike Mullen, at a Senate hearing said that Pakistan had asked surveillance support missions by US unmanned aircraft. But another report says that Pakistani officials have pressed to have direct control over the drones while US intelligence and military officials have offered greater access to the data collected from unmanned surveillance drones. Rubbishing media reports that Pakistan had been given joint control of armed American drones on its territory, Major General Athar Abbas spokesman for the armed forces said Washington never made such an offer to it. But the US administration does not feel any qualms over its disinformation or double speak. In the past, late General and president Ayub Khan who had excellent relations with the US had to write "Friends not Masters", to show his disenchantment with the US administration when it betrayed him during war with India. The US had not only stopped military aid but also economic aid instead of helping Pakistan in the hour of need. Late Bhutto had initially good relations with the US but because it interfered to tell him that Pakistan should not harbour ambitions of becoming a nuclear power that he had to write "Myth of independence". Anyhow, despite all aberrations and 'sins' of the US administration each and every Pakistani ruler seemed to have worked at the pleasure of the US, and when he resisted, he was shown the door either through mass movement or an intrigue. The problem is that Pakistan depends on the US for economic and military aid, and even IMF and the World Bank would not approve loans for Pakistan unless there is nod from the US administration. It is because of this dependency syndrome that our defence minister had in the recent past said that US drones do not take off from Pakistani soil, and Pakistan has only allowed the landing of the drones. One is amazed on the statement because when the drones land in Pakistan then they must have taken off to go to some other destination. The US must understand that despite being friends, allies and also partners in war on terror, the US should respect the sovereignty of Pakistan, otherwise it will further erode its credibility and popularity which is already at the lowest ebb.

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