[Newsline]: Hiding Behind the Drones
I wrote the following piece for Newsline. Read the full article by clicking here.
Imran Khan promises to free Pakistan of injustice, poverty, homelessness, illiteracy and unemployment while empowering women and securing equal rights for religious minorities. But Khan’s critics label him a Taliban sympathiser who garners support by using the anti-US card when anti-US sentiments already are high. Whereas Khan staunchly opposes the drone strikes in Pakistan and repeatedly blames them for rising terrorism in the country, critics feel he has not been vocal enough in condemning religious fanatics across Pakistan. And while he has not protested against suicide attacks on the civilian population, he is on his way to lead a second sit-in against CIA-operated Predator drones, this time in the country’s financial capital, Karachi. His claim: the menace of terrorism (which the US claims the drones contain) can be uprooted within 90 days under his leadership if the drones stopped raining ‘hellfire.’
Is the US really the reason for growing terrorism in Pakistani society? Are drones targeting innocent civilians? Would terrorism be contained if the drones were to stop?
Drone attacks began in 2004. Only nine strikes occurred in the first four years of the program. Since January of 2008, however, there have been over 230 incidents of drone attacks in Pakistan’s north. But the history of terrorism in Pakistan precedes these events by decades.
From the 1986 Pan Am hijacking in Karachi to the 2008 Mumbai attacks, Pakistan has been implicated in many acts of global terrorism. Even foreigners have found Pakistan a fertile haven for terror. As such, many international terrorists in recent history have been proven to either have trained in Pakistan or been arrested on its soil. Here are a few of those names: Waleed bin Attash of Yemen who killed 17 people in the 2000 USS Cole attack; Ahmed Ghailani of Tanzania who was responsible for the death of over 200 people in the twin US embassy attacks in Kenya and Tanzania;Khalid Sheikh Mohammad of Kuwait who masterminded the 9/11 tragedy; Umar Patek of Indonesia who killed hundreds in Bali; senior Al-Qaeda operative Abu Faraj al-Libbi of Libya; and now Saudi-born Osama bin Laden.