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The Curios Case of Drone Strikes in Pakistan

With an eight-roomed farmhouse, set amidst lush green lawns and orchards of apples, oranges, grapes and pomegranates, slain Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud lived in the very lap of luxury. What's more this farmhouse owned by the chief of Pakistan's most active militant organization was just a kilometer away from the headquarters of the Pakistani Army in the volatile and conflict-hit North Waziristan Province. Mehsud was just about to enter the farmhouse in his SUV, when a US drone fell upon the vehicle, destroying it and it's passengers. 

A military plane releasing a drone
This illustrates the strange state of affairs in Pakistan. Even extremist militants as infamous as Osama bin Laden, the world's most wanted man back then, stayed in a sprawling, opulent mansion, on the very doorstep of Pakistan's elite military academy for nigh on six years. Something inside this country is indeed rotten and it could be the civilian administration or the arguably more powerful military.

Rather funnily, the Pakistani Government which faced terrorist strikes by the Taliban, was the first to condemn the USA for the drone strike. Their argument was based on the fact that just a few days before the strike, the Government and the Taliban had settled for peace talks. Now looking at the history of Taliban demands - freeing a whole lot of dangerous Taliban militants, implementing Sharia law in Swat Valley, etc - the peace talks were heading nowhere from the beginning, something which the Islamabad administration was bound to know. Why then the mourning?

Even more inexplicably, this particular drone strike which exterminated 5 of the Taliban's most hardened members, also revived demands in political circles of banning US drones. The Government of  the North-Western Frontier Province (administered by former cricketer Imran Khan's party) even passed a resolution calling upon the Federal Government to do so. Some are even suggesting something as ridiculous as blocking NATO supply lines until the demand has been met.
Slain Taliban Leader Hakimullah Mehsud
Here's why that's unreasonable and downright stupid. Firstly, NATO supply lines passing through Pakistan are now gradually removing supplies from Afghanistan, in accord with the idea of pulling back NATO troops there by 2014.  There's nothing Pakistan desires more than an immediate NATO pullout. Blockading supply lines therefore will eventually slow down the process. Secondly, US drone strikes here have wiped out much of the top leadership of the Taliban, effectively crippling it. The former chief of the Taliban Baitullah Mehsud and the last second-in-command of the group too were killed by drone strikes. 

Moreover, Pakistani Ministry of Defence itself stated that 317 attacks have killed 2,160 Islamic militants and 67 civilians since 2008. The loss of 67 civilians - while regrettable - is very much lesser than the number of citizens who have lost their lives in terrorist attacks orchestrated by this organization. Would the Government rather have a stronger Taliban which would kill hundreds of civilians? Only if the Government can give a clear, foolproof answer to any one of these glaring faults in their statements and policies, can we acknowledge their efforts in the War on Terrorism as sincere. 

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