Drones: Myths and Reality in Pakistan
Islamabad/Washington/Brussels | 21 May 2013
Drone strikes alone will not eliminate the jihadi threat in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). Extension of Pakistani law and full constitutional rights to the region is the only long-term solution.
In its latest report, Drones: Myths and Reality in Pakistan, the International Crisis Group examines the extensive CIA-led program of drone strikes in Pakistan. The report argues that the U.S. needs to be transparent about its drone policies and bring them in accord with legality and enhanced congressional oversight and judicial accountability, while Pakistan must live up to its responsibility for governance and security in FATA.
The report’s major findings and recommendations are:
- Pakistan’s new civilian leadership under PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif must make the extension of the state’s writ in FATA the centrepiece of its counter-terrorism agenda, bringing violent extremists to justice and thus diminishing Washington’s perceived need to conduct drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal belt.
- Drones are not a long-term solution to the problem they are being deployed to address, since the jihadi groups in FATA will continue to recruit as long as the region remains an ungoverned no-man’s land.
- The U.S., while pressuring the Pakistan military to end all support to violent extremists, should also support civilian efforts to bring FATA into the constitutional and legal mainstream.
- The lack of candour from the U.S. and Pakistan governments on the drone program undermines efforts to assess its legality or its full impact on FATA’s population. The U.S. refuses to officially acknowledge the program; Pakistan portrays it as a violation of national sovereignty, but ample evidence exists of tacit Pakistani consent and, at times, active cooperation.
- Pakistan must ensure that its actions and those of the U.S. comply with the principles of distinction and proportionality under international humanitarian law. Independent observers should have access to targeted areas, where significant military and militant-imposed barriers have made accurate assessments of the program’s impact, including collateral damage, nearly impossible.
- The U.S. should cease any practices, such as “signature strikes”, that do not comply with international humanitarian law. The U.S. should develop a legal framework that defines clear roles for the executive, legislative and judicial branches, converting the drone program from a covert CIA operation to a military-run program with a meaningful level of judicial and Congressional oversight.
“The core of any Pakistani counter-terrorism strategy in this area should be to incorporate FATA into the country’s legal and constitutional mainstream”, says Samina Ahmed, Crisis Group’s Senior Asia Adviser. “For Pakistan, the solution lies in overhauling an anachronistic governance system so as to establish fundamental constitutional rights and genuine political enfranchisement in FATA, along with a state apparatus capable of upholding the rule of law and bringing violent extremists to justice”.