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Pakistan: the New War Front

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House in northern Pakistan destroyed by a US drone attack

Pakistan's Waziristan continues to be bombarded by the drones amid a total media blackout. There is no way to verify if indeed a militant was killed. And what's a militant anyway? The CIA itself has admitted its targets are at best arbitrary. Is it because they saw a guy carrying a gun in a tribal area where men are hunters and usually guard their territories from rival tribes? And of course, the gathering of information is quite a dilemma. With the operators of the Unmanned Aerial Vehicles (drones, as we call them) sitting miles away from the place in question, how does one identify a militant hideout? But wait, when a spokesperson for the US government says so, then the media eats it up and the Pakistani government follows suit. Perhaps there might be a feeble plea here and there for the US to spare the civilians, but go ahead and continue infringing Pakistan's sovereign rights. How else is Pakistan to get the millions of dollars it gets in US aid? The government continues to pawn away its own citizens for the sake of a few million dollars, while across the border India is awarded long-term ground-breaking nuclear pacts. Terrorists in India? No, they come from Pakistan.

The government did, in all fairness close down a key supply route to Afghanistan for NATO troops though, to protest a helicopter's incursion into Pakistani airspace and resulting in the death of 3 soldiers. Surely that must account for something. NATO wasn't really worried, they had stockpiles in Afghanistan to last them a long, long time – and they knew there wasn't just one supply route from Pakistan. Let the government feel in control to appease the masses, because a few burnt trucks is the least of our worries. NATO remained largely unconcerned, and the Pakistani government ever-so apologetic. Trucks were being burnt but the drones kept coming; but at least this time, they didn't really kill military men. The supply route is reopened, two more drone attacks, and the US government doesn't seem too agitated. All's well in Pakistan.

A scathing report by the Campaign for Innocent Victims in Conflict (CIVIC) calls on the US over its claims that civilian casualties have been minimized through these precision strikes. Its conclusion: civilians are getting hammered from all sides. The response? The US persistently avoids even admitting the drone program exists, let alone declare that the war has indeed spilled well into the borders of Pakistan, and the Pakistani government seems unmoved. They are probably too busy figuring out why the US wants them to pay taxes. Besides, Waziristan was given away to the Pakistani army way back in 2007 – it's their game. The army, of course! Most of us turn towards the army to protect the country's sovereignty when the government seems to falter, or in some cases, is simply incapable. But hasn't the army been in Waziristan this whole while? And has the army even said anything regarding the almost daily violation of Pakistan's airspace?

As many point out, the army seems to be loving the drone strikes. The missiles are wiping out the very elements that were an obstacle to full control over the region's resources, while the army comes out of it all without any blood on its hands. As for the civilian casualties – mere collateral damage – the army doesn't care. It was killing civilians before the drones got there. Besides, now Pakistan gets to please the US while remaining in a position to maintain cordial relations with the Taliban in case they return (just as we saw in Helmand) to Afghanistan, thanks to the power vacuum the US is looking to leave behind. They would even love to use some of these drones if the Americans would just send a couple over. Till then, they'll just have to send the Americans "intelligence" to carry out the strikes.

Things are great in Pakistan: the government is complacent, the army is quiet, and the US is pleased. The CIA, once a mere intelligence gathering institution, has now evolved into a policy-making tool of the government, and it is ecstatic with the way things have gone. Their operatives sit miles away from the war zone and bombard the population at will. Pakistan continues to be infused by a good dose of military contractors to whom most laws do not apply. It's obviously convenient to get contractors. No need for legislation, the real soldiers are safe, no one knows a war is being waged, and the media continues to call it a secret war in hushed tones lest the world understands. What's even better is that these contractors create the atmosphere that is just right for the Americans to remain concerned about Pakistan. They will carry out bomb attacks and blame it on the Taliban – all this, just a phone call away for the CIA and the Pakistani government doesn't seem to mind. And what do the people say? Well, we'll talk about that some other day.

But when all else fails, there's Task Force 373 to rely on: America's elite boys notorious for their shoot-to-kill policy for "militant" operatives. They're everywhere: Yemen, Afghanistan, Iraq and Pakistan. The US had a scare that we might understand once Wikileaks published its documents, but the media refused to give it air time. They focused on Afghanistan. The war in Pakistan took a back seat once again.

The war seems to be going well as a whole for America. Judging by the Independent's Johann Hari's latest piece, "Obama's robot war endangers us all", this war is creating the exact circumstances the US needs to engage Pakistan, with full government and military compliance. Events are in motion for the world to be able to declare the nuclear state a failed one.

 

Author of this article: Kaneez Fatima
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