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The Puppet Comes to Life by Akbar Sher Babar

akbar sherThe statement of the ‘Kat Putlee Wazir-e-Ala’ of KPK to stop NATO supplies if the US does not end drone strikes has made headlines. Besides creating a political stir, the news value of the statement seriously downgraded the media coverage of the supposedly mega media event organized by the PTI Chairman Imran Khan on the launching of a documentary on drone strikes the same day. Most would recall that just before the March 2013 Lahore Jalsa, a rally in Islamabad and subsequently the peace march to South Waziristan was organized for the dual purpose of highlighting the drone issue as well to facilitate shooting of the documentary.

There are many myths propagated by the propagandists of war about the continuing drone strikes. The argument that takes the cake is that Pakistan is helpless to stop drone strikes as it cannot match the US power if it decides to shoot down the drones. Unlike in Pakistan, the US system of government is not run on ‘verbal instructions or understandings.’ The drone strikes are part of a ‘covert operation’ duly authorized in writing by the U.S. President with the tacit approval of those that govern Pakistan who have always remained above any law. If the Pakistan government officially communicates to the U.S. government that any more drone strikes would be considered an act of war, the U.S. government would have two options; (1) to stop drone strikes and employ diplomatic, economic, and political arm twisting measures to force Pakistan’s hand on the issue or (2) declare war against Pakistan through an act of Congress. The likelihood of the US declaring war against Pakistan for not allowing drone strikes at this time of history is next to zero for a long list of reasons that need no elaboration.

All the internationally recognized political, moral, humanitarian, and legal arguments are in favor of those that oppose drone strikes including the argument that it evokes revengeful terror attacks in Pakistan. However, more and more, the issue of drone strikes is being politicized to gain political mileage instead of seriously addressing it. Nawaz Sharif because of his election rhetoric was forced to publicly raise the drone issue during his recent visit to the U.S. An effort upstaged by the release of secret documents to the US media on Pakistan’s collaboration in facilitating at least some drone strikes.

While the PTI remains the original and the lead political opponent of the drone strikes, but increasingly it appears treading the path of using it to gain political mileage. For example, the drone strikes require an elaborate human infrastructure on the ground without which the drones become merely eyes looking for random targets. The human infrastructure that supports the U.S. covert operations in Pakistan is partially documented in the Abbottabad Commission Report. In an article titled ‘Servitude and leadership’ published in ‘the News’ dated July 12, 2013, the PTI Central Information Secretary, writing in her official capacity, expressed concerns about ‘deep inroads made by the US government and foreign NGOs into both government and state institutions.’ She termed the Abbottabad Commission report a ‘wake-up call for the state to begin institutional restructuring and contain US and foreign NGO operations in Pakistan.’ She also blamed the dependency syndrome in our ‘political and military leadership that had become weak in the face of the lure of dollars.’

The ‘news post’ section of the same newspaper published a letter by ASB dated July 15, 2013 which stated that quote now that the PTI is in power in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa, and hopefully its leadership free from the ‘lure of dollars’, could Dr. Mazari, as the spokesperson of the party, clarify: how many foreign funded NGOs have been asked to wind up their operations and close their offices in KPK as part of the PTI policy to ‘contain US and foreign NGOs operations in Pakistan’? How many USAID, DFID, and other donor-funded programmes have been closed in KP to live up to the PTI’s electoral commitment of refusing aid? Lastly, is it true that the US and other foreign-funded NGOs identified in the Abbottabad Commission continue to perform in KP unquote? Obviously evoking no response, I am posting a picture extracted from the official website of the CM, KPK showing him meeting a delegation of the same NGO identified in the Abbottabad Commission report. The picture, as they say, speaks a thousand words and graphically separates political rhetoric from policy.

Besides taking the media limelight away from the Chairman’s event on the same issue the same day, the statement of the CM KPK would be challenged by political opponents on constitutional and political grounds. Constitutionally, key communication channels and foreign policy remain a federal subject. Politically, the statement may be challenged by opponents on the grounds that by creating a political deadlock, the PTI may be attempting to sidetrack focus from its lukewarm performance and possibly extricate itself from the KPK government on a political high.

All in all, the statement to stop NATO supplies if the US does not end the drone strikes has put life in a ‘puppet’ by outshining the ‘puppeteer’ whose penchant to remain center stage has been upstaged for the first time by one of his own creation.

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