Government should do more to end drones: media
ISLAMABAD: Pakistani media on Wednesday urged the government to do more to show it is sincere about its desire to end US drone strikes in the country’s tribal regions.
An Amnesty International report on the US drone campaign on Tuesday warned some of the strikes may amount to war crimes, though Washington insists they all comply with international law.
Islamabad regularly condemns the strikes on suspected Taliban and al Qaeda militants as counter-productive and a violation of sovereignty, and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is expected to raise the issue in talks at the White House today.
But newspaper editorials warned that if Pakistan wanted to end the drone campaign it needed to take steps to root out militancy in the seven semi-autonomous tribal areas along the Afghan border.
“It is because of the state’s lack of control of an area teeming with militants that the Americans have unleashed the drones,” Dawn said.
“Until militants are denied sanctuary in FATA, drone strikes, and their attendant complications, are unlikely to cease.”
The Daily Times agreed, saying Washington had resorted to drones because Pakistan had failed to destroy militant safe havens.
“Drones… will be used until we realise the gravity of the situation and take the right course,” the newspaper said.
Critics say the drones kill innocent civilians but the US defends them as accurate and legally sound, saying they are effective in disrupting Taliban and al Qaeda militants planning attacks on American targets in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Drone attacks are hugely unpopular in Pakistan, where many people are deeply resentful of their country’s “war on terror” alliance with the US.
Nawaz Sharif repeated a call for an end to drone strikes in a speech in Washington on Tuesday, saying they were a “major irritant” in relations with the US, which on the same day announced it would release $1.6 billion in aid to Pakistan.
But despite the public criticism, previous Pakistan governments are known to have approved them in private and Amnesty said it was concerned this collusion was continuing.
US diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks in late 2010 showed civilian and military leaders privately supported drone attacks.
And in April, former military ruler Pervez Musharraf told CNN he had authorised some US drone strikes on Pakistani soil during his 1999-2008 rule.
Right-leaning daily The News said that given this past complicity, Sharif faced an “uphill task” in persuading Obama to end the strikes.
It also supported Amnesty’s call for more information about drone strikes to be released by Islamabad.
“The government must do so since it would prove that it is not lying about its true stance on the drones,” it said.
The Urdu press, more conservative than the liberal English-language media, saved its criticism for the US, saying Washington should end the “illegal” strikes.