Editorial - The gift of death - Saturday, March 19, 2011

Source : http://thenews.com.pk/TodaysPrintDetail.aspx?ID=37002&Cat=8

There wasn’t even a decent interval between the release of Raymond Davis and the drone attack in the Datta Khel tehsil of North Waziristan which killed 44. Many were civilians who had no links with militancy. Some were children. This seems a surly way to thank Pakistan for freeing Davis; the central government should be thinking hard about its role in this, its efforts to gain favour with Washington and the reward it has received in return. The US ambassador Cameron Munter was called in to the Foreign Office yesterday afternoon for a conversation unlikely to have been comfortable, and we have withdrawn from the trilateral talks on Afghanistan to be held in Brussels on March 26. Actions have consequences. The reaction from COAS General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani and Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani has been one of anger – but this may not be enough to deter the US from staging similar strikes in the future. The events of the past few days have, if nothing else, made it clear that the US looks at Pakistan with disdain, even contempt. The lives of its people have no value. What is worse still is the fact that Pakistan’s own government has so far seemed ready to squander its sovereignty to a nation that calls itself an ally but has done little to demonstrate this. The drone issue has continued for years now. Over the last week or so we have experienced a stepped up series of attacks, notably in North Waziristan, with the latest strike on a gathering of tribal elders claiming the largest ever death toll in that agency. While Islamabad repeatedly voices its annoyance each time more people are killed because of drones and the missiles they spew, it is hardly a secret that the drone attacks have the tacit support of the government. The protests are essentially nothing more than a cosmetic exercise.

But the question to be asked is: Where is this leading us? The anger left behind by the drones is growing in intensity. We have heard the anguish and the rage in the voices of people from Datta Khel this time too. It is unclear if any militants fell during the attack or what the principal purpose behind the strike was. But even if some did die, even if the vehicle chased by a drone across the Afghan border did carry a wanted person, the fact of the matter is that more young men in the area will take up arms to avenge those who have died and whose distraught relatives gather for burial. Warnings about this have been issued many times and by many different people. It appears they have not been heeded; it is also apparent that the Pakistani government has failed to persuade the US of the folly of its ways, and this can only mean more danger in the days ahead for all the people who live in the tribal belt and have learnt to fear the sound of the drones which have brought death and suffering time and again, making no distinction between militants and ordinary men, women and children.

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