Editorial : Insult to injury - Saturday, March 19, 2011

Source : http://www.dawn.com/2011/03/19/insult-to-injury.html

IT was like rubbing salt on an open wound. Barely had Raymond Davis been released and flown out of the country when a drone strike on Thursday killed at least 40 men at a jirga in North Waziristan. The insensitivity of this attack is shocking on multiple levels. First, the timing could not have been worse. Whatever one might think about the US claim of immunity for Mr Davis or the blood money settlement, the fact remains that an American shot dead two Pakistanis in broad daylight and a large section of Pakistani society was intensely angered by the incident. To launch any drone attack barely 24 hours after he had been whisked away would have been insulting enough. But this wasn’t an ordinary attack; it was a poorly targeted one that took 40 lives. This area of North Waziristan is home to some militant groups but it is highly unlikely that all, or even most, of those attending the jirga to discuss local mining rights were militants. In a rare move, the army chief has publicly condemned the loss of civilian lives. Thursday’s incident belies claims that America makes a serious effort to avoid human casualties when launching drone strikes. It shows that such attacks are carried out with poor knowledge of local sensibilities and with complete disregard for human life in areas the US considers its war zones.
It is also hard to imagine what good can come of the attack for either Pakistan or the US or their relationship. The blood money solution may have been imperfect, but it provided a way out that both administrations could have lived with. Reportedly, it was also the first step of a broader resolve to improve cooperation between the CIA and the ISI. A senior Pakistani military official had recently told journalists that he thought drone strikes were effective, a sign that the Pakistani state was perhaps willing to become more transparent about its stand on these attacks. Thursday’s strike threatens to detract from this progress.
Then there is the even trickier issue of public diplomacy. For almost two months, Pakistan has been gripped by the Davis saga which had whipped up anti-Americanism to perhaps unprecedented levels. Anger at the drone strikes now threatens to make partnering with the US even more challenging for the Pakistan government in political terms. Any retaliation could make life more difficult for Pakistani security forces or hamper America’s efforts to prevent militant attacks against itself. A TTPspokesperson has already vowed revenge, and undoubtedly this strike will win the Taliban some more support for their cause.

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