Pakistan’s National Assembly has completed a historic 5 year term today –without a coup and everything! In the English language news, you can read about it here and here (Dawn), here (Express Tribune) and here (The News).
Here are the front-pages of the print versions of each of these papers. Note that the top story in all of them is UN Special Rapporteur’s statement that drones are a violation of Pakistani sovereignty. That is also intriguing since the columnists–especially at Express Tribune followed by Dawn–skew towards a pro-drone position in stark and telling contrast with the majority of Pakistan.
The UN’s special rapporteur on counter-terrorism and human rights, Ben Emmerson, has concluded that U.S. drone attacks are happening without Pakistan’s consent, following a trip to the country where he met with officials. Emmerson says he was told that “a thorough search of Pakistani government records had revealed no indication of such consent having been given.”
Although on its own, this is a highly-suspect statement given that Pakistan’s military operates quite independently from the civilian government, it is true that the Pakistani parliament–a democratically elected body–has passed successive resolutions condemning drone attacks. The first resolution was passed on May 14, 2011 shortly after the U.S. had carried out its raid to assassinate Osama bin Laden, who it turned out, had been hiding in a Pakistani garrison town, Abbottabad. The American raid occurred on the heels of several contentious events that year. A quick timeline:
Jan 27, 2011 –U.S. military contractor Raymond Davis shoots two Pakistanis dead in daylight in Lahore. An embassy vehicle coming to rescue him mows down a third Pakistani motorcyclist, also killing him.
Feb 7, 2011 –The wife of one of Davis’ victims, Faheem Shamshad, commits suicide with a drug overdose fearing that Davis will be released without trial for her husband’s murder. “They are already treating my husband’s murderer like a VIP in police custody and I am sure they will let him go because of international pressure,” she said. Shumaila had taken pills the day before, doctors pumped her stomach, and she was interviewed on television from her hospital bed.
Mar 16, 2011 –Pakistan releases Raymond Davis after the U.S. draws on shari’a laws and pays “blood money” to the victims families, a reporter $2.3 million.
Mar 17, 2011 –The CIA conducts a drone attack on a jirga killing between 26-42 people. The jirga, which included very senior maliks or tribal elders, many of whom worked for the Pakistani government, had gathered to resolve a local dispute over chromite mining. In a rare show of synchronicity, the Pakistani president, prime minister and army chief all condemned the attack. The AP later reported that then U.S. ambassador to Pakistan, Cameron Munter, had phoned Washington to stop the attack fearing its timing would worsen relations between the two countries. The CIA dismissed the request. Those killed in the attack included a very senior malik, Daud Khan as well as Sharabat Khan, identified in various reports as either a militant or a leaseholder of the mine; it is, of course, possible to be both. In fact, this confusion is exactly what points up to the essential murkiness on the ground that no amount of visual technology can resolve. Sharabat may have been both. He may have appeared, on that day, in his capacity as a party to the dispute rather than as a militant. These are in other words, roles, that people occupy in a social web in which relationships are multiple and layered.
May 6, 2011 –U.S. raid in Abbottabad to assassinate Osama bin Laden.
May 13-14 — The Parliament conducted intense closed-door sessions in which Pakistan’s army and air force chiefs appeared before the body to field questions from representatives.
May 14, 2011 –Excerpts from the 2011 joint resolution:
…unilateral actions, such as those conducted by the US forces in Abbottabad, as well as the continued drone attacks on the territory of Pakistan, are not only unacceptable but also constitute violation of the principles of the Charter of the United Nations, international law and humanitarian norms and such drone attacks must be stopped forthwith, failing which the Government will be constrained to consider taking necessary steps including withdrawal of transit facility allowed to NATO/ISAF forces;
Determines that unilateral actions cannot advance the global cause of elimination of terrorism, and the people of Pakistan will no longer tolerate such actions and repeat of unilateral measures could have dire consequences for peace and security in the region and the world.
Reaffirmed the resolve of the people and Government of Pakistan to uphold Pakistan’s sovereignty and national security, which is a sacred duty, at all costs;
Following that resolution, another series of events led to a second resolution.
Oct 4, 2011 –Despite killing two men, Davis makes it home from prison in Pakistan only to be arrested and charged for a felony in a parking lot brawl in Denver. That case takes longer to resolve than the murders in Pakistan. On Mar 1, 2013, Davis finally pled guilty to misdemeanor assault charges.
Nov 26, 2011 –A U.S. led NATO force attacks the two checkposts on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border killing 24 Pakistani soldiers and wounding another 13. Called the Salala attack, the Pakistani government responded by closing Shamsi airfield in Balochistan from where, some U.S. drones were reportedly operating. NATO supply routes through Pakistan were also shut down as Pakistan demanded an apology. None of this would have been likely possible without the express support of Pakistan’s military. Hilary Clinton finally issued the following statement: “We are sorry for the losses suffered by the Pakistani military. We are committed to working closely with Pakistan and Afghanistan to prevent this from ever happening again.” The government reopened the supply route–once again, very likely at the behest of Pakistan’s military to whom the U.S. gives billions of dollars. Pakistanis, however, continued to express criticism of the U.S., and many disagreed with the reopening of the route.
Mar 20, 2012 –Draft resolution issued. Debate commences.
Apr 12, 2012 –Final resolution issued. Excerpts from that resolution:
1. Pakistan’s sovereignty shall not be compromised. The gap between assertion and facts on the ground needs to be qualitatively bridged through effective steps. The relationship with USA should be based on mutual respect for the sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity of each other.
2. The Government needs to ensure that the principles of an independent foreign policy must be grounded in strict adherence to the Principles of Policy as stated in Article 40 of the Constitution of Pakistan, the UN Charter and observance of international law. The US footprint in Pakistan must be reviewed. This means (i) an immediate cessation of drone attacks inside the territorial borders of Pakistan, (ii) the cessation of infiltration into Pakistani territory on any pretext, including hot pursuit; (iii) Pakistani territory including its air space shall not be used for transportation of arms and ammunition to Afghanistan.
7. No overt or covert operations inside Pakistan shall be permitted.
8. That for negotiating or re-negotiating Agreements/MOU’s pertaining to or dealing with matters of national security, the following procedure shall be adopted:
i) All Agreements/MOU’s, including military cooperation and logistics, will be circulated to the Foreign Ministry and all concerned Ministries, attached or affiliated Organizations and Departments for their views;
ii) All Agreements/MOU’s will be vetted by the Ministry of Law, Justice and Parliamentary Affairs;
iii) All Agreements/MOU’s will be circulated to the Parliamentary Committee on National Security. The Committee shall vet and make recommendations in consultation with the stakeholders and forward the same to the Federal Cabinet for approval under the Rules of Business of the Federal Government;
iv) The Minister concerned will make a policy statement on the Agreements/MOU’s in both Houses of Parliament.
9. No private security contractors and/or intelligence operatives shall be allowed.
10. Pakistan’s territory will not be provided for the establishment of any foreign bases.
11. The international community should recognize Pakistan’s colossal human and economic losses and continued suffering due to the war on terror. In the minimum, greater market access of Pakistan’s exports to the US, NATO countries and global markets should be actively pursued.
12. In the battle for the hearts and minds an inclusive process based on primacy of dialogue and reconciliation should be adopted. Such process must respect local customs, traditions, values and religious beliefs.
(a) There is no military solution to the Afghan conflict and efforts must be undertaken to promote a genuine national reconciliation in an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process.
Apart from the clear condemnation of drone attacks, the other interesting point is the craven attempt to parlay loss of Pakistani lives into greater “market access” (see point 11). It’s desperate, tragic and shameful: tragic that this is mode by which Pakistan asks that the global regimes value Pakistani lives, desperate because it is true that this is to what Pakistan has been reduced through machinations by its own politicians but also through IMF and World Bank regimes as well as continual interventions by the U.S. in matters great and small; and finally, shameful, because, even now, Pakistani politicians barter Pakistani lives on the international market rather than having the courage of any convictions.
To Emmerson’s point however, it is clear that where Pakistan’s elected representatives (as opposed to its unelected, despotic military) is concerned, it has–they have, to the extent that they can without upsetting the Pakistani military establishment–declared their resistance to drone attacks.
Finally, I want to point out some incidents that have evaded most international headlines, but which are connected:
Apr 30, 2012 –The widow, Zohra and mother-in-law, Nabeela of one of Davis’ victims, Faizan Haider, are found shot dead in Lahore. They were reportedly shot by the father-in-law, Shehzad Butt, in a dispute over the distribution of the blood money.
Mar 1, 2013 –Davis finally pled guilty to misdemeanor assault charges in the parking lot skirmish incident.
There are some great videos out on the interwebs, so here are few of what I’ve been watching, thinking about as I report the terror war(s). Oh yes – and there’s David Harvey, just because.
Critique of Humanitarian Reason | Didier Fassin:
The Everwhere War | Derek Gregory
Reading Marx’s Capital | David Harvey: