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Biden’s drones couldn’t have flown without Pakistan’s help

Biden’s drones couldn’t have flown without Pakistan’s help


The recent discourse in Pakistan regarding the election of Joe Biden and Kamala Harris has been one of jubilation and relief. After Trump’s defeat many with relatives settled in America have breathed a sigh of relief, while others have welcomed his departure owing to his less than warm relations with Pakistan. However, in the waning glow of the U.S elections there has emerged another viewpoint which states that the newly elected Biden and Harris will be no better than their predecessors as they will continue to bomb brown bodies like ours as they always have. This criticism while not unfounded does lack nuance. Yes, the U.S is to blame for much of the violence and strife in Pakistan, as not only have the carried out hundred of drone strikes murdering Pakistani civilians they have also historically supported dictatorial regimes in Pakistan to help fight their war on terror.

But, what is oft forgotten is that much of the bloodshed caused by the U.S on Pakistani soil was done with the agreement and support of the Pakistani authorities.

Both the military establishment and the politicians have covertly supported the U.S drone program in Pakistan— until 2011, the drones being flown into FATA were flying out of the Shamsi airfield in Balochistan. The fact that the U.S had the tacit support of Pakistan is not mere speculation but a documented fact. Former President General Musharraf admitted to the New Yorker, in 2014, that he allowed the CIA to operate drones in Pakistan and in return the Bush administration “supplied us helicopters with precision weapons and night-operating capability”. After that the situation progressed from tacit consent to collusion. General Kiyani, in a leaked cable, requested increase U.S predator drone coverage in Pakistan to back up military operations. Wikileaks cables also showed that the Prime Minister, at the time, Yousaf Raza Gilani allowed drone strikes in the tribal areas stating that they would just protest the strikes in the National Assembly and then ignore the issue. The leaked Abottabad Commission Report also provides evidence of this pattern of collusion, wherein ex-DG ISI Ahmed Shuja Pasha is on record stating that Pakistan had an understanding with the U.S on drones and that they were useful in targeting Islamist militants. All this highlights that the Pakistani government and the establishment were never truly powerless spectators as they would like the public to believe. 

The stating of these facts is not to excuse the U.S for its role in wreaking havoc in Pakistan and the surrounding region, or to pin the blame for it entirely on Pakistan. The goal is not even do decry the drone attacks as completely useless— that is a debate for another time and one that can probably never be resolved satisfactorily given that one side will argue they did take out key militant leaders and the other will rightfully point out that it happened at the cost of Pakistani lives. The purpose of bringing these facts to light is to remind everyone that some of those that can be held accountable for the death and destruction caused by U.S adventurism in the region are present in Pakistan. The people and the institutions that dragged us into the war on terror are Pakistani and we can hold them accountable for that. We may never see the U.S make reparations for its crimes against us and so many others, much like Britain was never really penalised for horrible its imperial campaign. But, what we can do is demand justice from our own and hold them accountable for their role in this. 

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