Pakistan

Drones Are a Fact of Life (and a Meme) But the Pakistani Parliament Requests the U.S. Stop With the Strikes

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There was something just so lame about Texts from Hillary, last week's hot meme that so greatly aggrandized the Secretary of State. Enter the anti-war response, Text from Drone. And what good timing!

Well, it's always good timing because drones are now a fact of life. Rolling Stone has a long piece on America's secret war, up today online. And it seems like every day now there are more and more news pieces trying to prepare us all for the brave, new world of domestic drones. The FAA has until the end of 2015 to figure out the how of domestic drone flights and airspace, but there are 9 drones patrolling the Mexican border and the potential for some patrolling the Canadian one as well. Privacy laws are going to have to deal with, and will undoubtedly continue to be far behind the reality of this new technology as well. The first America arrested with the help of a drone — a cattle-rustling member of the so-called sovereign citizen movement — is appealing his sentence because of his unique method of capture. 

But over in Pakistan, of course, what is mostly (for now) theoretical to Americans is a little more real to residents of the oft-bombarded country.

According to Voice of America, the Pakistani Parliament is getting a bit cranky about those 2000-odd people killed within their borders since 2004 (but mostly since Obama won the office). Things are more than a bit frayed, relations-wise, with the two countries. But a month of talks has led to things maybe moving; especially potentially reopening NATO supply lines, closed since last November when U.S. planes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers. There has been some demands from the Pakistani Parliament, however:

The new demands, unanimously approved in a nonbinding parliamentary resolution last week, include an end to drone strikes in Pakistan, a bar on unilateral U.S. military operations—such as the Abbottabad raid that killed Osama bin Laden—a ban on U.S. intelligence operations, and indefinite suspension of visas to U.S. intelligence operatives and security contractors.

Parliament is also demanding an unconditional apology from Washington for the November airstrike that mistakenly killed Pakistani troops on the Afghan border.

What makes the call for new conditions unusual is that it comes not from Pakistan's federal government, but from parliament.

There is not any precedent in Pakistan for parliamentary determination of this kind of a foreign policy issue," says Teresita Schaffer, former U.S. deputy assistant secretary of state for South Asia. "And the reason that the parliament was asked to take this action was basically that both the government and, perhaps more importantly, the army, wanted cover. Whatever they decided, they wanted to have as much political cover as they wanted. And I think that neither one was averse to parliament taking a pretty hard line."

[…]

Intelligence operations are by nature secret, often quietly allowed through quiet agreements. Schaffer says President Zardari and his Pakistan Peoples' Party may have gotten some political traction by pushing parliament to make such stiff demands, but that the government could be seriously damaged if any secret agreements between the U.S. and Pakistan come to light.

"You'll notice that not only did the parliament say 'hell no drones,' but also specified in their resolution that there can be no secret or verbal agreements touching U.S.-Pakistan relations, and that any previous ones hereby stand canceled," says Schaffer. "Clearly what that means is that the kind of handshake agreements that we've often operated on in the past become very vulnerable to sudden scandal and exposure."

The U.S. has no plans to end the strikes, though they want to chat with Pakistan more in the coming weeks and months. 

Reason on drones