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Briefing on 2nd Belt & Road Forum, CPEC and PM Imran Khan’s Visit to China

Briefing on 2nd Belt & Road Forum, CPEC and PM Imran Khan’s Visit to China

The Chief executive of Pakistan Mr. Imran Khan is going to participate in the 2ndBelt and Road (B&R) forum which is about to be held on April 25-27, 2019. Despite the fact that various states are going to be part of this forum China holds prestige for Prime Minister Khan. On the occasion Imran Khan will be delivering a key note oration.

Chinese people and leadership anxiously awaits for the delegation led by Prime Minister Imran Khan to further discuss areas of cooperation and bud a consensus on various matters. This is the second visit of Prime Minister Imran Khan to China.

President Xi Jinping with his team are looking forward to interact with PM Khan, Chinese Ambassador Yao Jing said while giving media brief. He added that it’s been 5 years since the mega project CPEC was initiated under B&R umbrella. While referring to CPEC, he further said that the project is going with persistence and 11 projects have been completed under CPEC while remaining 11 are underway with rapid progress going on them. Furthermore, he said that the second phase of CPEC would be all about education, health, poverty elevation, agriculture and industrial cooperation. Only 1 mega project would be on list in the second phase.  

Vast audience attended the press briefing by Mr. Yao Jing including Deputy Head of Mission Mr. Lijian Zhao, Chinese embassy officials and senior electronic and print media professionals. Number of questions were asked to Mr. Yao Jing about the progress, pace, opportunities and challenges related to CPEC. Questions regarding general relations between both countries were also asked.

Ambassador Yao Jing negated the notion that any concerns are expressed by the Chinese government related to the ambition of current government towards the fruitful completion of CPEC. He added such notions are not worthy when the Prime Minister himself expressed the resolute to successful completion of the project.

The brother bond and partnership between both the countries is growing from Nov 2018 – April 2019.

Mr. Yao Jing said that the visit by the Prime Minister Imran Khan will beneficial for both the countries. He further added that the BRI is an initiative by China is for regional collective prosperity.

Mr. Yao Jing said the Free Trade Agreement (FTA) along with other agreements related to CPEC will be singed on April 28. He said the FTA took eight years of negotiations and would be signed by the commerce ministers of both countries during Prime Minister’s visit. Also adding he referred that China will accommodate market access to 90pc of Pakistani commodities at zero rate duty, whereas Pakistan will provide access to 65pc under FTA-Phase II. 

The ambassador said leaders of the world, which include head of states and government form 37 countries, would be attending the roundtable summit of the Forum, but Pakistan is important of all as it is the major partner of Belt and Road Initiative (BRI).

Ambassador informed that under the umbrella of industrial corporation through CPEC, the first Special Economic Zone (SEZ) at Rashakai is about to be inaugurated soon this month where initially 20 factories would be set up. In context to SEZs he assured that there will be local Pakistanis as the employees and technologies will be transferred.

Mr. Yao Jing said that 26 new projects will be initiated which will be focused on six areas of social sectors including health, water, agriculture, education, irrigation and poverty alleviation. In order to uplift the standards of lower segment of society two model villages will be built in Pakistan under the social sector cooperation of CPEC, he said.

Mr. Ambassador said that China revolutionized itself by bringing reforms in the agricultural sphere and now will help Pakistan to do the same by linking agriculture and technology.

Memorandum of Understanding (MoU) was signed likewise on the event between All Pakistan China Entrepreneurs Association (APCEA) and National Vocational and Technical Training Commission (NAVTTC) to give talented workforce to Chinese organizations working on different projects in Pakistan. Chairman of NAVTTC Syed Javed Hassan in his precise address said NAVTTC is glad to be related with Chinese organizations and would give all the needed workforce to them. “We have more than 600,000 database of exceedingly gifted specialists and workers and would be glad to take into account the Chinese business firms and organizations,” he said. Official Director of NAVTTC Dr Nasir Khan was additionally present on the event.



Islamabad Institute of Conflict Resolution (IICR) held a conference on April 2nd, 2019 at the Serena Hotel, Islamabad. 

The Inaugural Session was opened by the Executive Director of IICR Ms. Sabah Aslam, after recitation of Holy Quran.. She highlighted the bond of respect shared by both the states. She mentioned that CPEC is a project which aims not just the economy of Pakistan but the people-people contact between the two great nations of the world. The conference aimed at highlighting what the future holds for both Pakistan and China after CPEC. 

After this, the Keynote Speaker, H.E Mr. Zhao Lijian who is the DCM and Minister Counsellor to the Embassy of China addressed the guests. Beginning with addressing the Chief Guest Senator Rehman, he also congratulated Pakistan on the success of CPEC. He claimed that he will make a few observations and began by reiterating that just like in China, there is a broader national consensus in Pakistan regarding CPEC. He also pointed out that this project began during the era of President Zardari and to this day this plan has been going on. 

Mr. Lijian talked about the long term benefits for people on both sides and the major areas in which CPEC operates i.e. economy, energy and infrastructure. He further elaborated that after the success of the first phase, CPEC is moving towards its second phase. He also highlighted that there is also going to be a major focus on the railway up-gradation that will take around 6 years to complete. 

Further he added that Gwadar holds a special position for CPEC and because of this, currently we are working on the International Gwadar Airport through which an easy trade and export of commodities will be achieved. Pakistan and China together are working on creating international schools and hospitals in Gwadar. 

He also discussed the 9 SEZs plan and Governor KP’s upcoming visit to Second Beijing Summit. Further the impact on CPEC on the Private Companies and Sector will was said to improve. For example the Haier-Ruba joint venture in Lahore has spread out and has extended to $11 million worth of cooperation. Also, more than 100 projects have been launched for socio-economic development. 

He concluded by saying that they are looking for international cooperation in which we will welcome third party cooperation in various energy power plans. 

After his address, the Chief Guest Senator Rehman Malik spoke to the guests. He reiterated the importance of friendship between Pakistan and China by referring to history. The senator added that CPEC is developing the infrastructure in many folds. There had been miscommunications which have been directed by the enemies of Pakistan and CPEC. Pakistan and China and their friendship cannot be broken down so easily and this will stand all the tests of time. 

The second session started after a teabreak and kcomposed of various papers which were presented by the academic circle. 

The first paper was presented byDr. Talat Shabbir (Director, China-Pakistan Study Centre, ISSI) on China-Pakistan Economic Corridor: A Futuristic Outlook. It discussed CPEC as a set of projects of bilateral economic framework that generates complimentary advantages of cooperation and connectivity leading to prosperity. Pakistan has an opportunity to build or up-grade infrastructure, address energy shortfalls, commence industrialization and revive economy. Early Harvest phase of CPEC is over and most of the project related to energy and infrastructure are either completed or near completion. Future of CPEC however, essentially depends on how we take up the challenge of building it.  

The second paper was presented by Maj. Gen. ®Raza Muhammad (Chairman, IICR) on the topic of CPEC: A Harbinger of Societal Emancipation for Pakistan and A Way to Regional Peace and Stability. The gist was that CPEC is a harbinger of societal emancipation that is expected to usher a longer lasting, multifaceted socio-economic progression, not only in Pakistan but the Region as well, thereby helping stabilise the Region that is in a volatile state since 1979. It’s a momentous opportunity that China and Pakistan must make best use of for enhanced economic gains to alleviate people’s sufferings. Direly needed socio economic developments can be speedily made by effective implementation of the concept in letter and spirit.

Dr. Nazir Hussain (Director SPIR, Quaid-i-Azam University, Islamabad) presented the third paper on CPEC: A Cost-Benefit Analysis. The paper discussed that BRI and CPEC are aimed at economic transformation and regional connectivity in the wider Asia in general and South Asia/Pakistan in particular. These initiatives are also to usher pipeline, trade and investment corridors in the regional environment creating positive impact.  trade connectivity in trans-regional perspective. Therefore, there is a strong need to look into the CPEC with objectivity and prepare a cost-benefit analysis for a win-win situation for all regional states and key stakeholders.    

Finally, the paper on CPEC: Prospects and Challengeswas presented by Yasir Masood (Deputy Director Media & Publications, Centre of Excellence CPEC). It reiterated that CPEC is a long-term development project of the two all-weather friendly neighbours namely China and Pakistan. The overall aim of CPEC is to become a “Gateway of Prosperity” for both countries, and the region at large by focusing on trade and marketing access; industrial development and global value chains; socio-economic development & poverty alleviation; agriculture modernization & marketing; Gwadar oil city & blue economy; regional connectivity and third-party participation. This will help enhance the livelihood of the people, especially in the deprived regions of both countries.

The session was then followed by a question and answer slot where participants and guest asked valuable questions to the panellists. The conference ended with the concluding remarks form the Maj. Gen. ®Raza Muhammad (Chairman, IICR) and shield distribution ceremony.

Countering Terrorism and the dawn of CPEC

Countering Terrorism and the dawn of CPEC

China-Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is much more than just a development deal between two states; it is to a large extent a mega-project which encompasses many foyers of economy, trade and politics as well as strategy between two highly important states within Asia. It incorporates developing a network of roads, pipelines, and railways which connects Balochistan province in Pakistan with Xinjiangin China. It has heralded a cross country exchange of nationals who are working day and night to make this mega-project a successful one. At present, there is an estimate of around 20,000 Chinese nationals working across Pakistan, and this means that around 70,000 short-term visit visas are being issued each year. 

But with all this being said, it needs to be understood that the current state of terrorism is threatening to the entire endeavour and this needs to be catered to. There are countless foreign forces which are at work to derail this mega-project and Pakistan is understandably doing its part, but it also opens susceptibility for China. There is also a propaganda being floated around by some hostile forces which are against CPEC and this revolves around the perspicacity of China being a so called “future colonizing power” as well as the issue of Uyghur Muslims in Xinjiang. This can add to some inside forces operational in making CPEC more vulnerable and sensitive. Furthermore, there is a threat of terrorism which is being emanated within the Baloch Insurgents as well as the added foreign pressure of other Islamist terrorist groups particularly the Islamic State’s (ISIS) local affiliates in the country. The terror attacks which rocked Balochistan in December 2018 and January 2019 are testimonies of this.

To begin with it must be cleared that currently the Baloch insurgent groups have exhibited signs of antagonism toward the Chinese presence in Pakistan. This province has a dire sense of dearth paralleled with other provinces and because of this under-development and political instability there is a lack of trust within Baloch people towards the Federal governments. Adding the Chinese presence in this atmosphere has only proven to further this lack of trust and probable resentment. The idea of exploitation of local resources by the Chinese is a coming propaganda which has already surfaced and will be pushed by some entities which do not wish for CPEC to succeed. A total of six Baloch separatist groups have publicised displeasure toward the Chinese presence, which is impaired by the government’s inability to address Baloch grievances. In the year 2018, Allah Nazar Baloch who is the commander of the Baloch Liberation Front (BLF) addressed a letter to the Chinese ambassador to Pakistan, stating that Chinese nationals, including fishermen, labourers, and tourists, are legitimate targets for attacks. Furthermore, in 2018 the BLA (Baloch Liberation Army) targeted a bus transporting Chinese engineersin the Dalbandin district in a suicide bombing. 

Moreover the Islamic State’s (IS) local branch for the Afghanistan-Pakistan region, Islamic State Khorasan Province (ISKP), has also targeted Chinese presence in Pakistan. The IS has labelled China an “oppressor of Muslims similar to Israel, India, and the U.S.” in the past. The increasing Chinese presence in Pakistani provinces gives these networks an opening to gain conspicuousness and coverage by targeting foreign nationals and business professionals which adds to their importance as well. With the Islamic State’s territorial defeat in Iraq and Syria, a possible shift toward Afghanistan and Pakistan as a safe-haven for operations, and portrayal of itself as a group that is as strong now as it was back in 2014. 

China has strategic geostrategic interests in Pakistan which will be indomitable to avert CPEC from failing or its interests being targeted by terrorist and separatist groups. China has no doubt become more inclined to strengthen its counterterrorism cooperation with Pakistan since 2015, the most recent example of which is the joint training exercise conducted in Punjab province in December 2018. Previously China has patented the TTP as a serious and well-engineered menace to peace and stability within Pakistan which adversely impacts the Chinese position in the state after the group threatened to cut off access to the Karakoram Highway. 

The combativeness in Balochistan province is largely advocated to be a product of the proxy war between India and Pakistan. Pakistan has by and again claimed that Indian intelligence is tangled in Balochistan and has been capitalising on the militancy in the province. These proclamations were broadened in 2016, when an Indian national Kulbhushan Jadhav, was arrested and indicted by Pakistan of being a spy. These loopholes present in security can add up to the overall stagnation and possible blacking out of the $62 billion dollar deal between two prominent states. If this deal goes through, Balochistan will be resuscitated and has the potential to turn into a developing province for the future. Of course Pakistan and its policy makers are not completely phased out as there is an active unit of forces which are taking care of the impeding issue at hand. The collaboration between Pakistan and China has enhanced and this vulnerability does not need to be worried about much in the context of the larger strategic cooperation. CPEC is prone to terrorism but it is also prone to safeguarding the project, the intensity of which far exceeds the threats. Furthermore, the Pakistan-China cooperative partnership to counter-terrorism is need of time, especially when the BRI is transforming the world from geo-political to geo-economic phase. Mutual trust, joint efforts, and regional cooperation is the key to completely eliminate the scourge of terrorism from the face of earth. 

Balochistan, CPEC Nexus

Balochistan, CPEC Nexus

CPEC is an epoch-making project going to put Pakistan-China friendship and their economic cooperation to new heights.

The long robust bond of China and Pakistan reached its new heights when CPEC was envisaged back in 2013. The moment this mega development collaboration came on the surface all kinds of narratives and speculations started sprouting. The first and foremost was what is in it for Pakistan and how it will address the socio-economic animosity between provinces and federation specifically Balochistan that has stood decades of abandonment from the federation. 

China Pakistan Economic Corridor (CPEC) is a part of China’s Belt and Road Initiative which was forecasted in 2013 and became an on ground reality, two years later in 2015. So far, the momentum of the project is going with its intended velocity and it already has started benefiting Pakistan in major sectors, mainly infrastructural and energy. Pakistan being a country with unstable and ailing economy needed such measurements precariously to support and sustain its stature in the sub-continent as its backyard rival India is flattering a huge market for investors worldwide. The project itself is self-propellant which means that once it has gained its momentum, its pace will escalate with the completion of each target under the umbrella of CPEC.

One of the contours of this magnanimous project was the development of underprivileged areas of both Pakistan and China. These include the western part of both Pakistan and China. The Pakistani western province namely Balochistan has seen ages of deprivation. Both the states are facing similar tumult in their western sides hence CPEC is aimed to be the remedy for this. The project therefore, would be a ray of hope for the locals residing in both sides of the border whose grievances can now be heard and met. 

Balochistan, the province of Pakistan with least population and largest land mass in terms of area has a considerable share in the economy of Pakistan. Balochistan is known for its mineral rich soil. For years Balochistan has been providing its resources such as natural gas all over the country but itself witnesses scarcity at home. With CPEC becoming a reality the untapped potential of the province will be able to be consumed. An amount of 7.1 billion USD was set aside as the initial investment for Balochistan solely. The sum had to be utilized on developmental projects in order to improve the overall situation of country. After decades of exclusion from federal government agendas, Balochistan has now turn out to be the linchpin of the project and it seems like Balochis will now be heard and provided with their rights in order to make CPEC a success and consequently take Pakistan forward in a collaborative manner. The project became the aide for the federal government to make good use of land mass in the province and address the hitches of people there. The resource blessed land of Balochistan is a hand of Midas for Pakistan, only if there is a will to use it in the right way. 

A query on how CPEC will benefit Pakistan through Balochistan?, is simple to answer as through developments.Since it holds great market and trade potential due to resources in it, even a small infrastructural development of road will give a great benefit in terms of trade and economy. With infrastructural developments, better markets would be created. Resultantly, investors would be attracted leading to the creation of better and a large number of job opportunities. Consequently, though not immediately, but would gradually uplift the local way of living. 

Hitherto, the project has brought fruitful results to Balochistan as the societal structure of the province got upheaval with the inflow of investment for developments. There are proposed sites for industrial zones in the province including Quetta, Gwadar, Khuzdar, Uthal, Hub and Dera Murad Jamali. Also, there will be minerals processing zones for separation of valuable minerals from the leftover rock. The road and rail network will help in effective and rapid movement of goods making the trade more efficient and expanding the economic arms of the country. Apart from the road and rail network, there are three major energy projects in the province also, namely, Gwadar Coal power project, HUBCO Coal Power Plant 1x660MW and Gaddani Power park Project. These projects upon completion will contribute approximately 2,940 MW of energy to the national grid thus assisting in countering country’s energy deficit. 

Before CPEC, the security situation in Baloch land was not satisfactory as there were ongoing military operation against the renegades. But soon after the announcement of project, Balochistan became the center of attention as the fulcrum of CPEC. Recently, National Counter Terrorism Authority (NACTA), Pakistan revealed in their 2018 report that there was an overall 21% reduction in terrorist attacks as compared to preceding year. The report also revealed that volatile and fragile regions of Balochistan and FATA had seen a demotion in the terrorist activities. Law and order situation is improving in Baloch society as the CPEC developments are materializing. Once the socio-economic fabric of the province gets strong, there will be large influx of people migrating into the province increasing the cultural harmony in the country. 

Most importantly, Gwadar, the anchor and key driver of this mighty collaboration between China and Pakistan is located in Balochistan. Gwadar, having one of the world’s deepest sea ports is said to be Dubai 2.0 by the time project gets into its final stages. The geo-strategically important part of the Balochistan is going to be the bridge between Asia on one side and the West on the other, making Pakistan a center point of trade between the continents. The city itself will see massive modernization by the immense infrastructural projects and also with the renovation of Gwadar port. Theses project will not only help in curtailing the antagonized environment but also bring the federation and province closer to each other. Via Gwadar port the national assets such as carious mineral and resources would help profiting Pakistan’s economy subsequently enticing traders and investors to become a part of it. 

The Bilateral economic alliance will bring hope to the economic dystopia of Pakistan. Its routes will help reduce the tensions between federation and provinces but only if the threads are connected rightly and skillfully to fully decipher the dire needs of Pakistan on its  way to prosperity.

*Syed Nasir Hassan is working as a Research Associate at Islamabad Institute of Conflict

Resolution (IICR). He is a student of Conflict & Peace Studies.

The Future of FATA after Zarb-e-Azb

The Future of FATA after Zarb-e-Azb

Pakistan is one of those unfortunate countries affected by the greatest plague of this age – Terrorism. It took a huge hit on Pakistan’s economy, social life, tourism, and nation’s image in the international arena as well. However over the years, the country struggled its way out of this sickness with government taking necessary actions and the Pakistan Army playing the vital role. Currently, Pakistan is going through an internal conflict in FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Areas), and it is on war in that region with the terrorists, and the operation is codenamed as Zarb-e-Azb, literally meaning a sharp strike, and also ‘Azb’ was the name of the Prophet Muhammad (PBUH) sword as well. The operation is a joint effort of the government of Pakistan and the Army, and it was initiated back in June 2015. It has almost been a year since the fight began, but it is rational to say that one day the operation will be concluded and the life will be back to normal in FATA. But the real issue here is that will the life ‘really’ be back to normal in FATA? Is the Government of Pakistan taking necessary steps in the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the region? Is there really a plan for day after?
Barack Obama will be soon ending his second-term as a president of the United States. He is considered as a leader who is far more progressive than his predecessors; however he commented recently on the invasion in Libya, declaring it as a biggest mishap of his tenure since they did not have a plan for day after.i This example is definitely not linked with Zarb-e-Azb, but still a lesson can be learned from it. If the government of Pakistan fails to address the rehabilitation and reconstruction of the FATA region, it is highly likely that all the hard work done by the Pakistan Army will go down the drain.
It would be unfair not to recognize the efforts done so far for the rehabilitation of the IDPs (Internally Displaced Person). A document published by UNDP states that there are around 2 million IDPs that needs to be resettled,ii and this might be easy on eyes but it is not an easy job for the government. With the help of different NGOs, UN and aid by other countries, the report also addresses that there will be five phases of the resettlement:
Phase 1(March 2015-July 2015), Phase 2(August 2015-November 2015), Phase 3(December 2015-March 2016) and Phase 4 (April 2016-November 2016).
FATA Housing programme is ongoing as well, with a purpose of rebuilding damaged and destroyed houses.iii When all this process is witnessed, it seems like everything is going in order and soon everything will be, definitely, back to normal in FATA. However, I believe there are certain issues the Government of Pakistan needs to address. Rehabilitation of FATA is not just about building houses and resettling people, it also concern security, governance, and education.
Out of these three, the biggest issue is security. From FATA region, Pakistan shares border with Afghanistan and the border security on that side is fragile if it is compared to how strong it is on the other side with India. Taliban can enter the Afghan territory when the Pakistan Army is closing down on them, and there is always a threat of their return. Problem here is that when the Pakistan Army eliminates the terrorists, it creates a vacuum of power and when there is failure of fulfilling it by the government, a new type of extremists comes out and takes control; hence the problem here is absence of strong governance. FATA needs a strong structure of governance with proper checks and balances and transparency, and as it is “Federally Administered”, government should be concerned about it just like they are concerned about their other federal territory, Islamabad. It might not make sense when there is a comparison done between a capital of a country and a conflicted area, but at the end of the day, the 2 million IDPs are also Pakistanis just like the rest of the population.
Last but certainly not the least, is education. Education is considered as a backbone of any country, and in FATA it may be seen as huge problem to face. Of course, FATA faces problem not just in education but health, agriculture and economic development as well, but with proper education being available to every citizen in that area, the other mentioned problems can be tackled. Also, when people are not educated well enough, there is a chance they might fall for the extremist ideas. Back in 2010, Sharmeen Obaid-Chinoy disclosed how suicide bombers are trained, and how they are brainwashed to such an extent, that a disgraceful and inhumane act like suicide bombing becomes their gateway to heaven. It can be easily concluded that there was certainly a failure of governance because they failed to take an action against such ‘schools’, and not everyone having access to education, since they do not know what is moral and immoral.iv
Government of Pakistan and the Army took a huge step to fight against terrorists in the country, and to show the world that Pakistan is not an empathizer of such an ideology. However, the government needs to work on the rehabilitation of the area with the same enthusiasm as well, and should not leave the entire burden on the shoulder of the Army, since they have done their job which is to secure the area. What comes next is the responsibility of the government, as they need to reconsider their foreign policy with Afghanistan on the issue of security, work on the strong governance in FATA, deal with the issue of Education, and does not forget the sacrifice done by the soldiers of Pakistan Army.

The Unmanned War

The Unmanned War Featured

There was a time when wars were fought with swords and cavalry, and then came the age of early modern warfare with the excessive use of gunpowder which had a major impact on the way war was fought, or as Wendell Phillips likes to put it that “What gunpowder did for war, the printing press has done for the mind”. Today, the art of warfare is even more modernized with the help of information technology and advancement in sciences, and the way war is fought today is beyond the imagination of a person from a early modern era. The current age of warfare includes the use of “unmanned combat aerial vehicle” (UCAV), or in laymen terms known as the Drone. Over the last decade, drone has played a huge role, in particular for United States, on “War against Terrorism” after the catastrophic 9/11 attack. The countries affected by this policy of United States are Pakistan, Yemen, Somalia and Afghanistan. But one question that arises here is that this excessive use of drone attacks by United States on other states; is it even legal according to International Law? In this paper, I will be looking at the reason and legality of drone attacks in Pakistan, and why it is not a firm solution to end terrorism in the region.
First of all, it is important to understand the reason and legality behind the drone attacks in Pakistan. Christof Heyns, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings, summary or arbitrary execution, raises his worry against the attacks carried out by United States, since he believe it works as a challenge for International Law. Heyns expressed his stance at the conference, where at that moment a Pakistani ambassador was present as well, who stated that
“We find the use of drones to be totally counterproductive in terms of succeeding in the war against terror. It leads to greater levels of terror rather than reducing them.”
However, Christof Heyns failed to address the issue of legality here, because if Pakistan is condemning the attacks in UN, doesn’t that mean the drone attacks are taking place by United States’ unilateral will? If that’s the case, it must be clear that United States is violating the UN Charter’s Article 2(4) which states that:
All members shall refrain in their international relations from the threat or use of force against the territorial integrity or political independence of any state, or in any other manner inconsistent with the purposes of the United Nations
It is not just the violation of UN Charter, but it is also a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty, says Ben Emmerson, the United Nations’ special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism.6 The first drone attack in Pakistan happened in June 2004, and up until October 2012; around 334 drone attacks took place in Pakistan.8 One may ask that if it is a breach of Pakistan’s independence and the UN Charter, why is there a huge record of drone attacks that took place in Pakistan? The search for legality behind this makes one think how controversial and tangled the situation is.
The drone attacks are usually conducted in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which shares its border with Afghanistan. It is said that Taliban fighters from Afghanistan took refuge in FATA, where they further allied with Pakistani Taliban, and made their stronghold there, and launched attacks in different areas within Pakistan.9 The control of government of Pakistan over FATA is rather nominal, and the lack of ability to fight terrorists in that region was seen as a failure by the American administration, this is the point when the American policy to use drone attacks developed.
“The primary objective of the air campaign has been to disrupt Al Qaeda’s external network and prevent the group from striking at the US and her allies”. Another reason that is given is to stop the “Pakistani Taliban commanders who threaten the stability of the Pakistani state”.
These reasons mentioned can be seen as why the drone attacks take place in FATA region of Pakistan, but what about its legality? Sean D. Murphy discusses the legality of the issue, and states that there are three ways through which it can be legal; if the actions are taken with the consent of Pakistan, authorized by a UN Security Council Resolution, self-defence against Non-State actors, or as self-defence against Pakistan itself. Starting with the consent of Pakistan, this part is rather like a grey area. In 2008, Washington Post claimed that when the new chief of Pakistan’s intelligence service visited Washington to talk with USA’s head of military and intelligence staff, they had a secret understanding or consensus on the use of drone attacks. However, then-Pakistani government have openly said that these attacks are violation of their sovereignty, and have taken place without their consent. Now there is a possibility that then-Pakistani government was not unveiling the reality to the people of Pakistan, while they were making deals with United States behind closed doors. Prime Minister of Pakistan in 2008, Yousaf Raza Gillani, said to Anne Paterson, then-United States Ambassador to Pakistan, that:
“I don’t care if they do it (drone strikes) as long as they get the right people. We’ll protest in the National Assembly and then ignore it.”
The current government responded when asked if they have a deal with United States, they openly said that there might be some kind of understanding with previous government; the spokesman for Pakistan’s foreign ministry said “We regard such strikes as a violation of our sovereignty as well as international law. They are also counter-productive.” In a nutshell, it can be concluded that there is no common grounds between United States and Pakistan because of unavailability of a legal document which will say otherwise.
Coming to the UN Security Council, the UN Charter Chapter VII allows the Security Council to “decide upon measures necessary for maintaining or restoring peace and security”. After the 9/11 attacks, many resolutions were adopted by UN in relation with Afghanistan, but none of them allowed United States for operations in Pakistan, hence there is no evidence of UNSCR allowing the drone attacks in Pakistan legally. Only way it may be justified is on the basis of “individual or collective self-defence” against a non-state actor. Article 51 of the UN Charter may justify the violation of Article 2(4) as it allows a state to practice use-of-force when acting in self-defence, by keeping this in mind, it can be said that it is still possible that United States is defending itself against Al-Qaeda through drone attacks in Pakistan, as it is believed that they are taking refuge in FATA.17 The final case behind the legality of drone strikes is self-defence against the Pakistani state, and this can only be done if it is proven that the Pakistani state is helping the Taliban in the FATA region, and also through:
“The International Court of Justice held that a state that suffers an armed attack by irregular forces from the territory of another state shall ‘attribute the armed attack to [the] state”.
But this is only possible if there is an existing relationship between the militants and the Pakistani state. This is obviously not the case, as Pakistan has been doing an operation known as Zarb-e-Azb in one of the tribal regions of FATA since 2014, and has killed more than 3,400 militants.
The detailed analysis of legality of drone strikes makes it easy to understand why it is a problem for International Law. The post 9/11 era opened a door to a lot of new political agendas, like the introduction of the US National Security Strategy of 2002, allowing United States to act pre-emptively “against a threat that may possibly emerge in the future”. And also the justification of United States using drone attacks is based on the argument of “preemptive attack against non-state actors”, even though they have never referred to their exercise of right of self-defence as allowed by Article 51 in the Security Council. The non-state actors operating in Pakistan are matter of the Pakistani state itself, and it would be reasonable if Pakistan was a ‘failed state’ or did not have the military capability, whereas Pakistan has the sixth largest army in the world. A point that should not be ignored here is that Pakistani government is often strong-armed by United States, and they usually have to oblige to what the American administration instructs because Pakistan receives financial assistance from it, and also U.S. has a strong diplomatic influence on Pakistan too, as it can use the Security Council to put pressure on Pakistan. United States also demanded Pakistan to collaborate with it on war against terrorism, or else prepare to be bombed back to the Stone Age.
To put it in a nutshell, are these drone strikes a solution for terrorism in the region? It seems so it is not as it is being counterproductive for Pakistan. The strikes have certainly destabilized the position of Al-Qaeda; but with them becoming fragile, it created a vacuum of power which is then filled by other terrorist organizations, like Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan, which poses an even bigger threat to the Government of Pakistan. Hence, United States “has weakened its principal enemy, Al-Qaeda, but only at the cost of earning a new set of enemies”. Another issue to address is that the drone strikes contradicts with American strategic goal of increasing the legitimacy of the Pakistani government, because the attacks decline the position of Pakistani government in international and domestic realm, causing it to lose its legitimacy and sovereignty among its people and also in the international community. It can be concluded that with drone strikes, United States is creating more terrorists in the region and damaging the position of the Pakistani government. United States and Pakistan should find a common ground and a legal way to address this issue, as they already have a consensus on war against terrorism; both states need to come up with a way which is less counter-productive and has a more concrete end result compared to drone attacks, otherwise Pakistan may have to face the results of these counterproductive acts.