A CIA drone attack killed TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsood, along-with 5 companions in the evening of 1st November 2013. The attack occurred the day when a three-member delegation had been dispatched from Islamabad to meet the TTP in an effort by the government to resolve all issues with Taliban peacefully. The attack caused wide spread anger in the country and all political parties including the Federal Government have condemned the attack terming it as “Death of Peace Talks”. The security of major cities of the country has been tightened up amid fears of retaliation by the TTP. The whole nation of Pakistan in particular and the world in general are in a state of confusion as to the real motives behind the drone attack.
There is widespread public opinion that USA attacks those militants who have had some sort of a soft corner for Pakistan and who wanted to initiate peace talks with the country. The examples of Molvi Nazeer, Waliur Rehman Mehsood and Mullah Sangeen are prominent among those believed to be pro-Pakistani and killed by drone strikes. Similar is the case of Hakim Ullah Mehsood who had supposedly agreed to hold peace talks with the Government of Pakistan and was killed a night before the government sponsored delegation had to meet him in NWA.
According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, USA had carried out a total of 370 drone strikes in FATA areas of Pakistan (including 318 during Obama period) killing 2520 persons including 396 civilians. Amnesty International report of 2013 suggested that most of the victims of drone attacks were unarmed and termed some attacks in Pakistan as ‘war crime’. Even the UNO has termed these attacks against its charter. The government of Pakistan always condemned the drone attacks on FATA and considers them as ‘Violation of its Sovereignty’. Soon after the strike was conducted, the Foreign office issued a statement condemning the strike.
But Pakistani authorities, despite claims of being capable of shooting the drone down, seems to be in favor of drone attacks.Some of the drone attacks have even been claimed by the government of Pakistan as missile strikes carried out by the security forces themselves(as was the case of Naik Muhammad Wazir in 2004). Similarly despite Amnesty International claims of killings of civilians in the drone strikes, the Defence Ministry of Pakistan released a statement which stated that since 2008 the civilian casualties in US drone attacks had been ONLY 3% while the rest were militants. The report was in contrast to many independent calculations that estimated more civilian casualties and has been widely criticized by many.
Earlier, people were always told that Hakimullah Mehsood had been the most wanted terrorist by Pakistani authorities and was responsible for the killings of thousands of Pakistanis – both civilians and forces. Pakistani military had been deployed in FATA and Malakand regions of the country since 2008 which has been fighting TTP with heavy casualties. The Government as well as the Military leadership had been saying that the war in the tribal belt of the country is Pakistan’s own war and the forces were fighting to eliminate the menace of terrorism.
The people had also been told that the war was being fought in collaboration with USA and NATO and all operations were carried out in consultation between the security forces and intelligence agencies of both sides. But as soon as the drone attack was carried out in the evening of Friday, the Government started mourning the attack and there were widespread disapprovals everywhere condemning the attack and criticizing the US government for carrying out the strike claiming it to be a negative gesture. The federal Government also announced that it will review relationships with the USA after the attack.
Pakistan Tehrik-I-Insaf (PTI), that is in-charge of the KPK government, shared its views with the Federal Government. Imran Khan, the chairman of PTI has threatened that his KPK government will stop NATO supply to Afghanistan from their area of control. Other political parties were of the view that Hakimullah’s killing was an attempt by the USA to derail peace talks and an effort to destabilize Pakistan. Jamat-i-Islami, a Religious party, also criticized the strike and declared Hakimullah and all those killed in the strike as Shaheeds (martyrs).
Thus, a person who was termed as the biggest terrorist and was held responsible for bombings, attacks on political rallies, beheading policemen and suicide attacks on the security forces was at once being portrayed as a hero killed in an enemy strike. The once most wanted terrorist had become a Shaheed.
On the contrary, there have been some supporters of the attack as well. MQM leader, Altaf Hussain, issued a statement 3 days after the strike, claiming it to be legal and an end to a person responsible for the killings of thousands of Pakistanis. Even APML supporters (a party of Pervez Musharraf – a former Military dictator and Ex-President of Pakistan) claim the killing of Hakimullah Mehsood as justified as he was responsible for killings of several hundred Pakistanis. Although any formal statement has not been issued by APML still the party members are using social websites to register their views.
The criticism was also heard from outside Pakistan. Hamid Karzai, the President of Islamic Republic of Afghanistan, also criticized the drone attack that killed Mehsood. While talking to a US Congress delegation, Karzai criticized the US drone strike claiming that the strike “took place at an unsuitable time”. However Karzai hoped that the incident would not derail peace talks in the region.
One thing pertinent to mention here is that Hakimullah Mehsood was considered by some factions in the Pakistani establishment as the main hurdle in peace talks with the government. Some of his demands were so harsh that they were impossible to be met by the government. He did not accept the constitution of Pakistan while he demanded the imposition of his version of Shariah law in the country that was not acceptable to the government and even the people of the country.
Soon after the attack, the Government beefed up security in most cities of the country amid threats by the close aides of Hakimullah to avenge his killing. The Government of Pakistan’s criticism on the drone strike and condolences with TTP can be seen as a tool to keep the already infuriated TTP away from carrying out any retaliatory activity inside Pakistan, especially at the time when the Holy month of Moharram is approaching and there are possibilities of attacks on Ashura processions.
Regardless of all arguments, facts and figures, the following questions remain unanswered and the Pakistani public is confused:
Whether the Drone Attack was really an act by the USA to sabotage peace talks
Whether Pakistan Government is achieving a double-edged objective
Whether this strike will end the peace process or is a new era of Pak- TTP relations
Whether the killing of Hakimullah was a serious blow on TTP
Whether the new leader be in favor of peace talks with Pakistan or not