Drone delimaTiming of the two drone attacks on October, 31 rather than their effects made the event sensational. Like Hakimullah Mehsud (HUM), a number of leading figures of the TPP have earlier been eliminated through similar drone attacks. However, this time, just a day before the latest attack, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had announced in London that the dialogue process with the Taliban had begun.  This claim was, however, promptly denied by the TTP spokesperson Shahidullah Shahid. A three member government delegation was to proceed to make preliminary face-to-face contacts with the TTP leadership on November, 2. The government had finalised the team comprising government officials, politicians, clerics, intellectuals and defence experts. Formal talks were expected within a couple of weeks. And during the talks, both sides were likely to observe an unannounced ceasefire.

However, after the drone strikes the three-member government team has been asked to suspend their trip till further instructions. In fact, every time Pakistan is close to find out a negotiated settlement of the militancy issue, and attempts to tame the disgruntled Taliban through parleys, the process is sabotaged by the string pullers at Washington. It is surprising that drone attacks have increased since Nawaz Sharif returned from his recent visit to the US; and his aids have since then been predicting a sharp decline. Previous governments kept a wavering public stance on drone attacks, however the present government has taken a firm stand to put an end to drone attacks, but the US may not oblige it at least for a year or so. If the government of Pakistan wants an immediate end to such attacks, the only option may be to shoot them down; however, such an action would have its downside.

Decapitation or the strategy of killing top commanders of terrorist groups is quite important from the counter-terrorism standpoint. But considering the loose structure, vague ideology and motivation of the TTP, this strategy may not work. Organizations like the TTP are never short on leadership; hence killing of HUM may not affect the TTP’s continuity in carrying out attacks. A close aide of HUM, Khan Said alias Sajnaa, has already taken over as the Ameer (Chief) of the TTP. There could be a violent backlash in the form of reprisal attacks, in various parts of the country. If the group stages large-scale attacks, it would be an indicator of its strength and viability. Failure to do so would indicate a decline leading to its gradual fizzling out.

The fateful drone attacks came when the TTP leadership was holding a consultative session about the upcoming dialogue with the government. Attack inflicted strategic damage on the TTP, and a temporary delay in the TTP-government dialogue.  Both Pakistan and the United States had announced plentiful head money on HUM. He had survived at least two similar US drone strikes in the past. In 2010, Hakimullah had appeared in a video with a Jordanian double agent suicide bomber claiming responsibility for the CampChapman attack killing seven CIA officers and contractors in the Afghan province of Khost.

Construct of the event was revealed by an official of the local political administration; he  informed that:  “A remotely piloted US aircraft fired two missiles at a house in the Dandi Darpakhel area, one kilometre north of Miramshah, the TTP headquarters of North Waziristan, around 7:15pm.” Six suspected militants were killed including Hakimullah’s cousin Tariq Mehsud, his driver Abdullah Mehsud and his personal guards. Drone fired two missiles on Hakimullah’s double-cabin SUV while it was driving into his house. Two persons sitting in the front seat and three in the back seat were killed, while two guards sitting on the rear cargo bed of the 4X4 were critically wounded.

Government of Pakistan promptly condemned the deadly strike which, analysts believe, could scuttle an embryonic peace process with the TTP. Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar, in his immediate reaction, said the drone strike was aimed at sabotaging the peace talks with the Taliban. “The drone attack took place at a time when the government was about to send negotiators to formally engage the Taliban in talks,” he said. Foreign Office spokesperson Aizaz Ahmed Chaudhry also said in a statement that drone strikes are a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. There is an across the board consensus in Pakistan that these drone strikes must end.

In an associated yet mysterious development, on November 1, Shura (the consultative body)of the Mujahideen in North Waziristan warned tribesmen living in Dandi Darpakhel, Miramshah, Dattakhel, Tol Khel, Tabbi, Danday and Machis to leave their areas within a week. The warning was prompted by the recent skirmishes between the TTP and the security forces. Pamphlets distributed in these areas read that a peace agreement between the group and the government would remain intact.

Earlier also, a number of high profile TTP leaders have been taken out through drone attacks, these include Nek Muhammad, Baitullah Mehsud  Qari Hussain, Maulvi Nazir, Waliur Rehman Mehsud etc. Most of these commanders were killed when they showed inclination to enter into a negotiation with Pakistan. HUM also met a similar fate.

Hakimullah’s death will also be highly consequential for the so-called peace talks between the government and the TTP. In the short run, the prospect of talks would seem to have vanished altogether. But as time passes by, factionalism may increase inside the TTP and the Punjabi Taliban, led by Asmatullah Muawiyah, could gain further strength. Muawiyah had welcomed the offer of peace talks by the government without Hakimullah’s prior consent, prompting the latter to expel him from TTP ranks; later HUM reconciled. Intelligence estimates indicate that TTP factions in favour of talks outnumber those opposed to parleys.  This may be the reason why Hakimullah himself gave up his anti-negotiation stance and showed his willingness to hold talks. Hakimullah’s elimination will further factionalise TTP, most of which ultimately may agree to hold talks.

On America’s part, such a move makes sense because if the TTP enters a peace deal with the government, their entire militant potential would be diverted toward US-led coalition forces in Afghanistan. At a time when the US forces are increasingly pulling out of Afghanistan, such a development may cause considerable hindrance to a safe withdrawal. Recently, Americans had forcibly snatched No2 leader of the TTP, Lateef Mehsud, from Afghan intelligence operatives and taken him to Bagram. The latest attack may have come as a result of debriefing of Lateef.

Irrespective of the anti-drone public opinion in Pakistan, the elimination of Hakimullah yet again proves the efficacy of the drones in the war against terror. Hakimullah’s death may be a setback for peace in the immediate future. However, in the long run, it may be a huge opportunity in the form of operational degradation of the TTP.

This is indeed a test of the national leadership to credibly distance itself from the attacks killing HUM and make incremental movement toward re-railing the negotiation process. Quality of leadership is one of the key determinants in such circumstances.  These attacks are not likely to cause any significant degradation in Pak-US relations. Probably there would be nothing beyond usual noises because there aren’t many rungs below the present standing of bilateral relations, at least at the public level. Likewise, elimination of HUM would not cause a log term disruption in the government-TTP dialogue process because both sides hardly have any other option.

Writer is Consultant, Policy & Strategic Response, IPRI. He is a member panel of experts, CPGS. Email:Khalid3408@gmail.com

Pakistan’s Ministry of Defense recently revealed official data on the US drone strikes; it claims that approximately 2000 suspected terrorists have been killed in 317 drone strikes and   only 67 innocent people have died as collateral damage .This data endorses the US stance that drone strikes have been ‘precise’ and highly ‘successful’. However, it does not seem to represent the real situation on ground and appears contradictory to Pakistan’s previous stance – that these drone strikes are counterproductive and harmful for Pakistan’s counter terrorism efforts.The Ministry of Defense’s given data also seems unrealistic as the drone strikes have killed more innocent persons than “suspected terrorists”. The use of word “suspected” in itself is evidence of this, as the Ministry itself is not certain of the status of their linkage with terrorism. Independent sources and local inhabitants also differ with the official US and Pakistani figures and data.

The issue of drone strikes is real and must come to an end, as it is in fact negatively effecting the Pakistan’s ongoing counter terrorism efforts as well as the peace talks between Pakistan and the Taliban.

Moreover US drone strategy is against the sovereignty of Pakistan and against the international humanitarian law

Syria is a country with rich civilization history. It was also a politically stable state for a very long time. Since March 2011 however, this is no longer the case; this was the date when a peaceful uprising against single person rule in the country ruptured, and turned protests into a full-out civil war. Today Syria is still in the middle of an extremely violent internal conflict, with fighting between government forces and various rebel factions that has killed up to 100,000 people to date and created over 2 million refugees, half of them children.

Recently, a further twist was added to this volatile mixture with the alleged use of chemical weapons by the Syrian government against its civilian population. These developments caused uproar within the international community, which began seriously considering an intervention. This has been put on hold in the wake of a deal aimed at giving international control to Syrian chemical weapons.

When the Obama administration took office, it declared its intent not to engage in any further wars. But given the use of chemical weapons in the Syrian civil war, it feels its hand is forced to take action as the US cannot allow such a flagrant violation of international law and human rights, providing a deterrent to other regimes that may be considering the use of chemical weapons.

The divide in the international community over the issue became apparent however when the British Parliament refused to support a Syrian intervention and various states such as Russia openly opposed military action of any sort in the country.

Interestingly, whether the established agreement between the US and Russia was useful for Syria in any way, or simply had the effect of drawing down the standoff between Russia and the US, is not clear. The stipulations of the agreement do not deal with the consequences of the Syrian government’s attack on its civilian population with chemical weapons. They appear to be more focused on assuaging the US to prevent an active intervention and further destruction.

893637-PID-1432790584-684-640x480[1]The two recent developments in Pakistan are predicted to have positive and far reaching effects regarding the issues of Pakistan’s national security. These developments are the NCA statement of September 5, 2013 and the All Parties Conference (APC) held on September 9, 2013. These crucial developments cover the most important dimensions of the national security.

The national security of our country faces primarily two types of threats and challenges; the first is internal and the second external. Currently Pakistan is facing many internal challenges such as political instability, radicalization and violent extremism. Some of the external challenges faced by Pakistan include the US drone strikes, provocative military doctrines in the region, the discriminatory approach by non-proliferation regimes and the pressure to change its stance on FMCT.

These recent developments will help strengthen the state to cope with these issues related to national security. Secondly, these developments send a strong message across the globe that the politico-military leadership of Pakistan is united against all type of threats and challenges to the state’s national security.

Pakistan should continue to with such a positive approach and work towards achieving stability in the country. A stable Pakistan is the key to stability in the region.

assad-syria_2653335c[1]UNSC is the decision making body of the UN that mandates the use of force under Chapter VII of the UN Charter; it decides when military action in any capacity has become necessary to maintain global peace and security. Currently UNSC has to decide whether collective military action should be taken against Syria given the Assad regime’s alleged use of Chemical Weapons against civilians.

A consensus exists that any such action (i.e. collective military action)  can only be initiated with the formal approval of the UNSC, and on the basis of hard facts. In this context, the UN Secretary General has clearly asked that “no action should be taken until the U.N. chemical weapons inspectors’ finish their work”. Currently UN experts are processing the evidence collected in Syria, and a final report remains pending.

Ironically, three permanent members of UNSC – the USA, UK and France – wish to run UNSC business by a different set of rules. These three states are calling for immediate military action in Syria, with or without a UN mandate and are not willing to fulfill international law requirements or formal procedures.

It would be a better option for maintaining legitimacy of action and upholding international law that all states refrain from taking unilateral military action against Syria, till such time that the UNSC report is released and allows for collective military action.

John+Kerry+Sartaj+Aziz+John+Kerry+Meets+Sartaj+KSrXZhDNBsjl[1]Pakistan has adopted a principally correct strategy to deal with Afghanistan’s delicate situation. This strategy is based on “no interference, no favorites”.

Afghanistan belongs to the people of Afghanistan and let them decide its future path. International community including Pakistan only can facilitate Afghan’s reconciliation process for sustainable peace and development.

Pakistan’s strategy of “no interference, no favorites” in Afghanistan in relation to post 2014 could be a role model for all regional and extra regional stakeholders in Afghanistan. The policy of non intervention in the internal affairs of Afghanistan will lead it towards home-grown political stability, leading to its destiny of peace and stability.

Pakistan or any other stakeholder can only continue to stick with such a worthy strategy till the time other also follow the same course. It would not be possible that Pakistan remains oblivious against any such situation in which other would mold the Afghan situation as per their national interests. It would be unacceptable for Pakistan if other countries continue to influence on Afghanistan’s internal politics.

Afghan-women-by-United-Nations-Photo[1]The US-led war in Afghanistan began with Operation Enduring Freedom that was launched after a UN resolution. Now when the war in Afghanistan appears to be coming to an end, the UN is apparently out of the loop.  UN still is perhaps the most suitable international platform from which to discuss and formulate an acceptable agenda for future peace in Afghanistan, and as such should be kept onboard. UN peacekeepers could play a useful role in forwarding the peace process. Moreover, future elections in Afghanistan in their presence will be considered more legitimate, free and fair.

Pakistan has vast experience related to UN peacekeeping missions, and can also be a valuable asset for any UN peacekeeping mission in Afghanistan in the future. Stable and sustainable peace in Afghanistan is indeed possible, if all national and international stakeholders formally sign an unconditional ceasefire agreement, followed by a formal peace agreement. Such an agreement will establish a realistic roadmap for power sharing in the country that is vital for the endurability of any proposed peace plan.

6449152-9725331[1]This initiative is a multilateral partnership with the membership of 82 states, along with four international entities namely IAEA, EU, INTERPOL and UNDOC. All these entities are committed to employing shared nuclear security principles with increased collaboration.

The initiative was launched to enhance the global capacity to curb the threat of nuclear terrorism. Through the development of certain nuclear security measures to prevent, detect & respond to nuclear security related issues. USA-Russia are Co-Chairs, while Spain is Coordinator of the Implementation and Assessment Group (IAG).

The GICNT collaborators have conducted fifty multilateral activities and also seven high profile meetings to strengthen global nuclear security.

ns300x200[1]Although this document is neither treaty nor convention, it can nonetheless be termed as a cornerstone of nuclear security. It carries IAEA guidelines and recommendations to protect nuclear facilities and nuclear materials against intentional cases of theft, sabotage or mishandling during transportation. There are no signatories or acceded states for this document but wherever the peaceful use of nuclear energy is in practice these guidelines are abided with their true spirit.

The 2011 version (Rev.5) is basically designed to cope with emerging threats to nuclear materials like “nuclear terrorism”. This version of this document introduces new standards for nuclear security with compliance to CPPNM (2005).

This resolution is unique as it legally binds all UN member states to constitute national law to prohibit any unlawful activity by non-state actors related to WMDs and their means of delivery.  This UNSC resolution strengthens the concept of nuclear security as under its obligation, all member states are now taking serious measures to deny any kind of access to WMDs for non-state actors at all levels under their jurisdiction. It therefore has a crucial role in nuclear security and prohibits all kind of illicit trafficking of “nuclear materials” as well.

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