JSD Student Dawood Ahmed in 'Foreign Policy' on Pakistan and Drones

Pakistan's cheap talk on drones
Dawood Ismail Ahmed
Foreign Policy
March 29, 2012

For years, Pakistani governments and its military have publicly opposed U.S. drone strikes carried out within Pakistani territory.  Only last week, Pakistan's Parliament demanded an end to drone strikes that violate Pakistan's "sovereignty, independence and territorial integrity" And why should they not be infuriated? By most estimates drone strikes are alleged to have killed at least a few hundred innocent Pakistani civilians, including children as young as eight, and injured over a thousand others. 

This begs the question: why, despite all the noise about sovereignty in the eight years since the first drone strike in 2004, have two successive Pakistani governments, military and civilian, failed to hire a single lawyer to challenge drone strikes within the United Nations, a foreign court or even a local Pakistani court? To be sure, the government could argue that it is not completely ineffective against the drone attacks: it did recently close Shamsi air base to protest against the NATO strikes that killed Pakistani soldiers. It could also provide a few superficial defenses to justify inaction: Pakistan is a poor country and therefore cannot afford to engage international lawyers or organizations or that any such action will be futile in the face of U.S. hegemony. However, neither alibi can withstand scrutiny.

Pakistan has routinely employed resources on international legal matters when there is political will to do so. In 1999, Pakistan submitted a dispute to the International Court of Justice against India regarding an airspace incident. In 2009, Pakistan proposed a resolution at the U.N. Human Rights Council to prevent "defamation of religion" or blasphemy. Last year, Pakistan sought to engage the International Court of Justice in another dispute against India concerning water rights. And Pakistan, over the years, has invested significant resources to highlight the Kashmir problem at the U.N.