“If you happen to live underneath drones, not thinking about them is not an option. Having drones hovering above you is bound to mess with your head, especially because you might not even be able to see them … Congratulations everyone! We did it! We managed to make one of the last remaining universal symbols of pleasantness, blue sky, completely f****** terrifying!” – John Oliver
The Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) is a northwest province of Pakistan that borders Afghanistan. The Pakistani federal government governs FATA under a special set of laws called the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR), which exempts this region from adhering to the laws that govern the rest of the country. Only the president of Pakistan has the power to amend laws or overturn the FCR.
Under the FCR, collective punishment is allowed. This means that your family, friend, neighbor, acquaintance, or even your entire ethnic group can be punished due to your own wrongdoings, even if they had no part in what you did. The Pakistani government and the United States have taken advantage of this loophole to justify the killings of thousands of innocent civilians in this region through drone attacks and air force jet strikes in hopes of eradicating terrorism. Despite these regulations being a violation of international law and global human rights, there has been little effort to overturn these regulations and give the FATA people back their most basic human rights.
Living Under Drones
Blue, clear skies instill constant fear and terror in the residents of FATA because they do not know if they will be the next victims of the drone strikes. These attacks have not only killed thousands of innocent civilians, but have also robbed them of their livelihoods, education, health, psycho-emotional well-being, and basic human rights. For example, one victim became disabled, lost his father, and thus, was unable to finish his masters degree. He has been unable to support his two younger brothers, who also don’t work and now can’t afford to go to school.
Stanford and NYU conducted an independent investigation into whether, and to what extent, the drone strikes conformed to international law and how the drone strikes have affected civilians in FATA. After 9 months of extensive research, they developed the Living Under Drones Report, which details the killings of innocent civilians, the psychological trauma of FATA civilians, the low percentage of high-level terrorists killed (only 2%), and the lack of transparency and accountability of the US government, among many more vital details related to the drone strikes. According to this report, a study shows that 74% of Pakistanis now consider America an enemy. While the US and Pakistan may have good intentions of attempting to eradicate terrorism, violating international law, taking away basic human rights, and disrupting the lives of innocent civilians, is not the answer. Imagine that you are a FATA civilian. How would you feel if you were constantly living in fear of being killed, especially when you have done nothing wrong?
Are Drone Strikes Killing or Creating Terrorists?
For many years now, there has been a highly controversial debate over whether drone strikes are killing terrorists or creating them. In my opinion, the answer is both – drone strikes are killing terrorists, but they are also creating them. However, I believe that they are creating terrorists much more quickly than they are killing them.
With that said, you have probably heard about the infamous madrasas that promote extremist thought and teach children how to kill. Children are easily brainwashed because the Taliban provides them and their families with an education, health services, monetary support, and promises of a much better afterlife, whereas Americans just kill their loved ones. In addition, new schools are sprouting up around Pakistan that promote the ideologies of Osama Bin Laden since he stood up against the US. According to Ghazi, the Imam of the Red Mosque in Islamabad and promoter of these schools, “We share the same objectives as the Taliban but we don’t offer military training. We work on minds.” Scary, right?
Seems to me that the Taliban and their followers have figured out a long time ago that that education is the key to gaining massive groups of followers, and have used America’s War on Terror to convince civilians that the US is just trying to hurt them, not help them. And what has the US done to prove otherwise? Projects that work on de-radicalizing former Taliban recruits, stories from former Taliban hostages, and observations of traumatized IDPs in refugee camps have all shown the dire need to provide the FATA people with an education and security. So, when will the US realize that drones and war are not the answer, but rather providing basic education, safety and security, and human rights to the FATA people is? In the words of Malala Yousafzai, “Drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact.”
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