Islam Edit Bureau
the Terrorist Scourge?
Taseer: A Remembrance, a Reflection
Sikander Ahmed Shah
By New Age Islam Edit Bureau
lines are being written, Dhaka’s siege and terror attack is unfolding. By the
time the article appears in cold print, the picture will have become clearer
with regard to who is behind the audacious assault that saw many dead and
several taken hostage.
So far Isis
or Daesh has claimed ownership but it cannot be confirmed. The context of the
attack, however, is already set and needs no further information to be debated
and to learn lessons from.
nature of attack – explosives, grenades, suicide shooters aiming for foreigners
in the capital – resembles hits in Istanbul, Yemen and Lebanon. These are
either by Daesh or Daesh-inspired groups who may not have been directed by
Daesh leadership in Raqqa, Syria but rely on local resources to carry out their
countries, and others like them, are the new focus of groups that are either
displaced from their strongholds in the Middle East, say Iraq and also in Syria
and Libya, and are now expanding the footprint of their brand in more
vulnerable places. Africa, South East Asia and South Asia provide a fairly
hospitable environment to them.
countries that are either struggling with internal disorders – political,
economic or institutional – or have vulnerabilities on the border offer
ideological and physical ingress to these groups. Messages fall on receptive
ears if local grievances are large and dysfunctionality of the governing system
hinges on paralysis.
has been in the throes of an endless political battle between its political
begums. The Hasina government has added to the country’s woes by unleashing its
political vendetta by hanging and jailing its opponents – sometimes in the name
of history, sometimes in the name of nationalism. It has deployed state
resources towards political oppression sidestepping clear warnings from terror
cells that hacked bloggers and attacked writers and poets. Its alignment with
India to the point of becoming a satellite government has been a red rag to
radicalised groups that require just a push to cross the line from extremism to
Bangladesh, counterterrorism as a strategy does not exist: its government has
spent more time bloodying its hands killing its own citizens than tackling in a
systematic way organised terror. In fact it has been denying that terrorism of
the Daesh kind even exists in the country.
In case of
Turkey, Ankara’s handling of the Syrian issue and its concurrent engagement
with the Kurds in the north has provided an explosive mix that is now being
denoted by organised terrorists with depressing regularity. The airport attack,
Turkish officials have confirmed, was meant to take hostages alongside creating
mayhem and large-scale destruction.
Bangladesh, Turkey has a robust counterterrorism strategy – so robust that many
European countries have objected to its vast scope. However, Erdogan has been
deeply involved in stabilising his domestic support base that relies heavily on
his personal politics. So his push against terrorism is more an individual
effort than a national strategy that has a buy-in from different groups.
Besides, the inevitable blowback of the policy of keeping borders open and
projecting foreign policy objectives into a troubled zone is inescapable.
is obvious that in terms of efficacy Turkey as a state is far more advanced
than Bangladesh, but this has not meant greater control over the operations of
terror groups: the border and refugee situation has twined to neutralise
whatever advantages effective policy and planning – missing in case of Bangladesh
– may have given Ankara in its fight against terrorists. Monitoring funding,
screening movement of individuals and ensuring a check on arms shipment and
smuggling become difficult, nay impossible, when you play host or act as a
transition camp to hundreds of thousands of refugees. It becomes doubly
impossible when politics takes precedence over cogent planning based on
long-term threat assessment – the real failure in Bangladesh.
this attack – and others elsewhere – indicates that the distinction between
native, regional and international terror groups and their messages has become
pointless. A disenchanted or deviant group at home can suddenly cross the seven
oceans and kill in the name of a leader they have not seen from a country they
cannot even locate on the map. New media provides the virtual link; local
issues can be given a global casing of a super ideological battle; and it takes
one trainer to prepare a full brigade of attackers. This is how easy
perpetrating internationally-sanctioned terrorism has become for home-grown
groups in nearby neighbourhoods.
transnational nature of this new breed of terrorism requires deep cooperation
among clusters of countries that are affected by this disease. The absence of
experience sharing, intelligence cooperation and regional planning grids that
pick out hugely mobile and intelligent planners of terrorism by concerted
communication among different capitals is a recipe for terrorism expansion. In
case of Bangladesh, Pakistan, Afghanistan and India, there is zero
collaboration in analysing new trends of terrorism. Mutual blame game has
soured relations to the point of a practical break-down in diplomatic ties.
capitals most affected by terrorism are not on talking terms with each other. This
situation is tailor-made for trans-regional groups to make inroads and expand
their influence in different countries that try to combat them on their own
without any help and support from their neighbours.
Boko Haram’s operations have been hugely successful because, initially, no two
countries could agree to create a joint front against them. And by the time
Nigeria agreed with Niger, Cameroon, Chad and Beni to create a regional force
it was too late. Islamic State or Daesh flourished in the Middle East as the
Arabs, Iranians and Turks all dissipated their energies against each other
carving, in utter vain, individual paths to tackle the same challenge.
divisiveness of regional reaction is mirrored at a much larger scale between
Russia and the US on the one hand and Europe and Russia on the other. For years
all three agreed to disagree on how to stem the rising bloody tide of Isis
terror – whose origins interestingly lay in Washington’s policy of upending the
Middle Eastern region through mindless wars and regimes changes. As world
powers battled on the diplomatic tables, Isis rampaged taking over city after
the task for South Asian countries very clear: collaborate or be ready to be
shaken by unprecedented attacks such as the one in Dhaka. India is sitting on a
powder keg but is too arrogant to recognise it and is spending all its energies
trying to play Kabul and Dhaka against Islamabad. Pakistan’s huge successes
against organised networks are still far from becoming a job totally done.
There are very strong reasons for South Asian countries to mount a united
effort towards this common menace.
not have to be done on the back of the impractical romance of the South Asian
region becoming one borderless unit: Brexit has shown us the hapless end such
dreams meet. Regional cooperation should be fast-tracked purely out the
compulsion of fast-changing circumstances heralded by the Dhaka attack.
Governments have to talk to each other to weave a common front against these groups
in order to secure their own land. No one state can manage the threat, nor can
it fool itself into thinking that what is happening in the neighbourhood will
not reach and cross its doorstep.
regional cooperation, countries will have to close governance gaps at home.
Politically-split and domestically fragmented systems respond either too slowly
or not at all to highly active and motivated groups that would not care if it
is a holy month or Eid while planning and executing their agendas. International
terrorism fuels domestic terrorism and domestic turbulence is the staple diet
of local groups who easily connect with distant but deadly motivators.
This is a
lesson that applies as much to Turkey as it does to Bangladesh India and
Pakistan. This is a lesson the Middle East did not learn and the world has paid
heavily for that. We cannot have that repeated in this region.
Syed Talat Hussain is former executive editor of
The News and a senior journalist with Geo TV.
on a bakery-restaurant in Dhaka suggests that Bangladesh is now facing a
challenge that we in Pakistan have been fighting for the past decade. Religious
extremism is gradually gaining ground.
address following the attack, Prime Minister Sheikh Hasina Wajid appealed:
“Please stop tarnishing our noble religion … I implore you to come back to the
rightful path and uphold the pride of Islam.”
may be sensible words, the problem is much deeper rooted. What we know about
Bangladesh is that religious extremist groups have gained ground and that IS
has taken a foothold in what was once one of the most secular environments of
South Asia. To remove any doubt that this was their handiwork, the IS-linked
Amaq news agency said that the IS was behind the attack.
This is not
the first such attack. Bangladesh has been reeling from a wave of murders of
religious minorities and secular activists by extremists. But those murders
generally involved a handful of assailants. The latest attack appears to have
been on a much bigger scale and the first time that people were held hostage.
It is by far the deadliest of a recent wave of killings claimed by IS or a
local al Qaeda offshoot. What most fear is that such attacks will now continue?
Hasina’s government needs to wake up to the problem it is now facing. As a
Pakistani, one can only sit on the sidelines and give advice based on our own
experience. Owing to our shared history, we are possibly the last people
Bangladesh will take any advice from. Ironically, what we have gone through
over the past decade suggests that we are in the best position to not only give
advice but also try and assist.
But as we have
seen in the case of Pakistan-India relations, politics overtakes common sense.
At a time when as a region we should be jointly fighting the rise in terrorism,
we are all playing our little games.
visited Bangladesh late last year, what I saw was a thriving country where
foreigners could walk freely on the roads. Keeping aside Dhaka’s chaotic
traffic, the city was abuzz with activity and commerce. There was great
optimism. One could make out from cars on the roads and the buildings that were
springing up all over Dhaka, that the country was moving at a fast pace.
little games continue to be played. Every day when I opened the daily
newspaper, my heart sank. Front page venom against Pakistan. This despite the
fact that Bangladesh has been independent for over 40 years The hanging of the
Jamaat-e-Islami leaders and the predictable reaction that Pakistan gave to this
had only added fuel to the fire.
Pakistan was only one of many fronts opened by the government. The opposition
has been virtually silenced. A visit to the beautiful Dhaka Press Club
confirmed my worst fears. The press is under siege. I heard stories of editors
being harassed. Of papers being shut down. Of criticism being stifled. At the
time of my visit, social media had been blocked.
past, Sheikh Hasina’s government had blamed a string of deadly attacks against
religious minorities and foreigners on domestic opponents. The government
blamed the main opposition Bangladesh Nationalist Party.
authorities launched a nationwide crackdown on local militant groups, arresting
more than 11,000 people, under pressure to act on the spate of killings. But
many rights groups allege the arrests were arbitrary or were a way to silence
political opponents of the government.
say a government crackdown on opponents, including a ban on the country’s
largest militant party following a protracted political crisis, has pushed many
the end of the siege, officials said 13 hostages had been rescued after members
of a special force took control of the cafe. But while Hasina called the
outcome a “success” the security forces later revealed that 20 of those taken
captive were killed.
It is time
for Shaikh Hasina to take the country into confidence. Neither the opposition
nor the media is the enemy. Extremism can only be rooted out if all these
forces are on one side, not fighting each other.
Afghanistan to Turkey, Egypt and Pakistan, to Bangladesh, almost the entire
so-called Muslim world is being ravaged by a ferocious wave of fundamentalist
terror during the last few days of the Ramazan, and before Eid-ul-Fitr, a
festival to celebrate culmination of fasting. For the last few decades,
ordinary souls instead of celebration have been inflicted with vicious terror
and mayhem. Governments and their repressive state and security apparatus have
shown to be incapable of predicting or stopping terrorist acts, and life has
become more agonising for the ordinary folk during this holy month. In whole of
the Middle East this situation has exacerbated with the temporary derailing and
retreat of the revolutionary upheaval of 2011. In the case of Libya, Iraq,
Yemen and Syria, collapse of these states at varying degrees is leading to
genocide by warring factions.
religious terrorism has inflicted insult upon injury upon the teeming millions
of the inhabitants of these so-called Islamic countries that have been already
suffering from misery, poverty, disease and deprivation under the rule of these
“democratic,” dictatorial and monarchical/theocratic regimes, whose main aim
has been to perpetuate the rule of rotten capitalism that is imposed upon these
societies in various designs and pretences. These ongoing acts of terrorism
show that the situation is worsening with instability and turmoil and economic
ramifications that come with this menace for the already deprived populace.
Thursday, June 30, a massive Taliban-detonated bomb on the police academy near
the capital Kabul took at least 27 lives, wounding 40. Mousa Rahmati, the
district governor of Paghman, told the Associated Press that Thursday’s attack
took place about 20 kilometre to the west of Kabul. He said the trainee police
officers were returning from a training centre in Wardak province and were
heading to the capital on leave for Eid holidays. Former Afghan parliamentarian
Daoud Sultanzoy told Al-Jazeera, “This attacker and the group had enough
information to conduct this atrocity in a well planned manner...The Taliban,
will increase their attacks…”
is the latest major assault by the group, and comes just nine days after 14
Nepali security guards were killed in a suicide bomb attack on their minibus,
also in the city. In the last few months the various groups of the Taliban have
enhanced their acts of terror in the wake of the withdrawal of the imperialist
forces, and their rush to attain more and more control of the areas under their
rule in Afghanistan. On one hand, it is the internecine war between various
groups of the religious and not-so-religious warlords to expand their fiefdoms
for plunder, while on the other, a large number of these terrorist outfits are
the proxies of various imperialist states in the region and internationally.
as the “moderate” Islamic regime of Tayyip Erdogan lurches towards despotism
with severe press censorship, attacks on gay activists, the oppression of
Kurds, attacks on trade unions and left youth movements. However, its secret
dealings with the Daesh are coming home to roost in the form of increasing
terrorism. As we have been witnessing in Pakistan, Turkish state repression and
military operations have failed to weed out terrorist groups or their vicious
acts of bloodshed and mayhem. Again, it’s the ordinary people who suffer the
most from this state and non-state terrorism.
June 28, three suicide bombers opened fire, and then blew themselves up in
Istanbul’s main international airport, killing at least 42 people and wounding
another 239, in what Turkey’s prime minister said appeared to have been an
attack by the militant Islamic State (IS).
this is the latest in a string of attacks that have struck Turkey in recent
months. On June 7, at least seven police officers and four civilians died when
a bomb ripped through a police vehicle near the historic centre of Istanbul. On
March 19, three Israelis and an Iranian were killed, and dozens injured in a
suicide bombing blamed on IS militants targeting an Istanbul shopping
thoroughfare, the Istiklal Caddesi. On March 13, 34 people were killed, and
dozens wounded in a suicide car bomb attack in Ankara. On February 17, 29
people were killed in a car bomb targeting the Turkish military in Ankara. On
January 12, an attack that was targeted on Germany and the EU, 11 German
tourists were killed, and another 16 people wounded in a suicide attack in
Istanbul’s Sultanahmet district, the ancient tourist heart of the city and home
of the Blue Mosque.
question of the involvement of the IS in these attacks is dubious. The IS so
far has claimed only one relatively minor attack in the last year. On the other
hand, Erdogan’s relationship with the ISIS is dubious. It’s much like his
counterparts in Pakistan who “run with the hare and hunt with the hounds” since
the 1978 Saur revolution in Afghanistan, and are now facing the music of their
own Frankenstein monsters. Even a mainstream bourgeois editorial in Pakistan
exposed this duplicity of the Erdoðan regime and the Turkish state, “In this
vortex of military, diplomatic and humanitarian crises, Turkey has to decide
which side it is on. The Syrian war is a multilateral conflict, but it often
appears President Erdogan’s government looks at it through its Kurdish prism
and believes in a ‘get Assad first’ philosophy... Also, Ankara is grossly
mistaken if it thinks IS could help it sort the Kurds out; it should know that
IS does not believe in any alliances; it believes in a kill-all philosophy,
which considers death and destruction an end in themselves. It is time Ankara
clarified its thinking and made the right choice.”
midst of the relentless crisis their systems are inflicted with, they cannot
ever resolve or find a way out. They play these double games, and often use
these non-state actors as allies or proxies to enforce the writ of their
eroding and corrupt bourgeois states. The ruling classes and their states have
connived with and sponsored this religious fanaticism to drive a wedge for
splintering the movements of emancipation of the workers and the youth that
erupt time and again in these societies.
This reactionary bourgeois unleashes and props
up these intransigent bigots to carry out these atrocities to perpetuate their
rulership. But these policies have often backfired on them. This mayhem exposes
the fact that like fascism this fundamentalist terror is in the distilled
essence of capitalism in terminal decay. Ultimately, the elimination of
terrorism in linked to the obliteration of the capitalist system itself. Any
other solution is nothing but deceptive and impotent verbosity. The oppressed
workers and youth in these lands have arisen in revolutionary movements in the
past, and they shall have to carryout a socialist revolution to emancipate
society from this scourge.
Lal Khan is the editor of Asian Marxist Review
and international secretary of Pakistan Trade Union Defence Campaign.
Taseer’s brutal assassination, Pakistan has lost an exceptional public figure
who possessed a modernist intellect, bold candour, physical courage,
professional acumen, entrepreneurial capacity and political grit. Though
occasionally he was a difficult person to relate to, he was always a
refreshingly distinct, inimitable individual.
I knew him
as a personal friend, a family friend, a neighbour in Karachi (1969-1971), a
professional consultant and a political colleague. Some or all aspects of this
multi-dimensional relationship spanned over 40 years even as the ties
intensified or weakened. When I was critically ill in January 1972, and doctors
apprehended that a blood transfusion may be needed urgently, it was Salmaan who
was most forthcoming amongst my friends and instantly donated 500 cc of his
blood. Though eventually the transfusion was not required as I miraculously
recovered, Salmaan’s selfless gesture and his blood helped other persons in
urgent need to recover their normal health. That spontaneous, unforgettable act
by Salmaan symbolised his generosity and compassion.
years later, and exactly 24 hours after he was gunned down, I went to the site
of his death to join a civil society rally in Islamabad convened to honour his
memory. The spot still stained by his blood was like a piece of mother earth
frozen by the horror of what ignorant hate can do to sacred life.
sustained interaction with Salmaan was unusually cool and intense. He had only
recently become a minister in the caretaker cabinet appointed by President
Musharraf in the last quarter of 2007. An emergency was imposed and the
constitution held in abeyance. We met at a large mehndi celebration. We drew
aside for about 20 minutes of a one-to-one encounter. It was also, for the most
part, a one-sided harangue from me, lecturing him on the demerits of endorsing
a gross violation of the constitution because of President Musharraf’s action
in the capacity of a simultaneously serving chief of army staff (COAS). I knew
there was only a limited right to sermonise because eight years earlier, I
myself had joined General Musharraf’s cabinet upon his unconstitutional seizure
of power. But to his credit, and most unusual for an irrepressible person like
Salmaan, he heard me out in virtual silence, attempting only one or two mild
responses. He both surprised and encouraged me into thinking that perhaps, at
heart, he agreed with all or some of my hectoring.
In the 1970
elections, the first ever polls in the country’s history, we had the privilege
of working together as supporters of a new party called the PPP. With other
mutual friends like his professional partner, the respected chartered
accountant Khurshid Hadi and budding lawyer, Syed Muzaffar Hussain Shah, later
to become a chief minister of Sindh and Speaker of the Sindh Assembly, we went
door-to-door in PECHS and other localities to canvass support for Kamal Azfar,
PPP candidate for the National Assembly. Despite our candidate’s defeat, the
political baptism that occurred in the historic election proved to be a binding
element for our lives.
A few years
later, on more than one occasion, he wanted me to open an office of my
advertising agency in Dubai where he was already on his way to making millions.
I declined but remained enthused about his political interests. His highly
readable book, Bhutto: A Political Biography, released within months of the
leader’s execution, aptly attempted to capture the subject’s paradoxes. Perhaps
reflecting the inherent candour that characterised Salmaan’s personality, parts
of that book did not please Benazir Bhutto.
shortly after Mr Bhutto’s callous execution, in the book’s preface, Salmaan
praised the positive contributions the leader made. But he also bluntly
referred to Z A Bhutto’s negative, self-destructive tendencies. For example, in
chapter 16 titled ‘The Bhutto conundrum’, Salmaan wrote: “...he hated criticism
with violent intemperance, and could be ruthless with those who voiced
it...Bhutto saw enemies where none existed...he treated his political opponents
as dangerous subversives, and succeeded in making them so...he weakened the
judiciary, the industrial community, the bureaucracy and in the end, even his
own party. He could not bear equals and ensured that even within the PPP, an
alternative leadership never emerged.”
notwithstanding, Salmaan also opposed the tyranny of General Ziaul Haq and
martial law. With exceptional courage and fortitude he suffered torture and
solitary confinement in the dungeons of the Lahore Fort.
days of being politically persecuted, soon after my election to the Senate in
March 1985, he addressed a detailed, hand-written letter that helped me move
appeals and motions, both outside and inside the Senate demanding justice for
political prisoners. Our political paths converged again after the polls in
November 1988. He soon became leader of the Opposition in the Punjab Assembly
and withstood the Sharif brothers’ wrath while I became the first member of the
Senate to formally join the PPP at Benazir’s invitation and then joined her
first federal cabinet as Minister of State for Information and Broadcasting.
1990s, in our own respective ways, we drifted apart from the PPP leadership. He
retained an ambivalent relationship while I formally resigned in mid-1996
during BB’s second term of government as the misuse of executive power and the
digression from the party’s original mission had become unacceptable.
not die in vain. His tragic loss poses major new challenges to politics and
civil society in Pakistan, a subject that requires separate attention shortly.
Javed Jabbaris a former Senator and federal
of this country in general is sometimes so frightening and depressing that
worrying about it is perfectly natural. The recent murder of the world-renowned
Qawwal, Shaheed Amjad Sabri, is a classic example of why Pakistanis are in a
constant state of negativity. It feels as if there is no sense of physical or
economic security out there — no beacon of hope.
to remember is that when we look at things from an individual perspective, no
matter who one is, life is stressful and it may even appear to be hopeless. No
one lives in a utopian world. Everybody’s life has issues — whether financial,
health-related or psychological. The question is what do you do about it? Do
you become negative and bitter? Obsess about your current predicament?
Perpetually remain in a filthy mood and treat the people around you like
emotional punching bags? The trick is to snap out of the negative space in
one’s mind and focus on the good in your life. But that, we all know, is much
easier said than done.
yourself to recognise negative thought patterns is one way of dealing with this
problem. This requires you to actually watch and be aware of your thoughts. You
need to stop your mind from wandering off by focusing on something that
requires your full attention like cooking or driving a car or a work project.
This breaks the cycle of anxiousness and criticism even before it begins.
Fortunately, the human mind can only really focus on one thing at a time.
thoughts are a habit of one’s brain that has to be broken. The problem is that
the second you consciously try not to think about something, that’s all you can
think about. It’s like when I say don’t think about the colour red. Now, all
you will see is red. That’s just how the human brain is programmed.
recognise that your mind is about to veer into an unpleasant space is half the
battle won. As Michel de Montaigne said, “My life has been full of terrible
misfortunes, most of which never happened”. You see it is the ‘what ifs’ of
life that drive us to madness, not so much the ‘what is’. Worrying about the
future and feeling low about the past stands in the way of the joy of the here
and now. Stressing about larger issues leads us to ignore the simple pleasures
in life like reading a book or listening to music. We need to learn to live in
the moment and appreciate it.
stressful situations and people is always a good plan. If you find that you are
prone to negativity then make a conscious effort to avoid people who put
further unnecessary stress on you. If going to weddings reminds you of how you
are still single, then don’t go. If meeting your aunt who constantly comments
on your weight depresses you, then keep your communications with her short and
sweet. Or better yet, avoid her altogether. These are all choices that we make.
Is going to a wedding or meeting the aunt more important that your sanity and
peace of mind?
is also crucial to remaining sane. There are some things that are totally in
our control and others that are not. I have a friend who has been waiting for a
pay raise for two years. Every single time I meet her or speak to her she finds
a way to bring it up. I know she is so obsessed with the fact that she is stuck
in a rut at work that she has done nothing to change it. Instead, she has
become ever more bitter and unproductive at work. Had she accepted that she is
in a dead end job she would have applied for a new job a year and a half ago
like everyone advised her.
learn to give yourself a pat on the back. When was the last time you
congratulated yourself on your achievements? When we give ourselves positive
reinforcement it pushes negative thoughts farther away. So every time you feel
low, pull out a map. Stare at it until you realise what a great adventure life
is and how there is so much left to do and so much left to see. Don’t let
yourself get in the way of your own happiness.
Mullah Akhtar Mansour was killed in a US drone strike in Balochistan. In
response, Pakistan expressed deep concern, terming the attack as “crossing a
red line” because it was the first time that a drone strike had been conducted
outside Fata, hundreds of miles away from any region in Pakistan, currently
experiencing internal conflict.
be stated at the outset that US drone attacks in Pakistan cannot produce an
international armed conflict, nor can a non-international armed conflict (NIAC)
exist in Pakistan in which the US is a legitimate warring party under
international law. The former kind of conflict cannot exist between the two
states as they are not engaged in any hostilities against each other and, in
fact, project themselves as allies. Similarly, an NIAC between the US and
Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) cannot exist because under the laws of war
only a host state can enter into such a conflict with domestic armed groups.
strikes in Pakistan are in fact one-way attacks, where there is no exchange of
fire between US forces and TTP. An armed conflict can only exist if there are
sustained or protracted attacks and counterattacks between warring parties.
Combatants are required to be actively engaged in hostilities with each other,
with the intensity of violence passing a particular threshold. However, because
TTP cannot fight back against UAVs and because there are no US armed personnel
stationed in Pakistan that TTP can target, such requirements of engagement are
A zone of
conflict is the territory within which there are active and sustained
hostilities and where the laws of war are fully operationalised. In addition to
exchange of attacks and intensity and duration of assaults, armed conflicts
also possess a spatial dimension. Thus, war in one country does not translate
into a global war between all states or between citizens of hostile states
The law of
war is being directly challenged.
Thus a ‘red
line’ was indeed crossed when Mullah Mansour was killed near Quetta, one of
Pakistan’s biggest urban centres. There is complete absence of any form of
armed conflict in Quetta. It is true that Quetta, like Pakistan’s other urban
centres, has witnessed acts of local terrorism. But such sporadic violations of
domestic criminal law do not by themselves produce an armed conflict, which
requires a far higher threshold for the exchange of force, the intensity and
duration of violence, and the organisation of armed groups that qualifies them
as fighters engaged in an armed conflict.
In the same
vein, these sites of attacks are hundreds of miles away from any active
conflict zones. In summary, the law of war is inapplicable in such parts of
Pakistan; to hold otherwise would be to take a position unsupported by
international law, and one which will lead to future violations of the
Constitution — not to mention the law of armed conflict.
law of war is being directly challenged by terrorists and hegemonic states
alike. While terrorists don’t see themselves as bound by this corpus of law,
powerful states like the US are also trying to contort it for military
Humanitarian Law (IHL) recognises that war is a reality, but seeks to limit its
adverse effects on civilians and combatants alike by incorporating important
legal standards and parameters that warring parties have to abide by. The
existence and delimitation of a spatial dimension of a conflict zone is one
such powerful constraint built into IHL to protect against unnecessary
escalation of violence and the use of unnecessary, disproportionate force,
especially in areas far removed from the conflict zone, and to prevent the
supplanting of the human rights regime and its protections unless absolutely
By making a
mockery of the requirement of a conflict zone, the US government — by arguing
it can target anyone, anywhere because the whole world is a global battlefield
— challenges IHL in the most fundamental way. In a sense, the US is arguing
that it can create an armed conflict and a conflict zone at any location where
it conducts a drone strike. In other words, the location is determined by who is
targeted in its view, and not the nature of hostilities in the region.
contorted and asymmetrical version of IHL is adopted, it would displace human
rights law and the domestic laws of a state wherever the US conducts drones
strikes at whim. This would end up depriving the people of targeted states of
fundamental procedural and substantive due process protections — inclusive of
all essential civil and political rights — that guarantee life, liberty and
property and which are considered non-derogable under the US constitution.
Sikander Ahmed Shah is the author of
International Law and Drone Strikes in Pakistan: The Legal and Socio-political