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Drone strike killed Pakistan tourism

By Jahanzaib Haque
June 28 2013





When Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan’s (TTP) number two in command, Waliur Rehman Mehsud,was killed in a US drone strike in May, many anti-US conspiracy theorists cried foul, citing the attack as an act aimed at ensuring the TTP would refuse the new government’s dialogue overtures. The killing of Waliur Rehman would necessitate acts of vengeance by the TTP that would destabilise the country and throw the Pakistan Muslim League–Nawaz (PML-N) led government off course from day one, they said.

Whether this narrative is true or not, the consequences of that drone attack played out on June 23, in a shocking, brutal attack in which, militants dressed as paramilitary forces, killed nine foreign tourists and one Pakistani, in Gilgit-Baltistan. TTP spokesperson Ehsanullah Ehsan was quick to claim the slaughter, saying the group’s faction Junud-e-Hafsa carried out the attack as revenge against US drone attacks and Waliur Rehman’s death.

This butchery has put the final nail in the coffin that once was Pakistan’s tourism industry. Mountaineers — those brave souls — were among the few remaining international tourists who would still dare risk a visit to this terror-stricken country.

Unfortunately, this incident will also have a negative and far-reaching impact on the national psyche, which has already been hit hard by the destruction of Quaid-e-Azam’s Ziarat residency by the Balochistan Liberation Army.

Will the National Assembly’s passing of a resolution, condemning the killing of the foreign tourists be enough? Will Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s decision to sack or suspend a few officials suffice? Will Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif extending his sympathies to the bereaved families really be a satisfactory response to match the loss, anger and sense of hopelessness the nation, as a whole, feels? Most importantly, given that this attack has fuelled equal proportions of hatred for the TTP and the US, how will the new government proceed with both groups?

It should now be obvious to all that drone strikes have an enormous cost — one that Pakistan can ill-afford, given the impunity with which terrorists can act, and the dangerous narratives that are being fuelled with each attack. The TTP is a hydra-headed organisation focused on guerilla warfare and terrorist attacks, and while drones have been remarkably efficient at killing off some of their high command, others have risen to replace them and the network remains intact and fuelled with new purpose.

This does not mean that I believe negotiating with these scumbags is possible. Their end goal is power on their terms, and that is no solution. No, I believe they have to be destroyed, but drones are no longer helpful on this front. We Pakistanis will have to figure out how to achieve an end to the TTP without the explicit support of any external force.

That will be a real and hopefully sustainable victory.

Originally published by Tribune Pakistan

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