Hangu drone strike — Haqqanis still protected?      

Hangu drone strike — Haqqanis still protected?         

The drone strike in Hangu that killed a Haqqani Network leader and his partner is yet another drone attack outside FATA. Drone strikes in Pakistan’s settled areas are becoming more frequent. There have been similar strikes in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan provinces. The latest strikehas raised many questions, which will likely remain unanswered for now. Pakistan government has been claiming that Haqqani network is not present in Pakistan anymore and that its leaders have left the country. Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US Aizaz Chaudhry had claimed last month that the Haqqani Network has moved to Afghanistan and advised the Afghan authorities to ‘tackle them within their territory instead of blaming Pakistan’, but the killing of the group’s commander in the latest attack raises doubts about the claims.

There has always been an ambiguity surrounding the Haqqani Network as the Pakistani leadership has often issued contradictory statements,which confuse the country’s stance. The military says that the action against terrorists will not have a division of ‘good and bad militants’ (which has long been Pakistan’s unofficial policy vis-à-vis terrorism), and yet some ministers have issued statements suggesting Pakistan still plans on ‘keeping’ Haqqani network-type groups because they are not launching attacks in Pakistan. PM’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz is on record asking why Pakistan should take action against groups that are not directly attacking the country. He had also admitted that some Haqqani Network leaders live in Pakistan.

 After the recent attacks in Afghanistan however, when the Afghan leadership accused Pakistan of backing the anti-Afghan groups, our political leadership reiterated that anti-Afghan groups have no presence in Pakistan. But the killing of the Haqqani Network members in a settled area of the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province suggests otherwise. Pakistan will have to answer questions about the alleged sanctuaries of anti-Afghan groups in the country. Is our security policy still protecting the ‘good militants’?

Pakistan government has always maintained that drone attacks are violation of the country’s sovereignty but interestingly, this time there is silence from the government. Does this mean the government consented to the strike? If so, the nation should be taken into confidence. And it is time for the government to state in clear terms what action has been taken against the leaders of the Haqqani Network in the ongoing operation against terrorism. Denying the presence of the group in the country is just not enough.  *