President Pervez Musharraf, unnerved by President Bush’s blatant ultimatum of 6 November 2001, allowed the CIA, secretly, to fly unmanned aerial vehicles (drones) from Shamsi Airfield to target “terrorists” within Pakistan. He wanted the drones to operate under Pakistan’s control but the US did not agree. The US Air Force, operating under the CIA’s Special Activities Division, started drone strikes in 2004. Till 2018, it had conducted hundreds of raids, mainly in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), bordering Afghanistan. These operations were closely synchronized with drone campaigns across the border in Afghanistan. The US claimed that the strikes were “precise” and, hence, no civilians were harmed. But that was a misstatement. The strikes did cause enormous collateral damage and were, eventually, criticized and condemned. On 3 June 2009, the UN Human Rights Council (UNHRC) criticized the US for its failure “to keep track of civilian casualties of its military operations, including the drone attacks …” The US, first, challenged the UNHRC’s “jurisdiction over US military actions” but then stated that the “military (was) investigating any wrongdoing and doing all it (could) to furnish information about the deaths,” which it never did. On 27 October 2009, the UNHRC investigator, Philip Alston, criticized the US’ refusal to respond to the UN’s concerns; and called on it to confirm that “it was not randomly killing people in violation of international law through its use of drones on the Afghan border.” “Otherwise,” he added, “you have the problematic bottom line, which is that the Central Intelligence Agency is running a program that is killing significant numbers of people and there is absolutely no accountability in terms of the relevant international laws.” In his report, submitted to UNHRC on 3 June 2010, he described the US as “the most prolific user of targeted killings” in the world. Pakistani governments had been playing a double game. They continued to give covert permission to the US to carry out attacks and condemn them in public. The drone strikes were halted immediately after the Salaladebacle (26 November 2011). Pakistan Air Force took over control of Shamshi Airfield from the US in December 2011. But, while negotiations over the reopening of land routes to the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) dragged on for seven months, Shamsi Airbase was restored to the US within two months. The drone strikes resumed on 10 January 2012. The UN High Commissioner for Human Rights, Navi Pillay, visited Pakistan in the first week of June 2012. He called for fresh investigations into the “indiscriminate” drone attacks, which “constituted human rights violations.” In the follow-up, Christof Heyns, the UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary, or Arbitrary Executions, released a damning report on 18 June 2012, which called on the US to justify its use of targeted killings rather than attempting to capture the Al-Qaida and the Taliban suspects. Ben Emerson, the UN Special Rapporteur, visited Pakistan in March 2013 to look into civilian casualties. He, too, termed the strikes as “a violation of the sovereignty of Pakistan.” However, it was not until May 2013 that the US Administration publicly acknowledged its approval of the “drone war.” Dumping the entire baggage in Pakistan’s basket, it stated that Pakistan was unable to “control and keep track of terrorist activities.” It had, therefore, no choice but to resort to drone strikes in self-defense under Article 51 in Chapter VII of the UN Charter. President Obama, in his speech at the National Defense University on 23 May 2013, said, “we act against terrorists who pose a continuing and imminent threat to the American people, and when there are no other governments capable of effectively addressing the threat.” Till then, successive Pakistan governments, too, had been playing a double game. They continued to give covert permission to the US to carry out these attacks and condemn these in public. In fact, they “not only tacitly agreed to the drone flights but, in 2008, requested that Americans increase them.” In October 2013, Amnesty International “strongly condemned the strikes”. It stated that “the number of arbitrary civilian deaths … and the violation of Pakistani sovereignty meant that some of the strikes could be considered as unlawful executions and war crimes.” The strikes were stopped in December 2013. The “drone war” was declared as “basically over” in May 2014. However, the strikes continued till 2018, albeit at a much smaller scale. The CIA and independent sources differ on the number of militant versus civilian casualties. The CIA’s estimates are based on a controversial method that “counts all military-age males in a strike zone as combatants … unless there is explicit intelligence posthumously proving them innocent.” The New America Foundation estimated the militant casualties at 80 per cent, the claim dismissed by several independent experts who believed that “far fewer militants and many more civilians (had) been killed.” The Bureau of Investigative Journalism claimed that 429 drone attacks conducted during 2004-2017, claimed a total of 2,514 to 4,023 lives, out of which civilians, including 172 to 207 children, were only 424 to 969; and the number of injured was 1,162 to 1,749. Pakistan stated that most of those killed were Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants. But, according to an article in the Brookings Institution, “drone strikes may have killed 10 or so civilians for every militant that they killed.” It was this collateral damage that provided the innocent victims with one more reason to turn against the state of Pakistan. Of course, the US was the main culprit and was, rightly, condemned and avenged. But although Pakistan had joined the US invasion of Afghanistan under duress, it was seen as an accomplice in the “killing of its own people.” It was this mindlessness that fuelled anti-Pakistan sentiment in FATA and induced the birth of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). (To be continued) The writer is a former diplomat, based in Canberra, and can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.