The Obama administration’s use of drones is facing yet another heavy accusation. A United Nations investigator, Ben Emerson said in a report summarizing his human rights and counter-terror monitoring visit,
“The position of the Government of Pakistan is quite clear. It does not consent to the use of drones by the United States on its territory and it considers this to be a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty and territorial integrity.
“As a matter of international law the US drone campaign in Pakistan is therefore being conducted without the consent of the elected representatives of the people, or the legitimate government of the state. It involves the use of force on the territory of another state without its consent and is therefore a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty.”
This sentiment was also shared in a statement by Pakistan’s Foreign Ministry, which said that the drone strikes are “are counterproductive, against international law and a violation of its sovereignty and territorial integrity.”
Pakistan’s consent to the strikes has been a topic of argument ever since relations between the two nations have soured as a result of a U.S. air strike that killed Pakistani soldiers in 2011. These complaints also stem from general debate around the concept of “collateral damages” (civilian lives) to which both the U.S. and Pakistan officials claim have been minimal, though clearly what is being reported doesn't match up in every instance.
Regardless, it’s insisted that the U.S. and Pakistani military as well as politicians are in high contact and continue to consent to U.S. strikes. But even when consent is present, are U.S. drone strikes still violating Pakistan’s sovereignty? If sovereignty remains defined by Emerson’s observations and reports, then the answer is yes. His admissions of Pakistan also finding the drone strikes to be “counterproductive” as well as “perpetuating the problem of terrorism” in the region are legitimate complaints that the U.S. desperately needs to take into consideration.
Emerson said, “Based on its direct knowledge of local conditions, Pakistan aims to a sustainable counter-terrorism strategy that involves dialogue and development in this complex region and that tackles not only the manifestations of terrorism but also its root causes.”
However, at present, the U.S. is giving Pakistan very little breathing room to develop and place these strategies into action. And honestly, the U.S. should not be surprised to see if and when a correlation between civilian lives taken in drone strikes and the number of Pakistanis seeking as a result.