It might have been easy to doubt the veracity of the Pakistan government’s public protestations against US drone strikes in light of secret agreements between the two governments over many years. Indeed, several commentators likened the situation to Kabuki theatre (e.g., here, here). A series of recent events, however, cast doubt on that explanation, including the recent drones report of the UN Special Rapporteur on Human Rights and Terrorism (see paras. 53-54) and a speech by the Pakistan government before the United Nations calling for a cessation of the strikes.

As Just Security reported in this morning’s News Roundup, the Pakistan military successfully test fired 35mm Oerlikon guns to take down a drone in Punjab province. Prime Minister Sharif and the Army Chief watched the military exercise first hand. And, media in Pakistan and India (here, here) linked this political stagecraft to the government’s expression of opposition to US drones.

The Economic Times of India reports:

Meanwhile, the Prime Minister, who arrived at a helipad near the firing range in Cholistan desert, was received by [Army Chief General] Kayani.

Sharif said the government had made its position clear that drone strikes constituted a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty, were violative of international humanitarian laws, besides being counter-productive to its efforts for bringing peace and stability in Pakistan and the region. 

He also maintained that his government would not take any foreign dictation to determine its national security policies, saying, the days when the country’s policies were determined through telephone calls from abroad are gone.