Pakistan: Could collaboration with US on drone strikes constitute “high treason”?



(First published on personal blog Nov 11th 2013)

Treason doth never prosper: what’s the reason?
For if it prosper, none dare call it treason. 

Sir John Harington

Could alleged collaboration with US on drones strikes against citizens in Pakistan constitute treason against the state of Pakistan?

Below is the definition of “high treason” as defined within the laws of the country.

High treason.—1[(1)     Any person who abrogates or subverts or suspends or holds in abeyance, or attempts or conspires to abrogate or subvert or suspend or hold in abeyance, the Constitution by use of force or show of force or by any other unconstitutional means shall be guilty of high treason.]

(2) Any person aiding or abetting 2[or collaborating] the acts mentioned in clause (1) shall likewise be guilty of high treason.

3[(2A) An act of high treason mentioned in clause (1) or clause (2) shall not be validated by any court including the Supreme Court and a High Court.]

(3) 4[Majlis-e-Shoora (Parliament)] shall by law provide for the punishment of persons found guilty of high treason.

Recently the Prime Minister of Pakistan, Nawaz Sharif met with President Obama and US Secretary of State, John Kerry.

On 24th October 2013 the BBC stated that Sharif discussed several issues with Obama including sovereignty and counter-terrorism and Sharif is reported as saying,

“I also brought up the issue of drones in our meeting, emphasising the need for an end to such strikes”

On 2nd November, BBC reported  that Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Pakistan’s interior minister has said the death of Pakistani Taliban leader Hakimullah Mehsud has destroyed the country’s nascent peace process,

“this is not just the killing of one person, it’s the death of all peace efforts”

On 4th November 2013, Sharif is reported by BBC as saying that,

“US drone strikes violate Pakistan’s sovereignty and international laws and are counter-productive to efforts to bring peace and stability to the country and the region….

Gone are the days when our national security policies were determined through telephone calls from abroad. We now have a democratically elected government, chosen by the people of Pakistan”

Commenting on the need to end violence Sharif said,

“but it cannot be done over-night, nor can it be done by unleashing senseless force against our citizens, without first making every effort to bring the misguided and confused elements of society back to the mainstream”.

“the government has to ensure that political parties, the military and civil society are on the same page to create an environment necessary to tackle this problem”

Surely then, given that all those participating in the All Parties Conference (APC)  had made a unanimous decision to go for dialogue with insurgents, then anyone within Pakistan involved in sharing intelligence leading to a drone strike would be guilty of treason against the government. If so, those collaborating have allegedly contributed to acts carried out to inflict damage (senseless force) on Pakistani citizens thus subverting away from a government’s democratic process.

Force in the form of a drone strike has been used against Pakistani citizens on multiple occasions and that force has now derailed a democratic decision to work towards peace talks made by the political parties of Pakistan.

This issue should not be separated from judging the nature of individuals targeted by drones within Pakistan instead focus on whether treason may have been committed against an elected government.

Given this line of thought, a lawyer could look back retrospectively to the recorded words of this government and previous governments against drones to determine any dates where other internal agents may have co-operated with the US to inflict drone strikes which would allegedly be “high treason”.

As Farooq Sumar points out in his excellent article Taliban Talks Sabotaged in the Daily Times (Monday Nov 11th 2013);

It is said that for a successful drone strike ground support in the form of intelligence is required, which means spies, chips, and lasers etc would be needed. Then the question arises who has been providing this intelligence and hardware and why? If it was provided by our intelligence agencies in the past as a result of the secret agreement, should it not have been stopped with the coming of the Sharif government and its publicly announced policy against drones? One can either conclude that the government’s writ does not extend to the defence establishment or that the Nawaz government is also complicit and hypocritical. In both cases it raises serious issues for the nation to ponder.

Governments can’t play it both waysthey are either for or against drone strikes.

Talking in the Geo News programme ‘Aapas Ki Baat’ last Friday, Najam Sethi alleged national security institutions of Pakistan were fully involved in the drone attack on Hakimullah Mehsud.

Imran Khan stated to the BBC that the US drone strike was “absolutely deliberate – this was a deliberate targeting of the peace process.” However the obvious question to follow should surely be, were the US working in isolation or in collaboration with Pakistan agencies against an elected body.

If Pakistan government is against drones, then every effort must be made to determine who exactly is involved in betraying the government which would mean the US being called upon to submit any information showing co-operation from within Pakistan and acts of conspiracy. A government that is dishonest with the people does not deserve to be in power.

Nawaz Sharif is reported in Business Standard as not wanting to take a tough stance against US for “one incident” but this is a total cop-out, and an insult to voters. it is many incidents and probably with a fair amount of assistance from those within Sharif’s own country

Again if as the article below states there was no written agreement with US to allow drones strikes and the government are stating in public they are not supporting drone strikes, then an argument could be made for treason for anyone within Pakistan supporting targeted killing through providing information leading to an attack

Arguably the most famous treason case in Britain was that of a disillusioned Catholic named Guy Fawkes attempting to blow up Protestant King James I and his parliament. The drone strike in Pakistan was not aimed at obliterating the government but by blowing up Hakimullah Mehsud and his companions it has undoubtedly also blown up and sabotaged the APC’s chances of dialogue and we have yet to see what blowback may follow.

As someone that assisted lawyers in the UK taking cases against my own government, sometimes even lawyers can’t see the wood for the trees or perhaps don’t have the courage or initiative to try a new legal approach. If I were a lawyer in Pakistan right now, treason would one legal route I would be pursuing to “assist” the government in its efforts to keep alive hopes for dialogue. Then the government might also maintain a modicum of credibility with ordinary citizens who are deserving of peace.

Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad.  She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also the survivor of US “collateral damage”.

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