Mostly it’s like a rule that the issue a government and its functionaries spend a lot of time on is no issue at all. Drone attacks over the Pakistani territory and the zeal of the government of Pakistan from its top political and military leadership to the parliament should be treated likewise. Indeed, everyone whether he is in the government or outside it, whether he is an ordinary citizen like me or a special dignitary like Mr. President and Mr. Prime Minister who are sitting over the public exchequer of Pakistan, all (and sundry) are stormily concerned about the sovereignty of Pakistan being damaged by these Drone attacks. But let me confess I am one of those few (if any) who are least concerned and who consider it no issue. That is what this article intends to argue about.
Our government is a declared ally of the US government in the war against terrorists including those who planned 9/11, abetted, aided and executed it, who still support their terrorism, and who intend to go for such acts in future also, who are based on the Afghani and Pakistani soil, and are using it to launch more 9/11s. So in that case, it’s of no significance whose Drones they are and whose territory they are targeting. It’s the common war and certainly the targets too are common. Then why that fuss? Especially by Mr. President, Mr. Prime Minister, and a specific brand of Pakistanis in whose eyes a country is just a piece of land and whose sovereignty consists only in its territoriality.
Recently when I asked a friend of mine who is lawyer, so, can you tell me, legally constitutionally, does Pakistan exist; I repeat: does Pakistan exist legally constitutionally, he was just numb. He had no answer.
History tells us there have been conquerors/adventurers eager of establishing their principalities over this much or that much territory. Or imagine the days of the fall and decline of Mughal empire. There were war lords, who occupied a piece of territory and ruled there, or they maintained bands of fighters and to sustain them they used to ambush the territory of another weaker war lord, or they used to sell their loyalties to whomever bade the highest price. It was that way of the powerful where sovereignty was the greatest thing to be protected at any cost. Simply because it was a symbol of one’s rule and power and of course in the last resort it yielded booty/revenue.
That’s the story of territorial sovereignty we the ordinary people are still nostalgic about. (How can we forget how our army defended our territorial sovereignty in 1970 in the Eastern wing and what was its outcome!) What it means for the extra-ordinary people like Mr. President and Mr. Prime Minister not clear but that they are beating about the bush by harping uselessly on the theme of sovereignty is obvious. That’s all misleading!
The world we live today is a world of legality and constitutionality. When a new country emerges on the map of the world, regardless of the manner in which it comes into being, e.g. how Bangladesh was founded, its first urge is to attain legally constitutionally justified status and then to be admitted into the comity of nations as a legally constitutionally existing country. A negative example explains it well: in case Taliban after assuming full control of some of the areas on the borders of Afghanistan and Pakistan declare the setting up of a state until and unless it has no legal constitutional status there is no chance of its being given the same status by the international community and admitted into the UNO as well, its existence will remain mired in uncertainty.
With these points in focus, we should know that today territorial sovereignty is somewhere at the bottom of the list. On top of the list is the legal constitutional status of a country that endows it with its real sovereignty.
This legal constitutional sovereignty is in fact an internal phenomenon. It gives a tract of land and a population of individual persons inhabiting that tract a name and identity, and the form of a country. However, most of all, it ensures those individual persons protection of their life, their property and their rights/freedoms as the citizens of that country. Otherwise that legal constitutional sovereignty is just meaningless, and is but the rule of thugs. Ah, who can refute that even thugs provide their subjects protection of life and property!
To quote St. Augustine here is more than relevant who says: ‘Set aside justice, then, and what are kingdoms but great bands of brigands? For what are brigands' bands but little kingdoms? For in brigandage the hands of the underlings are directed by the commander, the confederacy of them is sworn together, and the pillage is shared by law among them. And if those ragamuffins grow up to be able enough to keep forts, build habitations, possess cities, and conquer adjoining nations, then their government is no longer called brigandage, but graced with the eminent name of a kingdom, given and gotten not because they have left their practices but because they use them without danger of law.’ (City of God, Book IV)
That’s what ultimately sovereignty amounts to: provision of justice which implies protection of life and property and importantly the fundamental rights/freedoms to individual persons. In this context, injustice is the absence of these protections. Probably that is why in their specific dominions goons too protect life and property (if not fundamental rights) of those people who live under them from other invading goons. That is the essence of a sovereign country and the sovereignty of a country. That is why legality constitutionality matters so much in today’s world. It ensures individual persons their fundamental rights and inalienable freedoms, in addition to protection to their life and property.
Internally that sovereignty is a collection of sovereign individuals whose life, property and rights/freedoms are ensured by legality and constitutionality of a country. Externally the sovereignty of that country embodies in its territorial boundaries and the nature of that sovereignty merely consists not only in safeguarding the physical borders but that is all meant to protect life, property and thus rights/freedoms of those individual persons also who live inside those physical borders from the invaders. That sums up our argument: sovereignty derives from sovereign individuals and reverts to them.
Where do we stand vis-à-vis that sovereignty? It was quite after 60 years that we came to have a rule of law movement which probably first time in the history of Pakistan brought the issue of fundamental rights to the fore. Astonishingly prior to that there existed no such issue in the political discourse in Pakistan; and surely there was no rule of law and independent judiciary either. Ironically as that movement popularized, more fundamental than fundamental rights, the issue of protection of life and property started burning up the country. So fight for your life first, then for your property, and go forget your fundamental rights you wretched of this earth! That’s the message of the Pakistani state to its individual citizens! Loud and clear!
Under these circumstances, listening to the headship of our state talking of sovereignty is just nauseating. Already they were sickening in their parasitic appetite; their treacherous acts have made their existence loathsome. They are the rot of this land ruling and spoiling this land. From people to institutions, they have defied everything that elevated them to their position. The constitution that gave them a legal and constitutional status and distinguished them from St. Augustine’s brigands’ bands, they have trashed that constitution into a dustbin of their perverted interests.
By setting aside both the legal constitutional chief justice and justice, they have turned Pakistan ‘into a kingdom of brigands' bands. For what are brigands' bands but little kingdoms? For in brigandage the hands of the underlings are directed by the commander, the confederacy of them is sworn together, and the pillage is shared by law among them.’
That’s Pakistan and that’s its sovereignty. From FATA and Swat to Karachi we the ordinary citizens are at the mercy of this or that band of brigands. We are sovereign individuals though our sovereignty has already been slaughtered verily by those who were its custodians. What if a sovereign individual is killed by a brigand or by a bomb dropped by a Drone! What if a sovereign individual is coerced by a local or a foreign goon or the state itself into subservience to this or that ideology! He is already in limbo forsaken by the Pakistani state!
[This article was completed on January 30, 2009.]