According to Pakistan’s Chief Marshal Sohail Aman on Thursday, the country’s airforce (PAF on short) is now under direct orders to shoot down any foreign drones (read US drones) that violate Pakistani airspace. That’s a direct hint at attack drones which are operated by the US for years now inside Pakistani airspace and yesterday’s shocking announcement marks a 180 turn from Pakistani’s airforce previous policy, which condemned the use of attack drones in its airspace, yet PAF never threatened to shoot them down (until now).
Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman was quoted as saying to an audience at the AirTech 17 expo at the Air University in Pakistan’s capital Islamabad:
“We will not allow anyone to violate our airspace. I have ordered PAF to shoot down drones, including those of the US, if they enter our airspace, violating the country’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. We committed a mistake in Osama bin Laden’s case but now the country’s sovereignty will be protected at all costs,”
This declaration comes in the aftermath of a US drone strike on a terrorist compound in the country’s tribal region along Afghanistan border from 2 weeks ago, a strike which led to numerous casualties.
The Osama bin Laden reference is about the CIA-led US commando raid in May 2011, when Black Hawk helicopters crossed the border flying from Jalalabad, Afghanistan to Abbottabad, Pakistan. The thing is, Pakistani officials were not given a heads-up about the operation (the planned assassination) and that sparked outrage in Pakistan. The practice of flying attack-drone missions over Pakistan by the US, thus conducting airstrikes on terrorist targets is very unpopular among the Pakistanis due to the huge death toll among civilians, i.e. hundreds of civilian deaths described as collateral damage in the war on terror. The White House did not yet offer an official response with regard to Pakistan’s radical shift of policy.