“The whole burden of proof has been reversed by the U.S. in the public narrative: You are killed in a drone strike in North Waziristan, so you are a militant until you come out of your coffin and say otherwise,” Mr. Akbar says. “We have to have rule of law to have a civilized society. We have to agree that illegal killing is illegal killing – whether the Taliban or the Pakistan army or the U.S. army is doing it.”
He also noted that the drone campaign has been under way since 2004, with no overall decline in attacks.
“If drones are effective, why is Malala being shot? And not just Malala but so many innocent people being shot, military and civilians. You still have suicide bombings going on. … If this is the solution, then I’m astonished – why isn’t it working the last seven or eight years?”
Even Mr. Nizami, who is blunt about the positive aspects of the drone campaign, nevertheless argues that it should end. He believes that its propaganda value for the recruiters of new militant fighters outstrips its utility.
Meanwhile, the voices of civilians living in the drone-targeted areas are almost never heard: Since the military keeps journalists out, the only way research reports such as Living Under Drones get produced is that people who have been injured or lost a family member in a strike are provided with funds to travel to urban areas where they can be interviewed by researchers (though, of course, their views are not unbiased).
Yet Mr. Nizami says he believes that there is considerable support for the drones in many parts of the Taliban-plagued northern region of Khyber Pakthunkwha.
The United States itself barely acknowledges that the drone campaign exists – Mr. Obama has spoken of it publicly only once. But it shows no signs of slowing.
“The Americans are doing our very dirty job,” Mr. Nizami says.