Phantoms in the sky

Published: November 7, 2013

There is again a funeral in my town, of the three people who died last night in the raid. PHOTO: AFP/FILE

There is again a funeral in my town,

Of the three people,

Who died last night in the raid,

Of the phantom dark planes,

That fly themselves.


When I hear them

Above the majestic mountains in my land,

It is useless to hide,

As they kill indiscriminately.


A few months back

My father was exultant,

That my country had chosen a leader

Who had pledged to take a stand,

Against the people who control the machines

That fly these ghostly apparitions called drones.


But now he feels disillusioned and deceived,

That the seemingly trustworthy, infallible leader

Went to the land of these deadly drones

Dressed just like the drone people.


And did not demand

To have the drones stopped.

So that we wouldn’t have to walk on eggshells

Day and night,

In our own land.


I wonder why my leader was so ashamed to talk

To the drone people who are

Shameless enough to kill.


The elders say the drone people give

My country money,

Which makes us apologetic and sheepish,

Even when we ask them not to slay

Our young and our old,

Under the guise of keeping world peace.


So have we sold our souls

To the devil who is now free to kill us?

But, sometimes I do wonder

That if we have to die anyway,

Why don’t we die for the country?

Rather than in the country.

Like the soulless, insensate sitting bait

That we have become.


Why do we have to die namelessly,

Like unarmed cowards in our own land?

That is raided,

By the self-proclaimed warriors in the skies.


That strike on dark, moonless nights,

Silently when we sleep.

And on warm, bright days,

When we are awake.


Today I heard my father dishearteningly say

That we will probably have to wait

Another five years for a leader,

Who might be braver to stand up

To the drone people.


I hope I live to see the day,

When the skies are manned

By the soldiers of my own country.

Rather than the dark, sinister

Phantoms that rule us by night with machines,

And by day with their money.


I cower for fear for the time when these phantoms

Decide to raid my country by land,

Instead of by sky.


I wonder if my leaders will still continue then,

To dress like the leaders of the drones.

And smile with them in pictures,

Because they pay us money to do so.


I hope I don’t live to see that day…


Aalia Suleman

A freelance writer and poet who is keenly interested in the status of women in 21st century Pakistan. Her writing also zones in on Pakistan's new social and political status on a redefined global chessboard. She has a masters degree in English Literature and blogs and invites debates at 'Socio-politically Pakistani'. She tweets @aaliasuleman (

The views expressed by the writer and the reader comments do not necessarily reflect the views and policies of The Express Tribune.

  • Sane

    The man — Pervez Musharraf who is primarily responsible for these drones, killing innocents is free now to go home of his choice. No complaints, we the common people are killed by others as well as by our ‘leaders’. They take money and we give blood.Recommend

  • zahra

    yaar bus kardo..blame musharraf, blame imf blame everyone but the current government! Ajeeb logic hai..har kissi ko blame kerna hai magar us ko nahi jo power mein! You know it would take ONE order from the government to the PAF, and the drone would be shot down. The leadership has been offered multiple opportunities to do so..Recommend

  • Parvez


  • Sabih Zafar Ullah

    Here’s a poem of my own:

    I carry again

    The limbs of my people

    A six year old among them

    Shattered to pieces

    By the suicide bomber

    Sent by the evil man

    I hope a drone

    Had hit the evil man

    Before he thought of

    Bombing my people – Yet again

    — A rescue workerRecommend

  • Designer

    Well written!!Recommend

  • Cynical Spectator

    Interesting piece from the Economist:

    NATIONAL surveys find that Pakistanis are overwhelmingly opposed to CIA drone strikes against suspected militants in the tribal badlands close to the Afghan border. The strikes are seen by many as an abuse of sovereignty, a symbol of American arrogance and the cause of civilian deaths. So when Sofia Khan, a school administrator from Islamabad, travelled with hundreds of anti-drone campaigners to a ramshackle town bordering the restive Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) last October she was stunned by what some tribesmen there had to say.

    One man from South Waziristan heatedly told her that he and his family approved of the remote-controlled aircraft and wanted more of them patrolling the skies above his home. Access to the tribal regions is very difficult for foreign journalists; but several specialists and researchers on the region, who did not want to be identified, say there is at least a sizeable minority in FATA who share that view.

    Surveys are also notoriously difficult to carry out in FATA. A 2009 poll in three of the tribal agencies found 52% of respondents believed drone strikes were accurate and 60% said they weakened militant groups. Other surveys have found much lower percentages in favour. But interviews by The Economist with twenty residents of the tribal areas confirmed that many see individual drone strikes as preferable to the artillery barrages of the Pakistani military. They also insisted that the drones do not kill many civilians—a view starkly at odds with mainstream Pakistani opinion. “No one dares tell the real picture,” says an elder from North Waziristan. “Drone attacks are killing the militants who are killing innocent people.”

  • John Smit

    As usual, the anti-drone folks display remarkable naivety and weak understanding of world history, it is shocking to read the whining and pleas for a world drawn out of their fantasies. They are like lambs happily awaiting slaughter.

    The idea behind drones is that certain men CAUSE violence through their leadership and instigation of other violent men, and that if you kill these top dogs, you prevent their schemes from coming to fruit. Because these men hide out, you must go get them. Traditionally to do that you either mount large military projects with many men, or you use insiders, or you destroy huge areas of property and people with massive bombing. Drones do the job with far less damage and loss of life. Drones are a no-brainer, and they terrorize terrorists, which is a worthy end all by itself.

    I suggest the coach potato idealists start their basic education in the history of war with all of John Keegan’s books, carefully read one by one, then carry on from there. Posting childish calls for love and peace is cute, but useless.Recommend

  • Pro-Drones

    You call drones ‘phantoms in the sky’. I would convert that to ‘angels in the sky’. Vengeful angels that strike down the wicked. You claim that these instruments of war kill indiscriminately. I say, you could not be further from the truth. In fact, drones have been the single most effective weapon in taking out the terrorists in Pakistan. The drones that rain down Hell-fire missiles have devastated Al-Qaeda (and the Taliban), they have decimated the ranks of Al-Qaeda that were streaming into the tribal areas.
    Some innocent lives have been lost because terrorists tend to hide behind civilians. Despite that, there is no weapon platform on the planet which can guarantee a 100 percent success rate in killing the bad guys only and not harming any civilians. Post 2008, the American drones have achieved a high strike rate of 95%+ on terrorists, whereas in the previous few years the civilian casualties had summed up to 15 to 20% of the total deaths. The drone has proven itself to be the most effective weapon in the history of war.
    If the terrorists aren’t busy ducking for cover, they would be planning and carrying out terrorist acts that would surely account for massive civilian casualties.These drone strikes are doing more good than harm.Recommend

  • Nobody

    Well said. No longer feel the need to write my own comment as you have summed it up quite well. If Pakistan’s army would handle the problem, foreign nations wouldn’t feel the need to intervene to protect their own people.Recommend

  • bigsaf

    Oddly, the Pak govt seemed to have mourned Hakimullah Mehsud being killed by the drones than those unfortunate 3 unnamed people on that drone attack mentioned in the poem, who apparently didn’t matter for ‘peace and justice’, but probably a tad higher in priority than thousands of victims of terrorists (hiding in those localities), victims who of course totally don’t matter as far as peace and justice is concerned and less likely to have their own simplistic (such as ignoring details of trying to target local militants hiding out in the vicinity…in their case, still being part of the Pak state not being religious enough to be part of Taliban, maybe?) sentimental poems at all.Recommend

  • bigsaf

    Maybe a poem in the view of one of Hakimullah Mehsud’s wives next time. Probably on how she curses drones ruining their peace and quiet on a farm house near their neighbours walking on eggshells (though admittedly they were in a safe area, surrounded in Haqqani country, and just 1 KM away from a Pak base), supporting and defending his memory as a mass murderer killing other Pakistani citizens’ children, because he only wanted to bring religion to Pak and proud of him as a ‘shaheed’, as anointed by Pak’s religious and political leaders, but feels betrayed by them instead (don’t we all know that feeling? And sympathize?).Recommend

  • Noman Ansari

    At least these black phantoms avenge thousands of our people killed by terrorists, because we don’t have the guts to.Recommend

  • Wasim Khan

    That was just awesome I would sayRecommend

  • Dante

    Yet kill even more innocents and civilians in the meantime.

    Great strategy, right? Just some collateral damage, /sRecommend