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ISLAMABAD: Speakers at a seminar on Tuesday warned that failure to evolve legal instruments on Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (LAWS) may lead to arms race, weaken arms control regimes, and lead to precarious international security.

They were speaking at a seminar on “Lethal Autonomous Weapon Systems (LAWS): A Regional Perspective”, organised by the Arms Control and Disarmament Centre (ACDC) at the Institute of Strategic Studies Islamabad (ISSI) in collaboration with the Sustainable Peace and Development Organization (SPADO).

Permanent Representative of Pakistan to the United Nations and other International Organizations in Geneva Ambassador Khalil Hashmi said in a special video message to the seminar that Pakistan’s UN Mission in Geneva had been working to promote a ban on LAWS for years. Since 2014, there have been conversations at the international level on this issue.

He said that states remain divided into two camps–those who supported legally binding instruments; and those that opposed them. He reaffirmed that Pakistan’s efforts in this regard would continue.

Ahsan Nabeel, Director (ACDIS) and Science Diplomacy, Ministry of Foreign Affairs, gave an overview of Pakistan’s position on “Proposal for an International Legal Instrument on LAWS.”

He said that international consensus on the issue remained elusive. He emphasized that failure to evolve legal instruments on LAWS will lead to arms races, weaken arms control regimes, and lead to precarious international security. He reiterated that Pakistan’s efforts for a legally binding instrument will continue.

Ahmer Bilal Soofi, former Minister of Law Justice and Parliamentary Affairs and Human Rights said that in the case of LAWS, it was a grey area as to when a state could respond and what would constitute an attack on the country, and whether it could respond under Article 51 of the UN Charter.

He presented several proposals including the need to regulate the private sector, as well as government-to-government enterprises. He emphasized the need to create customary norms against autonomous weapons.

Nada Tarbush, Counsellor, UN Mission of State of Palestine in Geneva, shared the “State of Palestine’s Position.” She appreciated how Pakistan had shaped the international debate on LAWS.

She outlined the Palestinian perspective regarding LAWs and said that two categories should be prohibited, one that targets humans, and another that does not have humans in the loop.

She emphasized the need for “meaningful human control” on weapons comprised a system of reliability, predictability, understanding, and traceability.

She highlighted the Israeli use of LAWS against Palestinians, adding that these weapons may become available to non-state actors. She stressed that developing a legally binding instrument is an urgent matter.

Director General ISSI Sohail Mahmood said the transformative potential of new and emerging technologies like robotics, Artificial Intelligence (AI) and machine learning is affecting every facet of human civilisation.

He said those technologies had now spread to over 100 countries, increasing from 60 a decade ago. He said that states could utilise those emerging technologies for the development of LAWS.

He said the proliferation of those technologies had raised the profile of the phenomenon and required deeper reflection. He added that the dual-use nature of those technologies had also led to massive commercial use and raised concerns that non-state actors could use those technologies for malicious purposes.

In May 2013, he pointed out that Pakistan became the first country to call for a ban on fully autonomous weapons, adding that it had repeatedly advocated for a ban on autonomous weapons and was spearheading the efforts internationally to have a legally binding instrument.

Malik Qasim Mustafa, Director ACDC-ISSI, said that increasing weaponisation of AI was generating insecurity and fear and presented complex security challenges for states.

“The development of these weapons had raised fundamental questions on their regulation, autonomy, accountability and state responsibility and their likely impact on human protection instruments like international human rights and Instrumental Humanitarian Law,” he added.

Raza Shah Khan, Chief Executive, SPADO, stated that the “Global Movement to Ban Killer Robots” has been active for more than a decade and comprised 150 non-governmental organizations from 60 countries working to retain meaningful human control over the use of force by banning the development, production, and use of fully autonomous weapons.

Ousman Noor, Government Relations Manager, Campaign to Stop Killer Robots, Geneva, highlighted the primary issue with LAWS that machines were replacing humans and any decision for the use of force would be made through data. This is problematic from a moral, legal and security point of view, he added.

He expressed concern that these weapons will proliferate beyond the battlefield and there are issues from International Humanitarian Law (IHL) perspective as well since these weapons could not distinguish between combatants and non-combatants.

Maj General Ausaf Ali (retired), Advisor SPD, said that AI was leading the third revolution in warfare and major military powers are indulging in AI-led arms racing in the land, air, sea, cyber and space domains. “It will have consequences for conventional and nuclear capabilities and implications for strategic stability,” he added.

Copyright Business Recorder, 2023

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