Whatever happened to Pakistan’s drone activists? This is not the time to be selective… you are either for or against the use of drones. The silence is shameful.
Today Dawn media reported that at least six (possibly eight) people were killed and several others injured in a US drone strike in the Dattakhel tehsil of North Waziristan Agency” with missiles hitting a vehicle near a compound at around 3.30am.
“intelligence sources said that the US drone fired four missiles and completely destroyed a compound and a vehicle in the Alwara Mandi area of Dattakhel, about 60 kilometres from the main town of Miramshah.
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif claimed several months ago to be against drone strikes but his failure to speak out and lack of action suggests he no longer has a problem with a foreign aircraft entering Pakistan’s airspace. Imran Khan, chairman of opposition party Pakistan Tereek-i-Insaf (PTI party) usually so outspoken on drones has also been much quieter since the start of Pakistan Army military operation Zarb-e-Asb in June, intended to clear militants from North Waziristan.
The operation began swiftly with Pakistan egged into action following a visit in May from US Deputy Secretary of State, Robert Burns who met with Advisor to Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs Sartaj Aziz, special assistant to the prime minister Tariq Fatemi and Chief of Army Staff General Raheel Sharif. Dawn reported,
“sources close to the meetings said that Burns conveyed the message of the United States to top Pakistani civil and military officials during the meetings, asking for the destruction of terrorist sanctuaries located in North Waziristan. On behalf of the US, he requested that this operation should be completed before the installation of the new political administration in Kabul”
This resulted in the displacement of an estimated 1 million civilians who have regularly been on the receiving end of both US drones strikes and Pakistan jet attacks and shelling and now been forced to abandon their homes and all they own. The anger of Internally Displaced Person’s (IDPs) is no longer so contained as seen recently in a number of demonstrations in Peshawar. They accuse officials of being ignored, poor provision of aid and state their wish to return home as quickly as possible.
Ben Emmerson QC, the UN’s special rapporteur on counter-terrorism, was reported in the Guardian (Monday, 22nd September) ahead of a UN meeting in Geneva, stating, “there is a pressing need for clarity, transparency and accountability about the use of armed drones in counter-terrorism operations, and the level of civilian casualties they inflict.”
Nabila Rehman, drone victim testifies in US (image Popular Resistance)
A resolution calling for a debate on the use of armed drones was sponsored by Pakistan, (though opposed by the UK and US) however little meaningful action by governments is taken against those carrying out drone strikes. A Yemeni citizen though will not stay silent, he is preparing his own strike back,
See “MOD facing legal challenge over armed drone deployment outside Afghanistan”
The UN Human Rights Council has now condemned arbitrary killings by the use of armed drones in Pakistan with the Express Tribune reporting that,
“this is the first time that the Human Rights Council has formally discussed the issue of armed drones in violation of international human rights law as well as the UN Charter. All countries except the US, UK and France condemned the human rights consequences of US drone strikes in Pakistan and other parts of the world”
Full story here,
“Targeting Pakistan:UN rights panel condemns use of drones”
Time for Sharif to wake up to the concerns voiced in Geneva and possible legal implications for Pakistan. In addition to this issue, will the government currently turning a blind eye to US drone strikes be so complacent when locally adapted drones start hitting Pakistan’s cities?
It is only a matter of time that this will happen. In the not too distant future, there is the likelihood of customized “payback” drones coming from insurgents as they develop the technology to hit back and strike vulnerable areas. There is already intelligence to suggest Al Qaeda in the Arabian Peninsular may be exploring such possibilities. What will happen then?
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad . She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.