Imran Khan reading the newly launched Drone Compensation Report
(Image via Imranist Junooni)
Today Thursday 10th December 2015, human rights lawyers from Reprieve launched a Drone Compensation Report regarding victims of US drone strikes at Margala, Pakistan vowing to seek justice for those affected. Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan who has long campaigned on this issue and organized an anti-drone march to Waziristan in 2012 was also present to lend support to the initiative. This was part of the 8th Sustainable Development Conference.
Imran Khan tweeted,
Drone strikes began in the region in the aftermath of 9/11 and was intended to target militants in the Tribal Areas of Pakistan denying them the right to fair judicial process. Young men barely adolescents were deemed “suspected terrorists” in a highly controversial programme where sovereignty of Pakistan was allegedly breached and strikes resulted in high numbers of civilian casualties.
Although the Ambassador of Pakistan, Zamir Akram called for a ban on drones at a UN Conference in Geneva in May 2014, former President Pervez Musharraf admitted to an earlier secret CIA drone deal with US. He stated to CNN in 2013 that he had authorised strikes, though “only on very few occasions where the target was absolutely isolated and had no chance of collateral damage”. The reality was somewhat different, Dawn media reported,
“according to the independent Britain-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, since 2004 the CIA has carried out 421 drone strikes in northwestern Pakistan killing up to 3,989 people, as many as 965 of whom were civilians, including dozens of children.
Kareem Khan who lost 2 family members and Mirza Shahzad Akbar, lawyer (Image, CNN)
Drone victims have had their distress made worse by the actions of the state. Kareem Khan lost his son and brother to a CIA drone strike in 2009 and had been set to travel to Europe to discuss his experiences with parliamentarians in February 2014 when he was abducted from his home by men in police uniforms. While detained, Mr Khan was allegedly interrogated, beaten and tortured. He was placed in chains and repeatedly questioned about his investigations into drone strikes, his knowledge of drone strike victims and his work advocating on their behalf. Khan was also involved in legal action against the Pakistani police over their refusal to investigate the killing of his relatives.
Dawn reported the words of another drone victim, Fahim Qureshi, 18, whose entire family was killed in a drone strike in 2009 that left him critically wounded. Qureshi denied any links to militants saying,
“there is a question in my heart, why did it happen to us? What did we do?”
Imran Khan with lawyer, Clive Stafford-Smith (Image, PTI)
Attendees at the launch (Image via Imranist Junooni)
Clive Stafford-Smith, lawyer at Reprieve posted a series of photographs of the launch tweeting,
This was a really good event, & as ever Imran’s contribution was immense…
PTI, Imran’s political party intend to raise the issue of compensation for drone victims in parliament.
Drone victim Nabila meeting A-bomb survivor Keiko Ogura in Japan
(Image via Mirza Shahzad Akbar)
Recently Mirza Shahzad Akbar, a lawyer for drone victims in Pakistan travelled to Japan with Nabila a young victim of a US drone strike whose grandmother was killed to meet an Atomic -bomb survivor Keiko Ogura in Hiroshima. They shared their stories in a bid to educate a wider audience and gain further international support.
Drone strikes grow ever more controversial. In November, four former US Air Force members wrote an open letter which appeared in the media highly critical of the drone programme. They stated,
“we joined the Air Force to protect American lives and to protect our Constitution. We came to the realization that the innocent civilians we were killing only fueled the feelings of hatred that ignited terrorism and groups like ISIS, while also serving as a fundamental recruitment tool similar to Guantanamo Bay. This administration and its predecessors have built a drone program that is one of the most devastating driving forces for terrorism and destabilization around the world.”
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights/WOT 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”