Monitoring Anti-State Armed Conflicts in South Asia
After conviction of its informant the CIA has intensified drone attacks in Pakistan. According to monthly report of Islamabad based Conflict Monitoring Center which regularly monitors drone attacks and anti-state militancy in the region, American Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) has carried out six drone attacks during May 2012, five of them after conviction of its informant Dr. Shakeel Afridi who had helped in obtaining DNA samples of Osama Bin Laden’s family in a fake vaccination campaign in Abbottabad. Dr. Afridi is sentenced to 33 years imprisonment. The CIA operated drones killed 31 to 42 people in six strikes during May 2012 making it deadliest month of the year with highest number of drone attacks so far. CIA’s furious attitude is clear from the fact that it had carried out just one drone attack in first 22 days of the month while it has now carried out 7 such attacks in 11 days (including attacks in first three days of June). The CIA also targeted a mosque during Fajar prayers and killed at least ten tribesmen. Half of the drone victims during May 2012 were confirmed civilians while rests of them were ‘unknown’ suspected militants. It seems the CIA has started using drones indiscriminately as it targeted rescue workers as well as funeral prayers of the victims. It is worth mentioning that American drones had killed more than 40 tribesmen in a Jirga to avenge arrest of CIA’s agent Raymond Davis who had murdered two Pakistanis in Lahore last year.
Escalation in drone attacks is seen as a bid to punish Pakistan for conviction of Dr. Afridi as well as its reluctance to reopen NATO supply routes. Pakistan was invited to participate in Chicago Summit but president Zardari did not announce reopening of the supply as was expected by U.S. and its allies. Some analysts in Pakistan believe that escalation in drone attacks is a consequence of Pakistan’s unexpected behavior in NATO Summit.
During May 2012 all the attacks were carried out in North Waziristan which is considered a safe haven for anti-US Taliban groups who are in a peace agreement with Pakistani authorities. Four houses, one mosque, one shop and two vehicles were destroyed during the period. Twenty missiles were fired during the month.
As usual U.S. has not bothered to identify any of the victims although now it officially admits that it is responsible for drone attacks in Pakistan. Although U.S. does not release any details of drone victims, some anonymous Pakistani security officials do this job regularly.
Despite Pakistani parliament’s orders to stop drone attacks, Pakistan’s federal government has not changed its dubious role. It officially condemns drone attacks but has made no efforts to investigate who is being killed in these attacks. The area is generally a black hole for journalists as neither militants nor security forces allow independent journalists to visit the area and report drone attacks. The militants try to hide their losses while security forces have their own list of reasons to make the territory a ‘No-Go Area’ for journalists and independent researchers. Government has the required resources to investigate every drone attack and record the names of victims along their identity. But Government of Pakistan’s drone policy is limited to political statements as it has no scheme to provide compensation to the relatives of innocent victims of drone attacks.
Conflict Monitoring Center also observed continuity of strange and controversial role of anonymous Pakistani security officials. After every drone attacks these officials release body counts to foreign and national media organizations. These security officials work like ‘spokespersons’ of CIA because they never admitted any civilian casualty. The CMC also noted that they usually report estimated figures to the media therefore exact number of drone victims may remain a secret forever.
According to CMC’s findings on May 26 CIA fired missiles on a bakery. The target was a person sleeping in room built at roof of the bakery. The missiles hit the bakery but the target got minor injuries only. No one was in the bakery so the wounded person was the only casualty but Pakistani security officials told media persons that 4 militants possible Arabs were killed. This shows the level of credibility of claims made by anonymous Pakistani security officials. Most of the times claims of ‘anonymous’ security officials are proven wrong as every civilian killed in drone attacks is initially declared a militant.
It is also an unanswered question that why Pakistani security officials always release body count to media organizations. Why they always hide the civilian casualties. Is there an undisclosed deal as some Viki Leaks cables suggested?