Drone Attacks and Dubious Role of Pakistani Government


By Muhammad Imran

Summary

Government of Pakistan is not playing its role in recording casualties in drone attacks while Pakistani security officials release false information to the media regarding victims of CIA’s drone attack in Pakistan. The Conflict Monitoring Center’s monthly report on drone attacks highlights contradictions in government’s public stance on drone attacks and its seriousness to record names and other identities of the victims of drone attacks. According to CMC’s findings there is a need to launch official investigation to find out why ‘anonymous’ security officials release details of every single drone attacks and why these officials overlook civilian casualties. The report says that at one occasion Pakistan’s Army Chief was condemning civilian casualties in drone attacks while same casualties were declared ‘suspected militants’ by Pakistani security officials. The Conflict Monitoring Center keeps record of every single drone attack and issues monthly and annual reports on drone attacks. According to the data collected from mainstream national and international newspapers as well as from local newspapers of Peshawar, American Central Intelligence Agency has killed a maximum of 37 and minimum of 26 human beings inside Pakistan during the month of November 2011 with missiles fired from unmanned drone aircrafts. The CIA has carried out 4 drone attacks during the month which is half to the number of drone attacks in October 2011. Apart from two most wanted British militants, most of those killed were unknown human beings.  Three out of these four attacks were carried out in North Waziristan while the only drone attack in South Waziristan reportedly targeted the basecamp of Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP).  The attack on TTP’s basecamp was the deadliest attack of the month in which 18 suspected militants were killed on November 16, 2011. The CIA carried out three drone attacks on three consecutive days i.e. on 15, 16 and 17th of the month, while one drone attack was carried out on 3rd November. Nationwide protest was observed against drone attacks and US military incursions in Pakistan during the last week of the month. The CMC also states in its report that about 30 civilians were also killed in drone attacks in Somalia during the month of November 2011.

Civilians Killings and role of Pakistani Government

As per previous practice, anonymous security officials declared that all those killed were militants but as usual they have not disclosed names of the victims. However, in the past many of these unverified claims proved false as the people who were termed as militants were actually civilians. Pakistani government publically criticizes drone attacks but has done nothing to record identities of the victims of this controversial campaign. Independent media persons or researchers have no access to the area for a number of obstacles. The government has all the resources to record names and other identities of the victims but does nothing to fulfill its responsibility. A charter signed by casualty monitoring organizations from all over the world and sponsored by Oxford Research Group demands that governments must record exact number and identities of the victims of armed conflict but the government of Pakistan has done nothing to do this essential job. This practice raises serious concerns on the role of Pakistan’s Federal Government as well as FATA secretariat controlled directly by the President of Pakistan and run by its representative, the Governor of Khyber Pakhtun Kha province. Government has also not set up any compensation mechanism for the civilian victims of drone attacks.

On the other hand the CIA too is hiding all facts from public regarding drone attacks to avoid any legal implications. International law expert consider this drone campaign against human rights and demand and end to it.

US Admits errors in identifying friends from foes in Drone Attacks

An official investigation conducted by the Pentagon has underlined a series of errors which can kill friends instead of foes. The inquiry was conducted after two US soldiers were killed in a drone attack inside Afghanistan[i]. Ironically United States has not carried out any official investigation for the deaths of innocent civilians in Pakistan caused by its lethal drone campaign. There are many proven incidents when drones killed only civilians. Such an attack was observed on 31st of October this year when a handicapped young boy Tariq Khan along with his cousin was killed in a drone attack[ii][iii]. An independent investigation is required to ascertain whether the CIA had killed him deliberately to punish him for his participation in a protest against drone attacks in Pakistani capital Islamabad. Just four days after his participation in the protest he was ‘eliminated’.  In the past the CIA had carried out such drone attacks which were vengeful and punitive in nature like the one it carried out on March 17 this year killing more than 40 civilians to avenge detention of its spy Raymond Davis who had killed two Pakistani citizens in Lahore in February[iv]. Like killing of Tariq Khan and attack on tribal Jirga, there are many other cases which need independent investigation because only civilians were killed in those attacks. Although hundreds of its civilians have died in drone attacks since 2004, Pakistani government has not conducted any official inquiry to any of these incidents where civilians were killed which highlights its seriousness towards the drone attacks.

Dubious role of Pakistani Security Officials

It were Pakistani anonymous security officials who had claimed that two to four militants were killed in the drone attack carried out by the CIA on October 31, 2011 in which above mentioned Tariq Khan and his cousin were killed. One of the officials told CNN[v] that four militants were killed while another official told AFP[vi] that four militants were killed. In principle Pakistan is opposing drone attacks then why these security officials regularly release body counts to international media? In every statement it is mentioned that these officials are not authorized to speak on the issue. Is it breach of official code of conduct or these officials are assigned the duty of releasing body count and related information to the media. Apparently it looks official duty which is performed in unofficial capacity. The role and credibility of these Pakistani security officials is so doubtful that they initially declared that 22 suspected militants were killed on March 17 which was deadliest and most controversial drone attack of the year in which more than 40 tribesmen were killed. The attack was so irritating for Pakistan that Pakistani Army Chief Ashfaq Pervez Kyani had issued a rare condemnation of the attack[vii]. It is a question whether these anonymous ‘security officials’ work under military command or they are part of the civilians set up. If they are people from Army or ISI then it would be more embarrassing that the Chief is condemning civilian casualties while his sub-ordinates claim that ‘suspected’ militants were killed[viii] (Read the Link in the footnote and see what was the earliest claims of Pakistani Security Officials). There is no known investigation conducted by either civil government or military to investigate why these Pakistani security officials declared tribesmen as militants. There is a need to investigate false claims and also government should clarify its position that if it is against drone attacks then why its officials work as spokesmen for the CIA to release details of every drone attack.  Revelation of false claims by security officials create doubts on overall credibility of media coverage of drone attacks as apart from few local newspapers from Peshawar the entire world rely on the claims of anonymous security officials.

 Significant Deaths during November 2011

Only two out of 37 reported deaths were of any significant nature if one believes in the claims of security officials. One of Britain’s most wanted militants was killed by a CIA drone attack during the month of November 2011, along with another Briton. Ibraheem Adam 24 along with Azmir Khan 37 was killed in North Waziristan[ix].

Protest against Drone Attacks

As the CIA has reduced number and frequency of drone attacks the protest against the campaign was also reduced significantly[x]. However After killings of 26 Pakistani soldiers by US military helicopters in Mohmand Agency protest against drone attacks have once again gained momentum. People from all segments of life have protested against US raid on Pakistani soil and drone attacks. Public resentment against drone attacks remained at its peak during the last week of November and first week of December 2011. Protest against US and its drone campaign was not limited to any specific city or area this time around. It was seen in big cities as well as small towns that people were protesting against US and its drone campaign[xi][xii].

Another Legal Action against Drone Attacks

A constitutional petition has been filed in the Supreme Court praying for declaring any secret agreement between Pakistan and US forces allowing US drone attacks in the territory of Pakistan as unlawful and ultra vires of the Constitution.The petitioner also prayed to the apex court for declaring the agreement of Pakistan government with US/NATO/ISAF forces allowing them use of Shamsi Airbase as unlawful and against the sovereignty of the country. Sami-ul-Haq, Chairman Pakistan Defence Council and Chief of JUI-S, has filed the petition under Article 184(3), making the federation, Government of Pakistan, ministries of Defence, Interior, of Foreign Affairs, and four provincial governors and chief secretaries as respondents. The petitioner prayed to the apex court to direct the Federation to publish and declare all the agreements which have been negotiated with US/NATO/ISAF void.[xiii] Supreme Court is yet to decide the dates for the hearing.

Two separate legal petitions are already being heard in Lahore and Peshawar High Courts. In June this year, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, Amir of Jamat-ud-Dawah had filed a petition against drone attacks. Many hearings have been conducted so far but the court still waits for proper response from the federal government on the issue. Hafiz Saeed had filed a constitutional petition through Advocate A.K. Dogar, praying that the federal government be directed to make public information in all matters of public importance, especially “secret deals” made with the US government, as Article 19-A of the Constitution entitled every citizen of Pakistan to have access to all information[xiv]. During one of the hearings Justice Sheikh Azmat Saeed of the Lahore High Court had rejected a report and comments by the Ministry of Foreign Affairs about US drone attacks on Pakistani soil and directed the ministry to file a satisfactory reply and also inform the court about the implementation of a resolution unanimously passed by parliament against drone attacks[xv].

A lawyer affiliated with the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N), FM Sabir, had also filed the writ petition in Peshawar High Court against the drone attacks. He submitted before the court to direct the respondents to stop drone attacks and Nato air strikes as these were against the collective will of 180 million Pakistanis. On November 16 The Peshawar High Court (PHC) issued notices to the federal government and directed it to explain whether these strikes were being carried out with the government’s consent. A two-member PHC bench comprising Chief Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan and Justice Yahya Afridi admitted the writ petition for full hearing and issued notices to all the respondents, including the Federation of Pakistan through the Ministry of Defence, Federal Secretary Defence and Federal Secretary Ministry of Foreign Affairs and the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government through chief secretary and political agents of both South and North Waziristan tribal regions.

In July the relatives of US drone victims in Pakistan had filed a complaint seeking an international arrest warrant for a former CIA official, John Rizzo. The complaint lodged with police in the capital Islamabad calls on the Interpol and the US to issue an international arrest warrant against Rizzo over civilian deaths. The retired official has also worked at the CIA General Council under the administration of Barack Obama.[xvi]

 Comparison with Previous Year

The month of November previous year (2010) saw almost double number of drone attacks as compared to this year’s month of November. The CIA had carried out 15 drone attacks killing 84 people in November 2010. First 11 months of this year show a significant reduction in drone attacks as compared to the previous year. During first eleven months of 2010, the CIA had struck 116 times and killed 812 people while this year 607 people have been killed so far in 78 drone attacks.

Civilian Killings in Somalia

Very weak reaction against drone attacks in Pakistan has encouraged the CIA to expand its drone campaign in other conflict zones. Currently the agency is operating armed drones in six different countries of the world including Pakistan, Afghanistan, Iraq, Yemen, Libya and Somalia. After Pakistan, Somalia is the biggest target of these armed drones. During the month of November 2011, the CIA has killed at least 30 civilians in Somalia. Casualty rate in drone attacks in Somalia is now higher than Pakistan. Lawless Somalia has no proper mechanism to record the casualties caused by the controversial drone attacks.


November 2011

Sr. No

Date

Main Area

Locality

TOT

Missiles Fired

Killed

Injured

Significant Death

Sources

Min

Max

Min

Max

1

17

NWA

Shawal/Razmak

House

6

6

9

5

5

NK

The News Daily Express

2

16

SWA

Camp

10

12

18

NK

NK

NK

Daily Express BBC

3

15

NWA

Miram Shah

House

2

6

7

4

4

AFPDaily Express

4

03

NWA

Miranshah

House

4

2

3

3

3

BBC Urdu, Daily Nation, AFP News,

Total Attacks=4

22

26

37

12

12

                                             NK=Not Known NWA= North Waziristan Agency SWA= South Waziristan Agency

 
 

Total Drone Attacks in 2011

Month

No. of Drone Attacks

Reported Max Deaths

January

11

49

February

4

21

March

12

89

April

2

32

May

9

62

June

12

117

July

6

73

August

6

50

September

4

22

October

8

55

November

4

37

Total

78

607

References:


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