Nawaz Sharif who is to be Pakistan’s prime minister for a third time, called Washington to end its drone strikes in the Asian country.
Sharif said the drone strikes pose a “challenge” to Pakistan’s national sovereignty, the Associated Press quoted him as talking to reporters from his family’s estate outside the eastern city of Lahore on Monday.
“Drones indeed are challenging our sovereignty. Of course we have taken this matter up very seriously. I think this is a very serious issue, and our concern must be understood properly,” said Sharif.
Sharif’s Pakistan Muslim League-N party appeared on course to secure a majority of seats in Pakistan’s parliament and form the next government after claiming victory in Saturday’s election.
A high court in Pakistan has ruled that US drone strikes in the country’s tribal belt should be considered war crimes, since the attacks resulted in the deaths of innocent people.
The Peshawar High Court has recommended the Pakistani government advance a resolution against the attacks in the United Nations. The court issued its verdict on the CIA-run air strikes in response to four petitions charging the attacks killed civilians and caused “collateral damage.”
Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan heard the petitions, and ruled that drone strikes on sovereign Pakistani territory were illegal, inhumane and a violation of the UN charter on human rights.
“The government of Pakistan must ensure that no drone strike takes place in the future,” the court said on Thursday, according to the Press Trust of India.
The court also recommended that if the US rejects these findings in the UN, Pakistan should break off relations with Washington: “If the US vetoes the resolution, then the country should think about breaking diplomatic ties with the US.”
The Pakistani case was filed last year by the Foundation for Fundamental Rights, a charity based in Islamabad, on behalf of the families of victims killed in a drone attack on a tribal jirga, including more than 50 tribal elders and a number of government officials.
According to a report submitted by political officials of North Waziristan Agency, 896 Pakistani residents of the region were killed in the last five years ending December 2012, and 209 were seriously injured. A report by the South Waziristan Agency showed that 70 drone strikes were carried out in the last five years ending June 2012, in which 553 people were killed and 126 injured.
“In view of the established facts, undeniable in nature, under the UN Charter and Conventions, the people of Pakistan have every right to ask the security forces either to prevent such strikes by force or to shoot down intruding drones,” the court verdict said.
Shahzad Akbar, a lawyer for victims in the case, hailed this as a “landmark” judgment: “Drone victims in Waziristan will now get some justice after a long wait. This judgment will also prove to be a test for the new government: If drone strikes continue and the government fails to act, it will run the risk of contempt of court,” he said, according to the website of legal action charity Reprieve.
The United States regularly targets Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants in Pakistan’s mountainous tribal regions accused of carrying out cross-border attacks in Afghanistan. Washington claims the operations are done in cooperation with Pakistan’s military.
Human rights groups, however, criticize the “collateral damage” of innocent civilian deaths caused by the attacks, and point to the shroud of secrecy surrounding drone use.
“Drone attacks on northwest Pakistan, which commenced under former US President George W. Bush in 2004, have increased sevenfold under Obama and have caused the deaths of thousands of suspected terrorists and at least hundreds of civilians in Pakistan and Yemen,” Bloomberg reported in April.
Even some of America’s leading commanders fear blowback over the indiscriminate use of this new military technology.
“The resentment created” by Washington’s newfound reliance on drone strikes “is much greater than the average American appreciates,” General Stanley McChrystal, the former top commander in Afghanistan, told Reuters in January. The use of drones adds to “the perception of American arrogance that says, ‘We can fly where we want, we can shoot where we want, because we can.”’
At the same time, America’s foreign critics seem to be gaining ground as Washington continues to pursue drone warfare.
Former Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, whose Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) party is considered the favorite in this Saturday’s election, recently vowed that he would not permit drone attacks on Pakistani soil.
“Drone attacks are against the national sovereignty and a challenge for the country’s autonomy and independence,” he said.
Clive Stafford Smith of the London-based group Reprieve said the court’s ruling is a step toward greater transparency in Washington’s use of drone technology: “Today’s momentous decision by the Peshawar High Court shines the first rays of accountability onto the CIA’s secret drone war,” the Independent quoted him as saying.
The innocent people killed by American drone strikes are civilian victims of US war crimes, he added.
Tehran: In a strategically significant move to counter China’s presence in the region, India has announced that it will upgrade Iran’s crucial Chabahar port that gives a transit route to land-locked Afghanistan.
India’s decision was conveyed by Foreign Minister Salman Khurshid in Tehran today during his meeting with his counterpart.
An expert team from India will visit Iran to assess investment needed for the upgrade of the port on the Iran-Pakistan border facing the Arabian Sea. Sources say an investment to the tune of $100 million is required for the upgrade.
The move comes despite strong pressure from America, which doesn’t want any investment in developing infrastructure in Iran to put pressure on the Western Asian country over its covert [sic] nuclear programme. But India has been worried and keen to open an alternative route to Afghanistan ever since China took over Pakistan’s Gwadar port in the region, which is just 76 km from the Chabahar port.
Chahbahar port, which is surrounded by a free trade zone, is crucial particularly since Pakistan does not allow transit facility from India to Afghanistan.
India will also discuss ways to increase trade with Iran as it is concerned over the “grave” imbalance. The two-way trade is around US $15 billion, out of which Indian exports account only for around US $2.5 billion.
Oil is the biggest item of Indian import from Iran but India feels there is a lot of scope for increasing Indian exports to the Persian country particularly in pharmaceuticals and food.
However, efforts to enhance trade have been facing hurdles because of sanctions imposed by the UN and European Union, which make payment difficult.
There are also problems like re-insurance of oil refineries and transportation of consignment from Iran because of the sanctions.
- India to sign pact with Iran soon to ship goods to Afghanistan (en.trend.az)
- Iran, India to discuss gas pipeline extension (news.in.msn.com)
- Iran, India set to ink economic co-op MOUs (alethonews.com)
TEHRAN – Pakistan rejected US media reports that the country has struck a deal with the CIA over a secret drone campaign in the tribal regions.
The New York Times has reported that Pakistan and the United States had signed the deal in 2004 and a US spy aircraft in its first strike had killed senior Pakistani Taliban commander Nek Muhammad in South Waziristan, Xinhua reported.
The CIA has since conducted hundreds of drone strikes in Pakistan that have killed thousands of people, Pakistanis and Arabs, militants and civilians alike, the paper said.
The Pakistan Foreign Ministry spokesman said that the story is baseless and a part of the propaganda to create confusion about the clear position of Pakistan on this matter.
“We have repeatedly affirmed that Pakistan regards the use of drone strikes as counterproductive,” the spokesman said while responding to a query regarding a story published in New York Times on an alleged deal on drones.
“It (drone strikes) violates Pakistan’s sovereignty and it violates International Law,” the spokesman said in a statement.
He said in a statement that there is now a growing debate in the international community to consider the legality and legitimacy of drone strikes.
The New York report claimed that Pakistan’s intelligence agency ISI and the CIA agreed that all drone flights in Pakistan would operate under the CIA’s covert action authority — meaning that the United States would never acknowledge the missile strikes and that Pakistan would either take credit for the individual killings or remain silent.
Hundreds of prisoners of the US War of Terror languish in prisons around the world, in Guantanamo and on the US mainland. Some have been there as long as 12 years, some have sentences that extend beyond the span of their life; many have never been charged with a crime and more than half the prisoners who remain in Guantanamo have had their original charges dropped or have served their full sentence, but are barred by US law from being repatriated to their homeland and therefore can not be released. Even the few prisoners in Guantanamo who are considered ‘high value’ are mostly charged with thought crimes, plans that were never carried out in any significant detail. In many cases, the leads that initially brought them to the attention of the FBI or CIA have proved to be inaccurate.
Amina Masood Janjua is a Pakistani woman whose husband was abducted from the streets of Rawalpindi by Pakistani President Musharraf’s thugs shortly after 9/11. Masood Janjua was an honest citizen going about his business, and his wife has been looking for him ever since. He wasn’t the only one picked up this way, but his wife Amina was the one who started an organization to advocate for the hundreds of men disappeared in Pakistan after 911. In the early days of the War on Terror, hundreds of men were pulled from the streets and countryside of Pakistan to feed the US government’s insatiable appetite for Terrorists. Some were sent directly to Guantanamo; some were moved here and there before being sent to Guantanamo; some were deposited more or less permanently in one of several prisons at the US base in Bagram, in a secret prison in Pakistan or somewhere else in Libya, Syria, Thailand elsewhere into a secret array of American prisons. Teenagers have been picked up on the Afghan border and sold to ‘the Americans’ as terrorists, who must have figured out it wasn’t true in some cases because 50 of them remain in the Bagram prison though after 5-10 years they have never been charged with a crime.
And then there are the residents of the Federally Administered Tribal Area (FATA) in Pakistan, subject to ongoing surveillance, missile strikes and bombings by U.S. Predator drones. The FATA is something like a combination of Pine Ridge Reservation with Gaza. Indigenous peoples who live there have, since the British Raj, been allowed to keep their tribal culture and their ‘sovereignty’ in exchange for giving up their rights as citizens of Pakistan. They are governed by a Federal Agent who makes final decisions on the distribution of social resources, food, medicine and guns, and who oversees the tribal justice system with the power to intervene at any time, pass judgement on any individual and determine a sentence. Currently, due to the ongoing violence that has spilled over from the Afghan war (Taliban on the ground and drone strikes from above), citizens of Pakistan from outside the region are not permitted to enter the FATA region, and those who live there cannot leave without passing through government checkpoints. Not surprisingly, they are generally apprehended by their fellow countrymen with fear and loathing, and pity.
One hundred and sixty six men remain in Guantanamo. There are a handful of so called ‘high value’ prisoners whose cases are deemed to be related to actual terrorist attacks. But all were severely tortured at secret prisons when first detained, and a number of them have cases based on crimes that were nothing more than loose talk, association with the wrong people and/or claims that are clearly contradicted by the evidence that has unfolded while they were in custody. Eighty Six of them have been cleared for release, but are retained in detention for political reasons. At least 28, but possibly over 100 of the prisoners are on a life threatening hunger strike. They are choosing death over spending the rest of their lives in torment. At this time, 11 are being force-fed. Even death is denied them. Their lawyers, who complained on their behalf, have been denied access to them. Non-military flights to Guantanamo have been canceled. The office created by Obama in the early days of his presidency to close Guantanamo has itself been closed, and new monies have been allocated to expand the Guantanamo Prison facilities.
In the US ‘homeland’, Muslims, including immigrants and African Americans from impoverished neighborhoods; people who are naive, ignorant, immature, along with recent immigrants whose cultural habits and political stances do not fit a jingoistic standard of normalcy and patriotism, are accused of thought crimes or manipulated into participating in fake crimes after being targeted for sting operations that resemble the cons used to part old people, the disabled or other potentially needy or naive people from their money, then incarcerated with lengthy sentences made possible by a so called ‘terrorism enhancement’ to whatever ‘crime’ they are alleged to have committed.
Men like Yassin Aref, a Kurdish refugee from Northern Iraq, have been targeted due to possible social contacts made in their home countries and imprisoned for long periods of time despite having committed no crime. Yassin’s name and phone number were found in a private phone book picked up in ‘terrorist hideout’ near his home town after it was bombed by American forces during the Iraq War. Could someone there have known him? Of course, this is a land of small villages where everyone is connected one way or the other. Like many college students, Yassin worked for a political organization which promised sovereignty for his Kurdish homeland, a popular stance in Kurdistan, particularly after the scorched earth policies of Saddam Hussein in the region. Yassin gave rides once or twice to a man who was later designated a ‘terrorist’ by the US government.
Meanwhile dozens of immigrants and poor African Americans, who constitute the majority of indigenous Muslims in this country, have been targeted, manipulated into committing or attempting to commit a crime, then imprisoned as terrorists. Men desperate or naive enough to take the provocateur’s bait, are conned and confused and recorded for the convenience of the courts by provocateurs who profit handsomely from their work. The provocateurs, often petty criminals, are bankrolled by the FBI, moved from job to job when they are successful and absolved of any prior or concurrent crimes they may commit. Not a bad deal for a sociopath with a criminal record and a taste for good living.
In one unusual case, a Pakistani National named Aafia Siddiqui, a woman who had lived in the US for more than 10 years during which she earned a PhD in Cognitive Neuroscience (the physical underpinnings of learning), was abducted in Pakistan near her parents home, where she had been staying, and incarcerated somewhere in Afghanistan or Pakistan, later released in the Afghan city of Ghazni, only to be immediately rearrested, was later convicted of a crime that she may or may not have committed in attempting to escape after the second arrest. I say ‘may or may not have committed’ because the testimony against her is not corroborated by a single iota of material evidence. The original charges against her, which date back to a time shortly preceding her arrest in Pakistan, seem to be based on the testimony of one or more high profile 9/11 suspects who may have met her at some point or may have been told her name by their interrogators, and the testimony of an abusive ex-husband.
Saturday, March 30th, was the anniversary of Dr. Aafia Siddiqui’s initial abduction. There is a lot of mystery around this event, and the American Government persists in denying they held her for the 5 years that she was missing. However, Aafia Siddiqui had her 3 young children with her at the time of their abduction. When the middle child, Miriam, who was 4 years old at the time of her abduction, was dropped off near her mother’s family home in Karachi shortly after the time of her trial, she spoke only American English. The older boy, 6 or 7 at the time of his abduction, was with her Dr. Siddiqui when she was arrested the 2nd time in Ghazni, but she did not appear to recognize him. He too is now living with his Grandmother and Aunt in Karachi. He has required special support to deal with with traumatic memories of years in prisons, and has needed surgeries to realign his hips, dislocated and misaligned due to long periods in restraints during a time of rapid growth. The baby, less than a few months old at the time of their disappearance in March 2003, has not been seen since.
The U.S. authorities adamantly deny having held Dr. Siddiqui prior to her arrest in Ghazni in 2008. However, they also contend that, after being shot and mortally wounded by U.S. soldiers (in self defense), she unleashed a verbal torrent off vulgar anti-American expletives in English, wherein the word “F*#!” appeared more than once. This, admittedly unseemly, behavior would seem very odd if she really had not been in the company of Americans for the previous 5 years. Had she been in hiding in a remote Baloch village with the womenfolk, or dealing daily with conservative Islamist clerics, plotting the ruin of the United States, a country where she had lived for most of her adult life, and where, if not a citizen, she was engaged in numerous good works and charitable projects, where, in fact, she is accused of wanting to convert as many people as possible to her beloved Islam, would she have the habit of expressing outrage in the common vernacular of the United States?
There were a number of psychological analyses prior to Dr. Siddiqui’s trial because of her paranoia and inability to relate appropriately to her surroundings. Initially, she was declared incompetent to stand trial but later, based on new testimony and the reversal of the state psychologist’s initial report the decision was set aside. The psychologist who changed his mind testified that, after he saw the government denial that they had ever held her, he came to the conclusion that she was a malingerer rather than a person suffering severe PTSD, as in his initial conclusion. Dr. Siddiqui’s family and her lawyers all firmly believe her story. Evidence, including the return of her daughter and and some memories that her son has, along with testimony by the Pakistani government official responsible for her initial abduction, has emerged to support her claims.
Dr. Siddiqui was convicted by a jury on all counts but without premeditation. And yet, the judge sentenced her with the ‘terrorism enhancement’ to 86 years, more than the future length of her life for crimes that would normally entail a 10-12 year sentence. The chain of accusations on which the terrorism enhancement was based were not clearly articulated in court as charges, and therefore could not be challenged. Dr. Siddiqui is currently incarcerated in Carswell Medical Center in Texas, a hospital prison with a record of patient abuse. Letters sent to her are returned. Calls are not received.
The prison says that she refuses all of her mail and her phone calls. Given her state of despair at the time of her conviction, it is possible this is true. However, it would seem questionable in light of the way the mental health issues were handled at her trial. A healthy person would not refuse all mail and phone calls. If she is psychologically disturbed enough to be doing that, then she should not have been deemed competent to stand trial at that time as she was not malingering. Even if she were disturbed at the time of her trial, a retreat from all outside contact would indicate a deterioration in her condition and an environment not conducive to the restoration of her mental health. I suppose a sentence in a mental hospital that lasts as long as twice your remaining lifespan would fit that description, but is it not a cruel and unusual punishment? And then again, maybe they are stretching the truth to hide a different kind of cruel and unusual treatment.
Nearly twelve years have passed since 9/11/01 when the US began building the myth of a fanatical gang of international terrorists targeting the United States with mayhem and murder. After seven years of fear and loathing, a new president came into office on a wave of hope. Yet, Guantanamo is still open for business and the remaining residents are farther than ever from release, as are most of the CIA Black Sites. Rendering of prisoners is rare, but the program still exists. U.S. Drone attacks in the FATA have increased exponentially, while only a handful of the ‘disappeared’ have been returned to their families. When Bagram is returned to the Afghans, the unindicted Pakistani youth will remain in the custody of their American jailers. New cases based on FBI sting operations are regularly heard in the Federal Courts resulting in convictions and unusually lengthy sentences, often in Communication Management Units where the prisoners are held in virtual solitary confinement at locations far removed from their families. The Obama White House has released formal justifications for executing American citizens without trial.
Dr. Aafia Siddiqui remains in Carswell FMC where she has been joined by Lynne Stewart, a 73 year old America lawyer who has selflessly defended the poor and the disenfranchised and those who have been fodder for the FBI terrorist franchise throughout her career. Lynne Stewart, convicted of a technical legal violation in her defense of one of her clients, was sentenced to more than 10 years in prison. Currently, she is suffering from stage 4 cancer, but the authorities say she cannot have a ‘compassionate release’ for treatment. It will only be available when they are sure she is going to die within a few months. I guess it is an equal opportunity victory that at least 2 women have joined the thousands of men tortured and persecuted in this War of Terror.
But here in the land of democracy and freedom, where we preach about opportunity for all, where we righteously condemn other countries for unequal treatment of women, where we talk endlessly about freedom and justice, it’s time we take a look at what is really going on and who we really are. Perhaps then we will set aside ‘hope’ and start thinking about active change. Until then we are all prisoners of The War on Terror.
Judy Bello is active with the Upstate (NY) Coalition to Ground the Drones and End the Wars. She traveled to Pakistan with the CodePink Peace Delegation last Fall. The Coalition is planning, Resisting Drones, Global War and Empire, a weekend of networking, education and action in Syracuse, NY April 26-28. You can learn more about the weekend events at http://upstatedroneaction.org
A UN team investigating civilian casualties from US assassination drone attacks in Pakistan has stated that the terror airstrikes violate sovereignty of Pakistan.
Ben Emmerson, head of the UN team, said in a statement on Friday that Pakistani government told him at least 400 civilians have been killed in US drone strikes.
The team paid a three-day research trip to Pakistan that ended on Wednesday. The trip was kept secret until the team left the country.
“The position of the government of Pakistan is quite clear. It does not consent to the use of drones by the United States on its territory and it considers this to be a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity,” Emmerson said.
The attacks “involve the use of force on the territory of another state without its consent and is therefore a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty,” he added.
The UN launched an investigation into civilian casualties from drone attacks and other targeted killings in Pakistan in January 2013 and will publish the final report in October.
Pakistani officials have condemned the attacks as violation of the country’s sovereignty.
The London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism said in a report in February that the United States has carried out more than 360 drone attacks in Pakistan since 2004, killing nearly 3,500 people.
Over the past few months, demonstrations have been held across Pakistan to condemn the United States for violating Pakistan’s sovereignty.
On February 13, hundreds of Pakistani tribesmen held an anti-US demonstration in Islamabad to protest against the killing of innocent civilians by the US drones.
Away from the region’s headlines and wars, plans are being methodically put in place that could redraw the strategic map of the Middle East, erasing one of the region’s key colonial-era features.
Recent moves by Iran and Iraq to press ahead with the construction of a series of new oil and gas export pipelines could be attributed to Iran’s bid to counter international sanctions. The planned pipelines could also reflect Iraq’s economic recovery or perhaps pressure from oil companies for new export routes.
There may be some truth to these explanations. But a closer look makes clear that these schemes are related.
The short-term aims are evident. They include trying to lure Jordan into the region’s “resistance” axis and reducing American influence on Iran’s eastern neighbor Pakistan.
But the long-term objective is more ambitious: to connect the Middle East by way of a web of economic ties that binds them into a regional partnership whose mainstays are Iran and Iraq.
Baghdad is making it increasingly clear where it stands in terms of its regional alignment. In recent months, it has openly supported Syrian President Bashar al-Assad’s regime in Damascus, clashed with Ankara, reached out to Cairo, and been at odds with Riyadh and Doha.
The pipeline schemes also underscore Iraq’s chosen course. The country has opted to assume a role consistent with its historical legacy and its economic and strategic clout.
Iran Lures Pakistan
The latest move in this regard was Monday’s pipeline inauguration by Iranian President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari. The pipeline will transport Iranian natural gas to Asian markets via Pakistani territory, providing Pakistan with desperately needed energy supplies.
Negotiations between the two countries began almost a decade ago, but were frequently stalled due to opposition from the US. Washington has long sought to thwart any scheme for transporting oil and gas from or through Iran.
During that period, Iran completed its section of the pipeline from the Pars gas field in the south of the country to the Pakistani border town of Multan. It has a capacity of 750 million cubic meters per day.
Tehran has undertaken to cover a third of the $1.5 billion cost of the 780-km Pakistani section of the pipeline, with the Pakistani government funding the rest.
Wooing Jordan and Egypt
Meanwhile, Iraq and Jordan have begun work on building parallel oil and gas pipelines connecting southern Iraq to the Red Sea port of Aqaba, with the possibility of extending the link to Egypt.
The 1,690-km line, which will take two to three years to complete, is to run from Basra to Haditha west of Baghdad then into Jordanian territory and south to Aqaba. Contracts for the Jordanian portion are to be awarded to companies on a build-operate-transfer basis, with ownership reverting to the Iraqi government after 20 years.
Under the agreement, the oil pipeline will provide Jordan with 150,000 barrels of Iraqi oil per day for domestic use at preferential prices (around $20 dollars per barrel below market). Apart from putting an end to Jordan’s chronic fuel crises, the scheme is expected to benefit the country to the tune of $3 billion per year.
A planned second phase of the project envisions the building of a western spur from Haditha through Syrian territory to pump 1.25 million barrels of oil per day to the Syrian Mediterranean port of Banias.
Meanwhile, plans are being developed for a 5,000-km link to transport Iranian gas to Iraq and Syria and on into Europe, providing Iran with an export route that bypasses the Gulf.
Iran and Iraq are due to sign an agreement on the first phase of the project on 20 March. This would enable Iran to pump 25 million cubic meters of gas a day to Iraq. Proposed extensions to the line envision it supplying Jordan and Lebanon with gas.
Iran shares the Pars field – the world’s largest gas field with an estimated 14 trillion cubic meters of gas, around 8 percent of total proven world reserves – with Qatar. The emirate recently unveiled its own plans for a pipeline to carry gas through Saudi, Jordanian, Syrian and Turkish territory to Europe.
- US threatens Pakistan with sanctions over gas pipeline deal with Iran (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Iran-Iraq-Syria Gas Pipeline Project Agreement Finalized (alethonews.wordpress.com)
- Zardari, Ahmedinijad inaugurate Pak-Iran gas pipeline project (nation.com.pk)
The US State Department has threatened Islamabad with sanctions if the country goes through with a joint multi-billion-dollar gas pipeline project with Iran.
“We have serious concerns, if this project actually goes forward, that the Iran Sanctions Act would be triggered,” State Department spokeswoman Victoria Nuland said on Monday.
“We’ve been straight up with the Pakistanis about these concerns,” Nuland added.
The 1996 Iran Sanctions Act allows the US government to ban imports from any non-American company that invests more than USD 20 million a year in the Iranian oil and natural gas sector.
Nuland said the US was “supporting large-scale energy projects in Pakistan that will add some 900 megawatts to the power grid by the end of 2013.”
The threats came on the same day as the inauguration of the final construction phase of the multi-billion-dollar Iran-Pakistan (IP) gas pipeline, intended to carry natural gas from Iran to its eastern neighbor.
Iran’s President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad and his Pakistani counterpart Asif Ali Zardari attended the ceremony on the Iran-Pakistan border on Monday.
The pipeline is designed to help Pakistan overcome its growing energy needs at a time when the country of 180 million is grappling with serious energy shortages.
Meanwhile, Iranian Deputy Oil Minister Javad Owji said on Monday that Pakistan has raised its demand for natural gas imports from Iran to 30 million cubic meters (mcm) per day from a previous 21.5 mcm.
Owji added that Iran has hitherto spent USD 2 billion to build the section of the pipeline that lies on the Iranian side of the border and that the Pakistani section would need USD 3 billion.
On March 2, Zardari said that Islamabad would not stop the pipeline project at any cost.
The Pakistani president stressed that his government would continue to pursue the construction of the gas pipeline despite threats and pressure from the US.
- Pakistan-Iran gas pipeline launched (morningstaronline.co.uk)
Islamabad – US Congressman Dana Rohrabacher has requested a referendum to be held in Balochistan on the question of independence, which would challenge the claims by Islamabad that the Baloch want to be part of Pakistan.
Rohrabacher said this while addressing a gathering at a conference entitled “Global and Regional Security Challenges in South Asia: What Future for Balochistan”, reports The Dawn.
Rohrabacher, who was a key speaker at the conference, gave a poignant speech urging the right to self-determination for the Baloch people.
He also called for Pakistani officials to be tried for war crimes.
He further said that America has to quit giving any military aid to Pakistan who uses the money to murder and suppress the Baloch people.
The government of Pakistan claims that there are “red lines” which drones and ground soldiers dare not cross (US urged not to cross ‘red line’ in Fata). This is another lie. In reality, US drones (and possibly “private contractors”) cross those lines everyday. Just another day in the multi-faceted psychological war games, that are fought-out in FATA everyday.
This new public relations ploy, to allow the families of drone victims to prosecute American Predator war crimes builds a new line of defense for the Pak Army, while enhancing its credibility. This is part of Pakistan’s new “Plan B” for Waziristan, where the civilian administration attempts to use Western courts to stop daily drone attacks upon the Wazir tribes in both North and South Waziristan, since military persuasion has failed miserably in that respect. Military reluctance to interfere with US plans for Pakistan’s militants has derived not from a common desire to see the CIA … Pakistanis, but from a desire NOT to piss-off the paymaster, which is interpreted by the people as complicity in the attacks (SEE: US embassy cables: Pakistan backs US drone attacks on tribal areas (23 Aug. 2008, 14:12)). Even the targeted militant leaders are aware of Army complicity in drone targetting. I am referring here to the testimony of the recently assassinated Waziri leader Nazir (SEE: As-Sahab: English transcript of the interview with Mulla Nazeer Ahmad, the amir of the mujahideen in the South Waziristan).
The outrageous death of Nazir and his friends clarified for the other militants, along with the entire Wazir tribe, that the Pak Army is obviously complicit in the drone attacks, otherwise actions would have been taken to put an end to the air incursions (SEE: India/Pakistani Detente’ Went Into the Ground with Mullah Nazir). As long as the Army continued to maintain its duplicitous drone acceptance/rejection strategy, denying involvement in the drone targeting (which consistently hit the pro-Army Wazirs and not the anti-Pakistan Mehsuds in both North and South Waziristan), the Wazirs continued to participate in the Pak/US development strategy of infrastructural bribery, based on building ”Quick Impact Projects” in areas previously cleared of Mehsud terrorists.
Since the UAV murder of Mullah Nazir near Wana, working in tandem with the development strategy, the Army is allowing lawsuits (Case No: CO/2599/2012) to go forward on one of the most heinous drone attacks upon the Wazirs, the March 17th, 2011 attack upon a Waziri Jirga in Datta Khel, N. Waziristan, which killed 50 (SEE: Waziristan tribesmen to move ICJ against drone hits). This move may be a compromise between the government and the Wazir tribe, to avoid a companion lawsuit (which is coming-up for a hearing on Feb. 13) that has been filed in Peshawar High Court, which forces the government of Pakistan’s hand. The Peshawar suit makes the following demands:
- Confirm the Pakistani government’s complete opposition to US drone strikes in the tribal areas as a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty under Article 2(4) of the United Nations Charter.
- Approach the United Nations Security Council and demand adoption of a resolution condemning drone strikes and requiring the US to end the strikes in Pakistan.
- Issue a formal complaint to the United Nations Human Rights Council (UNHRC) and with the Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial, Summary or Arbitrary Executions as the fundamental right to life is being breached by US drone strikes.
- Publicly encourage victims of drone stacks to file complaints to the UNHRC so that the UN Secretary General can list this issue on the Council agenda for discussion.
- Notify the US government of Pakistan’s intention to seek relief in the International Court of Justice for the US’s illegal operation of drones in Pakistan.
- Sign the Rome Treaty so that the International Criminal Court can have jurisdiction to prosecute the drone attacks as international law crimes.
The Wazir experiment was intended to reinforce existing agreements that have been made between the Army and the Tribal Authorities, which have previously delegated the policing function to the Tribes. Under those peace deals, Tribal Leaders had agreed to keep “terrorists” and foreigners out of their territory, referring to Taliban and the Uzbek and “al-CIA-da” forces. The Wazir Tribe has been held responsible for the terrorist attacks within their neighborhoods since this agreement was signed in 2007. Under the agreement, the Mehsuds were to have been run-out of Wana. The Wazirs resisted taking this extreme step for the Army, because they were forced to travel roads through Mehsud territory and obviously didn’t want to start a Tribal feud (SEE: Pak Army Uses US Money To Build Road for Ahmadzai Wazirs To Run Mehsuds Out of Wana On).
The Wazir were expected to run the remaining 1,000 or so Mehsud out of Wana, just as soon as the new Kaur-Gomal-Tanai-Wana road was inagurated. Mullah Nazir led a tribal jirga, which voted to run them out on December 5 (SEE: 1000 Mehsud Refugees Run-Out of Wana ). Three weeks later, Nazir was killed in a flurry of Hellfire missiles which were fired by three or four drones (SEE: They Had A Funeral In Wana for Mullah Nazir and 10,000 People Showed-Up–where were the drones then?). After years of trying and countless near-misses, the CIA finally killed the lynchpin of Pak Army plans for peace through development, by gifting him with a Quran containing a drone tracking chip. The man who was the most feared, as well as the most effective anti-Taliban tribal leader/fighter, was the centerpiece of Pakistani peace efforts, who hopefully would inspire all of the tribes to build their own effective anti-Taliban “Lashkars.”
The S. Waziristan development projects were a type of reward for supporting govt. efforts. The Army officials took their peace efforts so seriously that they rolled-up their sleeves and helped to build homes for the returnees, teach gardening skills, classes in fish farming, poultry and livestock handling. They have even organized an off-road rally in South Waziristan, hoping to draw people into an entertainment venue and thereby possibly enhance their communal feelings. The Army is whole-heartedly into the idea of “winning hearts and minds” in South Waziristan, following American counter-insurgency tactics to the letter. But they are finding-out the hard way that it might be impossible to smooth relations with people whose homes and schools you have just flattened, not to mention overcoming those hard feelings harbored over family members who were killed by the Army’s zealous pulverizing of parts of South Waziristan.
As you can see from this WSJ article clip, the rehabilitation effort, centered on Kotkai village (Hakeemullah Mehsud’s hometown), is not having the desired effect or speed of development. With the killing of the Wazir leader, how much further will the Tribal elders be willing to go in trusting the Army to deal fairly?
The lawsuit in British courts against the UK Govt., for their participation in the American drone strike of the Wazir jirga will serve as a largely symbolic test which could possibly enable judicial interference to handicap further drone strikes. The suit filed in Peshawar could prove to be a very significant test of govt. loyalty, to document whether Pakistan supports its own citizens (who are being systematically deprived of their inalienable rights to Life), or the rights of the Imperial powers to murder them at will. A wrong choice on the Army’s part could cost them all of their remaining friends in the Tribal Regions. It would force the govt. hand, requiring public opposition to drone strikes, as well as taking the people’s case to the UN and filing formal Human Rights violations. In addition to this, it would force govt. to allow charges to be filed in the ICJ (International Court of Justice). If any of these actions are taken, they would be sufficient to suspend all further American payments to Pakistan.
In his essay “A Hanging,” George Orwell recounts, in great detail, the events he witnessed leading up to the execution of a man. It is important to note that before becoming an outspoken critic of the hypocrisy of Governments, George Orwell worked for one. He was a member of the Indian Imperial Police, having served in Burma, a British colony at the time.
The condemned was a small Hindu man who, while apparently resigned to his fate, none the less had irritated the jail superintendent by the fact that he was still alive at 8:00 o’clock in the morning. “The man ought to have been dead by this time” the superintendent said irritably. The slow pace of the execution was disrupting the smooth functioning of the prison, since the other prisoners couldn’t be fed their breakfast until the sentence had been carried out.
We are given a vivid description of how the man walked awkwardly, encumbered by the chains that restrained him, but steadily, to his fate. When the execution party was about forty yards from the hangman’s gallows, Orwell tells us that a most curious thing occurred. The prisoner, in the last few remaining minutes of his life, made the slight effort to step aside as he was walking so as to avoid a puddle that was in his path.
This event shocked Orwell, who candidly reveals to us that until that moment, he had never truly realized what it meant to kill another human being. It took the insignificant act of a man not wanting to get his feet wet on the way to his own execution to make Orwell understand, for the first time in his life, “what it means to destroy a healthy, conscious man” and of the “unspeakable wrongness” involved in executing someone.
The US, as part of its “War on Terror,” a war which, conveniently enough, was undeclared and has no expiration date, has been using drones for at least a decade now. And 2013 appears to have gotten off to a spectacular start, with 7 attacks in the first 10 days of January in Pakistan alone. This compares to an average of less than one a week in 2012. One report has as many as 11 civilians being killed so far this year. This figure is, of course, being disputed by U.S. officials. Unfortunately, they declined to provide a figure of their own.
And while their use has grown, President Obama assures us that, “Drones have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties” and that missile launches have been “very precise precision strikes against al Qaeda and their affiliates, and we have been very careful about how it’s been applied.”
In a direct rebuke to his critics, the President argues, “There’s this perception that we’re just sending a whole bunch of strikes willy-nilly. This is a targeted, focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists who are trying to go in and harm Americans.”
One would be forgiven for disagreeing.
On October 14, 2011, a 16-year-old boy, and American citizen, named Abdulrahman al-Awlaki was killed in a deliberate drone strike in Yemen (8 other people were also killed). He shared the same fate as his father, Anwar al-Awlaki, also an American citizen, who was killed in a targeted drone strike 2 weeks prior.
And the boy’s crime? According to Obama senior campaign adviser, and former White House Press Secretary, Robert Gibbs, it was to have the unfortunate luck of being born to a “radical” Muslim cleric.
In an interview with We Are Change, a self proclaimed non-partisan media organization, Mr. Gibbs tells us that the boy “should have [had] a far more responsible father.” It is not clear if by “responsible father” Mr. Gibbs meant someone with a Nobel Peace Prize, a “kill list” and a fleet of armed attack drones at his disposal.
In defense of the dead boy, it should be noted that his father, an accused member of al-Qaeda who was allegedly plotting to blow up US airliners and poison US citizens, had an honor not given to many radical Muslim clerics.
He had the distinct pleasure of being an invited guest at the Pentagon, dining there in the days following the terrorist attacks of 9/11. This is a privilege that not even your faithful correspondent’s father has enjoyed.
But surely the killing of children (even children with horrible fathers or children who were not fortunate enough to have been born American citizens) through drone strikes is something that we can all agree is reprehensible and indefensible, isn’t it?
Not according to Mr. Joe Klein, political columnist for Time Magazine. In comments made on the MSNBC program “Morning Joe” on October 23, 2012, Mr. Klein presents us with the thought provoking question of, “Whose four year old gets killed?” He then goes on to advocate the indiscriminate killing of innocent people in the Middle East and Africa with drone attacks (Mr. Klein’s original question implies that he prefers the people killed be four year children), defending his point by stating, “What we’re doing is limiting the possibility that 4-year-olds here will get killed by indiscriminate acts of terror.”
To find a similar argument, logic or thought process, I believe, you would have to go back to one of the most morally bankrupt and reprehensible regimes in all of history.
(Author’s Note: while your faithful correspondent is neither a psychiatrist nor a psychologist, if your thoughts should ever take you to a place where you find yourself justifying the murder of innocent 4 year old children, I suggest you seek the care of a mental health professional immediately)
But all this talk of killed children is surely a moot point, isn’t it? The US government, once more, assures us that drones are used in a responsible manner, and therefore, rarely kill civilians, let alone children. Unfortunately, a study by the Brookings Institute leads us to believe the contrary. It argues that for every “insurgent” killed, there are, on average, 10 civilians killed as well. And the New American Foundation has found that the US government has the habit of repeatedly under-reporting the number of civilians killed and wounded in drone attacks. More troubling still, a study done jointly by Stanford Law School and the NYU School of Law claims that the US government, as a matter of policy, habitually under-reports the number of civilians killed and wounded in drone attacks.
The US is entering its 12th year of war in Afghanistan (longer than the Soviet Union’s campaign). A key component of US strategy in the region is targeted drone strikes. America’s drone policy has reportedly killed between 474 and 881 civilians in the region, including 176 children.
Further compounding all of this is the controversial US policy called the “double tap.” This involves striking an initial target and then, as people arrive to give aid to the original victims, following up with repeated attacks on the same site. It has been reported that, as a result of this policy, innocent bystanders and non-combatants have been intentionally killed. There are also disturbing reports that funerals have been deliberately hit by targeted drone strikes as well. In almost any other case these events would be labelled as war crimes or terrorism. But somehow, in the US, they only raise “contentious legal questions” according to the New York Times.
If we consider ourselves as being part of a just and correct society, Article 2(4) of the U.N. Charter should give us reason to pause. It expressly prohibits the threat or use of force by one state against another.
Some proponents of drone attacks have argued that Article 2(4) doesn’t apply, since these attacks are mostly being carried out on militants and insurgents in regions where the rule of law has broken down. Therefore, the phrase “state” doesn’t apply, nullifying that section of the Charter.
This argument is dubious at best. If it were China, Russia, or Iran engaging in this type of behavior closer to US shores, say in the remote regions of Central or South America, there is no doubt that the US government would be in an uproar over the legality, and the morality, of attack drones.
There is also no doubt that we would finally be able to recognize what the killing of innocent men, women and children with drones really is.
Tom McNamara is an Assistant Professor at the ESC Rennes School of Business, France, and a Visiting Lecturer at the French National Military Academy at Saint-Cyr, Coëtquidan, France.
“A Hanging” by George Orwell, 1931
“Abdulrahman al-Awlaki’s birth certificate” The Washington Post. Accessed at:
“Anwar al-Awlaki” October 19, 2012, The New York Times. Accessed at:
“Anwar al-Awlaki killing sparks US travel alert” October 1, 2011, BBC. Accessed at:
“CIA ‘revives attacks on rescuers’ in Pakistan” by Chris Woods, June 4th, 2012, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Accessed at:
“Critics of US drone programme angered by John Brennan’s nomination to CIA” by Paul Harris, January 10, 2013, The Guardian. Accessed at:
“Do Targeted Killings Work?” by Daniel L. Byman, Senior Fellow Foreign Policy, Saban Center for Middle East Policy, July 14, 2009, The Brookings Institute. Accessed at:
“Everything We Know So Far About Drone Strikes” by Cora Currier, January 11, 2013, ProPublica. Accessed at:
“George Orwell” BBC History. Accessed at:
“Get the Data: Obama’s terror drones” by Chris Woods, February 4, 2012, The Bureau of Investigative Journalism. Accessed at:
“Joe Klein’s sociopathic defense of drone killings of children” by Glenn Greenwald, October 23, 2012, The Guardian. Accessed at:
“Living Under Drones: Death, Injury, and Trauma to Civilians From US Drone Practices in Pakistan” the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic (Stanford Law School) and the Global Justice Clinic (NYU School of Law), September 2012. Accessed at:
“Morning Joe: Scarborough: Drone program is going to cause US problems in future” MSNBC, Accessed at:
“Obama Defends Drone Use” by Carol E. Lee and Adam Entous, with a contribution from Jared Favole, January 31, 2012, The Wall Street Journal. Accessed at:
“Obama Top Adviser Robert Gibbs Justifies Murder of 16 Year Old American Citizen” WeAreChange.org, video published October 23, 2012. Accessed at:
“Qaeda-Linked Imam Dined at Pentagon after 9/11” By Bob Orr, October 21, 2010, CBSNews /
CBS. Accessed at:
“Robert Gibbs Says Anwar al-Awlaki’s Son, Killed By Drone Strike, Needs ‘Far More Responsible Father’” by ryan Grim, October 24, 2012, The Huffington Post. Accessed at:
“The Charter of the United Nations” June 26, 1945. Accessed at:
“The Moral Case for Drones” by Scott Shane, July 14, 2012, The New York Times. Accessed at:
‘The Year of the Drone: An Analysis of U.S. Drone Strikes in Pakistan, 2004-2012’ The New American Foundation. Accessed at:
“U.S. airstrike that killed American teen in Yemen raises legal, ethical questions” by Craig Whitlock, October 22, 2011, The Washington Post, Accessed at:
“U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan on rise for 2013” by Greg Miller, January 11, 2013, The Washington Post. Accessed at:
To hear the Obama administration tell it, through anonymous leaks to the press of course, the United States’ “targeted killing” program will soon be bound by clear and “more stringent” rules before a drone strike gets the green light. This counterterrorism “playbook,” so says the administration, will institutionalize the process for the remote-controlled killing program and keep it within the rule of law.
But that isn’t true for three reasons, Chris Anders, a senior legislative counsel at the ACLU, explained to PBS’s NewsHour on Wednesday night. First, secret rules are inconsistent with the rule of law, which is predicated on everyone knowing the rules. Second, the Obama administration’s playbook rules will not apply to CIA drone strikes in Pakistan for at least a year if not more, according to the Post. Third, and most importantly, the rules undergirding the program, secret or not, violate the Constitution and international law.
Anders noted the Kafkaesque nature of the secrecy during the program. “To say we follow the rule of law, but we don’t even know what the rules are, and then the rules don’t apply to the biggest player is a little bit of a joke.”
Drone strikes occur frequently inside Pakistan, the only country in which the CIA is exempt from the secret rules. And contrary to the claims of CIA Director nominee John Brennan, arguably the most important cog in the remote-controlled killing machine, drone strikes do kill civilian bystanders, including children. In total, about 3,000 people, including 176 children, have been killed by over 300 drone strikes in Pakistan, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
Although we’re not at war with Pakistan, Pakistanis feel under attack from the United States. “Drones hover twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning,” a recent report, Living Under Drones, explained. “Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities.” The impact as well as the legality of these kinds of drone attacks, and the larger “targeted killing” toolkit, is now the focus of a U.N. investigation.
Nevertheless, President Obama frequently makes reference to the importance of the rule of law in guiding our national security decisions.
“We will defend our people, and uphold our values through strength of arms, and the rule of law,” he said during his inaugural speech on Monday. “We will show the courage to try and resolve our differences with other nations peacefully. Not because we are naive about the dangers we face, but because engagement can more durably lift suspicion and fear.”
Obama’s remote-controlled killing program, however, continues to instill suspicion and fear rather than lift it. It’s a dangerous legacy for a program that has become an illegal hallmark of his administration.
- New U.S. Counterterrorism Playbook to Exclude Pakistan from Drone “Kill” Rules (alethonews.wordpress.com)