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Anti-Drones Rally: ’Drone Attacks Only Augment Hate For US’

Imran Khan Leads Anti-Drones Rally: ’Drone Attacks Only Augment Hate For US’

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

08 October, 2012

Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, who led an anti-drone attacks rally in northern Pakistan, Sunday reiterated that the higher the number of drone strikes in Waziristan, the more hate they will create for the US.

The PTI’s peace-march caravan, which consisted of scores of vehicles and hundreds of activists, had kicked off from Islamabad for South Waziristan Saturday. At one time it was 15 kilometer long. However, the authorities barred it from entering South Waziristan which remains a no-go area for journalists and observers as a Pakistan military operation continues amid news censorship.

The government had decided to provide security to the march until its stay in Tank, the last town near South Waziristan border. The administration had already placed containers there to block the marchers from proceeding ahead on the pretext of inability to provide security any further.

Addressing a mass anti-drone rally in “Jahazi Ground” in Tank, Imran Khan accused the Zardari government of playing double game as in close doors it allows US to carry out drone strikes inside Pakistani territory but tells people that it always opposes the attacks.

Imran Khan advised the Zardari government to abandon double standers and tell the truth to the people of Pakistan.

He said drone strikes kill many innocent people and these attacks spread hatred against America adding that these are counter productive of terrorism as relatives of victims lift weapons against US.

He criticize the government saying that most of the victims of drone attacks are innocent Pakistanis and its government basic duty to protect its citizens but this puppet government even did not know names of those who have been killing in these attacks.

The people of Waziristan stand isolated, infrastructure has been destroyed, people have been displaced, their children haven’t gone to schools in years and economic activities stand paralyzed,” Khan argues.

The PTI chairman said that they had ended their march at Tank because the traveling could be dangerous in the agency in darkness. “The rally turned back because of curfew in South Waziristan adding that army had sent message that it was security risk to stay in the lawless tribal area” Khan said.

Khan thanked to foreign activists for participating in the march. Several British and US activists were also along with Khan in the march.

Medea Benjamin, leader of a delegation from the US peace group CodePink, apologized for the drone attacks, saying: “We are so grateful that you understand there are Americans in solidarity with you and against our government policy.”

British & US peace activists

However, the US peace campaigners left the convoy before it reached Tank with their spokeswoman saying they felt they had achieved their goals.

Medea Benjamin, cofounder of CODEPINK and the human rights group Global Exchange , is author of the recently published Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control. In an article published by Op Ed News on September 26, 2012, Medea Benjamin wrote:

“Pakistanis have been asking us questions. “Why do the American people support these barbaric and cowardly drone attacks?” “How would you like it if foreigners flew death machines into your airspace, murdering innocent men, women and children?” “Don’t you know that these attacks are counterproductive, driving locals into the hands of extremist groups out of a desire for revenge?”

She went on to say that “many Pakistanis who raged against the “Innocence of Muslims” film were venting long-held resentments towards the United States stemming from drone attacks (along with other policies such as the US mishandling of the war in Afghanistan, the disastrous US invasion of Iraq, and the US pro-Israel bias in the Palestinian-Israeli conflict).”

Clive Stafford Smith, the British head of the legal lobby group Reprieve, said that whether or not the group reached its intended destination was irrelevant. “It’s already a wonderful success,” he told reporters. “It doesn’t matter what happens from here on. We’ve generated a huge amount of publicity not just in Pakistan but across the world.”

Interestingly, British government had restricted its citizens in Pakistan from joining Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) peace march towards Waziristan Agency. According to directives issued by British foreign ministry, it has asked its citizens in Pakistan to stay away of Imran Khan’s peace march against drone attacks in Waziristan Agency. The British foreign ministry spokesman said that there was fear of possible terror attacks on participants of peace march therefore it can’t allow its citizens to travel to troubled tribal agency.

Drone casualties

Casualty figures are difficult to obtain but a report commissioned by Reprieve estimated last month that 474 to 881 civilians were among 2,562 to 3,325 people killed by drones in Pakistan between June 2004 and September 2012.

Meanwhile, a newly released study Living Under Drones, written by human rights researchers from Stanford and New York Universities, details hundreds of Pakistani civilian casualties and the devastating effects of drone strikes on the local population. “In the United States, the dominant narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan is of a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the US safer by enabling “targeted killings’ of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts. This narrative is false,” the study says.

182-page report, sponsored by the Stanford International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic (Stanford Clinic) and the Global Justice Clinic (NYU Clinic) at NYU School of Law, released on Sepbember 25, 2012.

Just one in 50 victims of America’s deadly drone strikes in Pakistan are terrorists – while the rest are innocent civilians, a new report said.

Instead, the study concludes that the CIA drone program in Pakistan has not made America any safer and instead has turned the Pakistani public against the United States. Indeed, 80% of Pakistanis have a negative opinion of the United States and three-in-four Pakistanis consider the United States their enemy.

The authoritative joint study, by Stanford and New York Universities, concludes that men, women and children are being terrorized by the operations ’24 hours-a-day’. And the authors lay much of the blame on the use of the ‘double-tap’ strike where a drone fires one missile – and then a second as rescuers try to drag victims from the rubble. One aid agency said they had a six-hour delay before going to the scene.

The tactic has cast such a shadow of fear over strike zones that people often wait for hours before daring to visit the scene of an attack. Investigators also discovered that communities living in fear of the drones were suffering severe stress and related illnesses. Many parents had taken their children out of school because they were so afraid of a missile-strike.

Clive Stafford Smith, director of the charity Reprieve which helped interview people for the report, said: ‘This shows that drone strikes go much further than simply killing innocent civilians. An entire region is being terrorised by the constant threat of death from the skies.’ There have been at least 345 strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas near the border with Afghanistan in the past eight years.

Despite assurances the attacks are ‘surgical’, researchers found barely two per cent of their victims are known militants and that the idea that the strikes make the world a safer place for the U.S. is ‘ambiguous at best’. Researchers added that traumatic effects of the strikes go far beyond fatalities, psychologically battering a population which lives under the daily threat of annihilation from the air, and ruining the local economy.

They conclude by calling on Washington completely to reassess its drone-strike program or risk alienating the very people they hope to win over. They also observe that the strikes set worrying precedents for extra-judicial killings at a time when many nations are building up their unmanned weapon arsenals.

US waives restrictions to allow $2bn aid to Pakistan

Tellingly, as Imran Khan was leading an anti-Drones march, it was announced in Washington that the United States has waived legal restrictions that could have blocked $2 billion of economic and military assistance to Pakistan. US Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton has informed Congress that it was in America’s national interest to do so.

“Encouraged by the recent positive engagement with Pakistan, the Secretary has decided to exercise her authority to waive in fiscal year 2012 certification requirements on certain civilian and security assistance to Pakistan. The Secretary has determined that such assistance is in the US national security interest,” a State Department official said.

“It is a critical component of US efforts to continue to build a strong, mutually beneficial relationship with Pakistan grounded in concrete action on areas of shared interest,” the official said in a statement.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the Chief Editor of the Journal of America (www.journalofamerica.net). Email: asghazali2011 (@) gmail.com

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