Unmanned predators: PHC reserves judgment in drone strikes case

Published: April 12, 2013

The court had also questioned if the US government was liable to pay compensation to drone strike victims.PHOTO: AFP

PESHAWAR: 

The Peshawar High Court (PHC) on Thursday reserved its judgment in a drone attacks case for an indefinite period.

A division bench headed by PHC Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan with  Justice Musarrat Hilali was hearing four petitions filed by Advocate FM Sabir, the Defence of Pakistan Council, Foundation for Fundamental Rights (FFR) and Malik Noor Khan.

During the last hearing on March 7, the PHC sought assistance on national and international laws prior to holding proceedings so that concerned authorities could be directed to submit their replies. It also asked petitioners to identify a particular national or international forum which could be approached if the court issues any writ.

The court had also questioned whether the Pakistan Air Force had the capability of shooting down unmanned predators and if the US government was liable to pay compensation to drone strike victims.

On Thursday, FFR’s counsel Mirza Shahzab Akbar told the bench drones fly at a height of 25,000 feet at a speed of 140 miles per hour, adding that since F-16 jets can fly above 50,000 feet with a speed of 1,500 miles per hour, drones can easily be shot down.

Akbar told the bench US Embassy officials cannot be asked to appear before the court, but officials from the US Consulate in Peshawar can be summoned. He added two resolutions have been passed by parliament to stop drone attacks. The first resolution was passed in 2011, followed by another just after the US Navy Seals killed Osama Bin Ladin in Abbottabad on May 11, 2011.

However, in a veiled reference to external powers exerting influence over the country’s decisions, the bench maintained the country’s foreign policy was drafted somewhere else. It added neither the Hamoodur Rahman commission report after the Dhaka fall nor the Abbottabad commission report after the Osama Bin Ladin raid were made public.

The bench after hearing to counsels’ arguments reserved its judgment.

Published in The Express Tribune, April 12th, 2013.

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