Britain has been forced to admit that it has been funding surveys in Pakistan’s tribal regions that reveal US drone strikes are causing resentment among local tribesmen, according to a report published in the Guardian newspaper.
In an answer to a parliamentary question, Foreign Minister Alistair Burt confirmed that the Foreign Office had ‘supported’ surveys which showed the proportion of respondents in the tribal areas who believed drone strikes were ‘never justified’ had risen from 59% in 2010 to 63% in 2011.
It appears to be the first time the British government has revealed it has carried out opinion polls on the CIA drone campaign in Pakistan – a programme on which it has refused to comment publicly.
Previously, British ministers have said: “Drone strikes are a matter for the United States and Pakistan.”
However, there have been claims that the UK government has been complicit in the programme, sharing locational intelligence with US agencies to help them target the strikes.
“The UK should not need to carry out polling to determine that a campaign of illegal killing is wrong,” said Kat Craig, legal director for the charity Reprieve, which campaigns for human rights around the world.
“But what this does show is that even British government surveys find that the drone campaign is increasingly unpopular.
“Ministers must come clean on the role that UK intelligence is playing in supporting drone strikes, put a stop to it, and put pressure on the US to end its campaign.”
Published in The Express Tribune, May 20th, 2013.