United Nations Secretary General Ban Ki-moon on Tuesday waded into the controversy surrounding America’s remotely-fought war in Pakistan’s tribal regions and African countries, saying that the CIA-operated drone campaigns must operate within international law.
“As I have often and consistently said the use of armed drones like any other weapon should be subject to long-standing international law, including international humanitarian law,” said the UN chief, who began his two-day Islamabad trip.
“This is a very clear position of the United Nations. Every effort should be made to avoid mistakes and civilian casualties,” he said at the inauguration of International Centre for Peace and Stability (ICPS) at the National University of Science and Technology.
Ban made it clear that drones should be used only for gathering of information in accordance with the international laws. “Let me be clear that these new tools – such as unmanned unarmed aerial vehicles – are for information purposes only. They are essentially flying cameras.”
His statement came amid continued US drone campaign in tribal areas despite Pakistan government’s strong opposition.
A foreign ministry official said the government has briefed the UN chief about the collateral damage in US drone strikes in the tribal regions.
“Pakistan is making efforts to create consensus at the UN to discourage the unilateral use of drones for counter-terrorism operations in any country,” the official said. The UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism is due to present his report on the legality of drone campaign before the annual session of world body in September.
Pakistan expects the final UN report will help develop consensus against the use of drones as weapons. According to London based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, nearly 3,500 people, including hundreds of civilians, have been killed in drone attacks since 2004 in Pakistan.
In his speech, the UN chief also highlighted Pakistan’s contribution to the international peacekeeping force for peace and stability in the world. “Pakistan’s engagement has been crucial in UN peacekeeping missions as it is one of the largest contributors to the peacekeeping missions and currently about 8,000 of its soldiers are performing duties in different conflict zones,” Ban said.
“We will never forget the sacrifices made by Pakistani soldiers while serving under the United Nations flag,” he said.
Prime Minister’s Adviser on Foreign Affairs and National Security Sartaj Aziz said the launch of the ICPS was in complete harmony with Pakistan’s policy of promoting peace and stability in the world.Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani pledged continued support for UN peacekeeping missions. “Pakistan is a responsible nation and has always responded positively to the UN calls for its global peacekeeping missions.”
Published in The Express Tribune, August 14th, 2013.