Pakistan has said that a UN report on growing civilian casualties in US drone strikes largely vindicates its stance vis-a-vis the controversial use of deadly remotely-piloted aircraft in the tribal regions.
The report by the UN special rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism was published ahead of a debate on the use of drones, at the UN General Assembly in New York next Friday.
Emmerson, who travelled to Islamabad for his investigation, said the country’s foreign ministry has records of as many as 330 drone strikes in the tribal regions since 2004. Up to 2,200 people have been killed – of whom at least 400 were civilians.
The new UN report on drones largely reflects the stance and policy of the government of Pakistan on the use of remotely-piloted aircraft in the region, Foreign Office spokesperson Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry said on Saturday.
“The government of Pakistan has consistently maintained that drone strikes are counter-productive‚ result in the loss of innocent lives, and have human rights and humanitarian implications. Such strikes also set dangerous precedents,” Chaudhry told The Express Tribune.
He was referring to the report by Ben Emmerson, the UN special rapporteur on counterterrorism, that examined the use of drones in conflict zones and in covert settings. The report accuses the United States of downplaying the number of civilians killed in the drone operations, while failing to assist in the investigation by releasing its own figures.
According to Emmerson, Pakistan has confirmed that some 2,200 people were killed by drone strikes in the past decade. Of these, at least 400-450 were civilians and an additional 200 victims were deemed “probable non-combatants”.
Meanwhile, the FO spokesperson maintained that unilateral drone strikes are a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. Pakistan has repeatedly emphasised the importance of bringing an immediate end to drone strikes, he added.
SOURCE: THE BUREAU OF INVESTIGATIVE JOURNALISM
He said the US-sponsored drone attacks are intensely hated in Pakistan, but Washington views them as a vital tool in the fight against Taliban and al Qaeda militants. “These strikes have a negative impact on the mutual desire of both the countries (US and Pakistan) to forge a cordial and cooperative relationship and to ensure peace and stability in the region.”
Rayan Khan, a research fellow at Center for Research and Security Studies (CRSS), said that in the past 10 years, ‘dronology’ has undergone significant changes in terms of funding and application in the United States.
“The Obama administration intensified the use of drones in conjunction with an alarming number of civilian casualties,” he added. The US policy has been to ensure secrecy of the programme, leaving the public in the dark.
“This leaves the media to fill in the blanks and, as a result, various news sources offer a wide spectrum of statistics in terms of the effectiveness of drone attacks, ranging anywhere from a 98% civilian casualty rate to 10%,” he explained. “The lack of official statements coupled with misleading reporting has led to a warped understanding of the current situation.”
One of Ben Emmerson’s Pakistan research team member and CRSS executive director, Imtiaz Gul, said the report exposes the duplicity of the United States. “American unilateral militarism (use of drones) basically is a big disadvantage for host governments.”
Gul told The Express Tribune that Emmerson’s report on Pakistan is based on 24 case studies that CRSS provided to him and the entire data was compiled after a survey mostly conducted in the Waziristan agencies.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 20th, 2013.
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