Govt distances itself from drone attacks

Express April 22, 2010

LAHORE: The interior ministry has submitted before the Lahore High Court (LHC) that it has nothing to do with the drone attacks being carried out in the country’s tribal region.

Drone attacks have become a regular feature in the tribal areas of the country, causing suffering and concern to people. LHC Chief Justice Khawaja Muhammad Sharif had directed the interior ministry to explain whether the drone attacks were being carried out with the approval of the federal government.

The deputy attorney general (DAG) on behalf of the interior ministry said that such attacks fell under the domain of the defence ministry. He was responding to a petition seeking an end to drone attacks in tribal regions and the registration of an FIR against those responsible for them.

Justice Sharif ordered the defense ministry to submit a detailed report by May 5. The petition was filed by Khalid Khawaja, praying that the federal government be directed to submit a comprehensive report about any agreement, overt or covert, with the US and the contractor Blackwater on drone attacks.

The government should also provide information on the number of drone attacks, the number casualties and those responsible for causing those deaths, the petitioner said. The petitioner also sought directions from the government to get an FIR registered against US President Barack Obama, and those who were responsible for deaths of innocent people in drone strikes.

Khalid requested the court to restrain government functionaries from holding talks with US diplomats who violate the country’s sovereignty. The petitioner also requested the court to direct the federal government to file a complaint against the US in the International Court of Justice. Damadola had received the first-ever attack in Pakistan by a Central Investigation Agency (CIA)-operated drone in 2006 that killed 82 people in a seminary.

More than 830 people have been killed in more than 90 US strikes in Pakistan since August 2008, with a surge in the past year as President Barack Obama has put Pakistan at the heart of his fight against Al-Qaeda.