Senior Pakistani Diplomat Says Drone Strikes Violate Pakistan’s Sovereignty

One of Islamabad’s most senior diplomats says that CIA drone strikes in Pakistan are undermining their democracy and pushing people towards extremist groups. Wajid Shamsul Hasan, the high commissioner to London and one of Pakistan’s top ambassadors, said when it comes to democracy the US “talks in miles, but moves in inches”.
“What has been the whole outcome of these drone attacks is that you have directly or indirectly contributed to destabilizing or undermining the democratic government. Because people really make fun of the democratic government – when you pass a resolution against drone attacks in the parliament and nothing happens. The Americans don’t listen to you, and they continue to violate your territory,” Hasan said in an interview with  the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
“We cannot take on the only superpower, which is all-powerful in the world at the moment. You can’t take them on. We are a small country, we are ill-equipped.” he added.
Last week, Sherry Rehman, Islamabad’s ambassador to the US, said: “We will seek an end to drone strikes and there will be no compromise on that.” The heads of Pakistan’s army and ISI spy service are also lobbying Washington to allow Pakistani forces to carry out any actual strikes against terrorists, based on US intelligence.
Hasan says that anti-US sentiment is reaching dangerously high levels. “Even those who were supporting us in the border areas have now become our enemies. They say that we are partners in these crimes against the people. By and large you will hardly find anybody who will say a word in support of the United States, because of these drone attacks.”
He insists that his country is committed to fighting al-Qaida and extremism. “We’re not opposed to eliminating these al-Qaida chaps. We were not opposed to eliminating Osama bin Laden, because he was declared an international terrorist. If I were there I would have killed him myself.”
The issue, he insists, is the continued violation of Pakistan’s national sovereignty by US drones. “This is a violation of the UN charter, it is a clear violation of our territorial sovereignty and national integrity. These drone violations have been taking place since 2004. And the attacks have killed 2,500 to 3,000 people,” he said.
He also says the US’s commitment in Pakistan and Afghanistan to democracy is weak and there are those in the US government that would still prefer to be dealing with a dictator.
‘Ten years down the road you have not even allowed democratic parties to be active, you are not allowing political parties to exist in Afghanistan. How can you have democracy if you don’t have political parties?”
Pakistan can still play a key role in negotiating peace with the Taliban, but Hasan says that the US has shown little interest in offers of aid.
‘When we have been telling them that you must have a dialogue with the Taliban, good or bad, they never listen to us. Now they have started back-door diplomacy and all these backtracks through the Saudis and others. But again they’re forgetting one thing. Pakistan has been one of the major players in the region, ever since the Soviets occupied Afghanistan. We have had the best relationship with those Afghans, the Taliban or whatever in the past. Couldn’t we be a better option for them to deal with those people? No — they never bothered.’
With the US and Nato intending to withdraw from Afghanistan by 2014, Hasan insists that Pakistan will continue the fight against al-Qaida – but that it cannot accept US drone strikes.
“Bush’s state department said a fortnight before 9/11 that they were opposed to targeted killing [in Israel] because they don’t end the violence. And drone strikes won’t end the violence, they won’t end extremism, they won’t end the Taliban and won’t end al-Qaida.”

BIJ Report: U.S. Drones Used to Target Rescuers/Funerals

According to British and Pakistani journalists, the C.I.A. has been using drones to target rescuers who respond to the scene of an initial strike, as well as killing mourners at subsequent funerals.

The report, by the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, states that at least 50 civilians have been killed in follow-up strikes after they attempted to help those hit by a drone  missile. The bureau also says that more than 20 civilians have been killed in strikes on funerals.

The bureau interviewed several witnesses to strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas, but American officials question the accuracy of such claims. They assert that accounts might be made up by militants or falsely confirmed by residents who fear retaliation; not an admission of guilt nor a statement of denial.

Since President Obama took office, BIJ counted 260 strikes by Predator and Reaper drones in which 282 to 535 civilians had been “credibly reported” killed, including more than 60 children. American officials said that the number was much too high, though acknowledged that at least several dozen civilians have been killed in strikes aimed at militant suspects.

A senior American counterterrorism official, speaking on the condition of anonymity, questioned the report’s findings, saying “targeting decisions are the product of intensive intelligence collection and observation.” The official added: “One must wonder why an effort that has so carefully gone after terrorists who plot to kill civilians has been subjected to so much misinformation. Let’s be under no illusions — there are a number of elements who would like nothing more than to malign these efforts and help Al Qaeda succeed.”

The drone campaign is classified as top secret, and Obama administration officials have refused to make public even the much-disputed legal opinions underpinning it.

But Mr. Obama spoke about the program in an online appearance last week.

“I want to make sure that people understand: actually, drones have not caused a huge number of civilian casualties,” he said in the forum on YouTube. “For the most part they have been very precise precision strikes against Al Qaeda and their affiliates.” He called the strikes “a targeted, focused effort at people who are on a list of active terrorists.” For the most part.

American officials familiar with the rules governing the strikes and who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that many missiles had been fired at groups of suspected militants who are not on any list. These so-called signature strikes are based on assessments that men carrying weapons or in a militant compound are legitimate targets.

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