Former cricket captain Imran Khan who leads the Pakistan Tehreek Insaf Party (PTI) is a strong opponent of drone strikes. He says the people hope the drone strikes would end as a result of international pressure, not because Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif’s recent meeting with President Barack Obama. A global consensus is building that these attacks are against human rights and international law, he says.
“The government has been mandated by all political parties to stop drones at the All Parties Conference held on Sep. 27 but the prime minister isn’t interested in talks with Taliban,” he tells IPS.
The worst-affected is the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province where Khan’s party rules. Most bomb and suicide attacks by the Taliban have been carried out here.
“The Taliban, who are based in FATA, are targeting people in adjacent KP. There’s an urgent need to talk to them for the sake of peace on the soil and protection of the people,” Khan says.
The Taliban have described these attacks as a weakness of the government. “The government must stop the drone attacks before peace talks with Taliban,” Taliban spokesman Shahidullah Shahid told media. Without ending these strikes, there will no dialogue, and attacks on the army and police will continue, he warned in a statement Oct. 10.
Najamul Islam, a teacher from North Waziristan Agency is hopeful that strikes will end. Reports by Human Rights Watch (HRW) and Amnesty International challenging the legality of U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan and Yemen have strengthened hopes.
“Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is under scathing criticism for his failure to stop drone strikes in FATA,” says Islam. Sharif’s U.S. visit is seen as complete disappointment for local population, he says.
Not everyone is convinced by government figures that these attacks kill only a few civilians. A HRW documentary screened in Pakistan Oct. 26 says that only 47 terrorists were killed in drone attacks among a total of 1,500 surveyed.
The U.S. must be held accountable for drone killings, HRW says. “These unlawful killings could amount to war crimes on the part of the U.S.”
© 2013 IPS North America