Taliban support polio vaccine whilst US support killing children by drone

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“Around 260,000 children in North and South Waziristan have not been vaccinated against polio since July 2012. Moreover, more than 90 per cent of the current polio cases in the country are linked to the outbreak in North Waziristan and other parts of Fata”

Saira Afzal Tarar

A walk was held in Karachi, Pakistan on 24th October (World Polio Day) to raise awareness of the importance of the polio vaccine and to fight propaganda and misunderstanding. Speaking to DAWN newspaper, Deputy Commissioner Dr Syed Saif-ur-Rehman who led the initiative stated, “the walk that has been organised is part of the exercise and aims at making everyone realise that parents as well as children want to be protected against the crippling disease.”

The Daily Times reported that “the Darul Afta (fatwa council) of Pakistan Ulema Council (PUC) has issued a fatwa, saying that the administration of polio drops to children is not forbidden in Islam. It says prominent scholars and experts of the Muslim world are convinced that polio drops do not contain anything that is harmful to health or against sharia.”

Back in December of 2012, I wrote an article on the importance of the vaccine following the targeted killing of polio workers in Pakistan http://activist1.wordpress.com/2012/12/23/pakistan-immran-vaccinates-baby-polio-does-not-discriminate-it-can-attack-any-child/

Problems arose around vaccination programmes when the CIA took an extraordinary and unethical decision to launch a “fake” hepatitis vaccination programme. They acquired the services of Dr Shakil Afridi to access Osama Bin Laden’s compound using the programme as a cover and gather evidence that he was in residence.  This was an act which would end in Bin Laden’s assassination by American navy seals and destroy trust in a health initiative.

At that time my aim was to seek clarification from the Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP) that had earlier banned the vaccination programme in anger at US drone strikes targeting “alleged” insurgents in Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). I wrote that “I also condemn the use of drones to target kill which has obliterated families in the Tribal Areas but attacking a vaccination programme only harms more children.” My article was passed to Tribal Areas journalists in contact with TTP appealing for Taliban to reconsider their position as polio does not discriminate and can harm any child including those of Taliban.  Those unable to receive the polio drops could suffer from nerve damage, muscle wasting, paralysis of the arms and legs and breathing difficulties which could lead to death.

I then approached an official representative of the Islamic Emirate in Afghanistan (also the target of drone attacks which have killed children). I sought clarification from Mullah Omar, the spiritual leader of the Taliban appealing for his help. Months went by then I received the following statement dated 13TH May 2013:

Declaration of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan regarding the Polio Vaccination

According to the latest international medicine science, the polio disease can only be cured by preventive measures i.e. the anti-polio drops and the vaccination of children against this disease.

The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan supports and lends a hand to all those programs which works for the health care of the helpless people of our country. The Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan advises in the existing war situation of the country to the campaigning organizations i.e. WHO and UNICEF to employ unbiased people in the region. The foreign employees should refrain from going to the region and similarly the campaign should be harmonized with the regional conditions, Islamic values and local cultural traditions. In case of compliance with these rudiments, all the associated workers (Mujahidin) of the Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan are directed, not to create any kind of trouble for them, rather they should be provided with all necessary support.

 

Islamic Emirate of Afghanistan

2013-05-13

 

My understanding was that Tehrik –e-Taliban (TTP) in Pakistan were following Islamic Emirate line and I note that they denied the more recent attacks on polio workers which suggested another force was at hand. I am now seeking further clarification regarding current TTP position on the polio vaccine in Pakistan.

DAWN reported yesterday that, “the government has decided to include polio vaccination on the agenda of dialogue with the Taliban as 90 per cent of the cases during the current year have been reported from FATA where the militants have banned anti-polio campaigns.”

Minister of State for National Health Services, Regulations and Coordination, Saira Afzal Tarar spoke at a press conference on World Polio Day warning that millions could be at risk as people move from polio -endemic areas to other parts of Pakistan, he stated the following;

“if we cannot access children in Waziristan with the crucial polio vaccine during the ongoing low transmission season from November to April, we will not be able to stop polio transmission. This region will then be seen globally as the only hurdle towards a world free of polio”

http://tribune.com.pk/story/622146/world-polio-day-pakistan-may-become-pariah-state/

Meanwhile although Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif condemned the use of drones at a meeting with President Obama during his visit to US, it appears from Washington that the drone programme which has killed many children will continue. This will be a setback to talks with TTP, voted for unanimously by the All Parties Conference (APC). Taliban want drones to stop for a ceasefire to begin.

A US official was reported in DAWN as saying, “we understand there’s a political consensus on this issue (talks). We have no objection as long as the Taliban are required to accept the Constitution and the rule of law.” However human rights activists see the continuation of drone strike over FATA as an attempt to sabotage efforts for dialogue and call for an end to armed drones aimed at Pakistan, Afghanistan, Yemen and elsewhere.

During recent days there have been no less than 5 reports on targeted killing some alleging that drones may be war crimes. The reports include one from Ben Emmerson, UN special rapporteur on human rights and counterterrorism and another from Christof Heyns, special rapporteur on extra-judicial, summary or arbitrary executions. Additional reports come from Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch with a further report from Alkarama.

Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad.  Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. (She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”)

Drones: We the children of Waziristan (the words of a Pashtun poet)

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Nabeela ur-Rehman (age 9) from Ghundi Kala, North Waziristan who suffered burns and shrapnel wounds in a drone strike, grandmother killed, brother and sister wounded 

Photograph by Eduardo Diaz, courtesy of the Foundation for Fundamental Rights.

Waziristan

We,
The children of Waziristan
Our toys,
The two rivers
Gomal & Tolchi
For hide & seek
As we deciphered
In whispers
The echoes of our lives
The music and it’s legend

We,
The children of Waziristan
Our toys
The fields of destruction
As we mourn
In hide & seek
The persistent whispers
Of drones above
As we witness
The horrors of our time

We
The children of Waziristan
Only find,
Our limbs and smiles
In conversations
In international reports
In image but no sound

We,
The children of Waziristan
Our limbs are gone,
Disappeared
the scent of skin and it’s shine
Smoked and charred,
Our bodies
Carry the stains
The shrapnel and it’s trail

What happened
To our faces,
Where is my hand,
Where are my limbs,
I cannot locate,
The body or my mind
Where have you taken
My soul and my rivers

We
The children of Waziristan
The disabled,
The beautiful faces
Our canvas
In splintered ash
The tragedy unfolds
But no sound only the drones
And it’s whispers…

Where are my hands?
Where are my limbs
What happened to my eyes
What happened to my soul

We
The children of Waziristan
We hear the drones
The music and it’s whispers
Gomal & Tolchi
Now carry our blood
As the spring turns
Into purple wrath

We
The children of Waziristan
As we tune in
To hear the drones…

Can YOU? —

Asim Khan is a “Pashtun Poet” from Pakistan. He is currently based in UK and works tirelessly for PTI (party of Imran Khan)

Nabeela’s story can be read here… http://www.newyorker.com/online/blogs/newsdesk/2013/10/the-drone-strike-victims-coming-to-congress.html

Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad.  She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”.

DRONES: LATEST REPORTS TO UN AND US DOUBLE STANDARDS ON HUMAN RIGHTS

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Protesting drones (Pakistan) and Ben Emmerson (UN)

Ben Emmerson QC has submitted his “Report of the Special Rapporteur on the promotion and protection of human rights and fundamental freedoms while countering terrorism” to the General Assembly of the United Nations. This is an interim report, and the third on the use of remotely piloted aircraft in counter-terrorism operations. A final report will be submitted to the Human Rights Council in 2014.

These are the conclusions and recommendations:-

If used in strict compliance with the principles of international
humanitarian law, remotely piloted aircraft are capable of reducing the risk of
civilian casualties in armed conflict by significantly improving the situational awareness of military commanders.

Having regard to the duty of States to protect civilians in armed conflict,
the Special Rapporteur considers that, in any case in which civilians have been,
or appear to have been, killed, the State responsible is under an obligation to
conduct a prompt, independent and impartial fact-finding inquiry and to
provide a detailed public explanation. This obligation is triggered whenever
there is a plausible indication from any source that civilian casualties may have
been sustained, including where the facts are unclear or the information is
partial or circumstantial. The obligation arises whether the attack was initiated
by remotely piloted aircraft or other means, and whether it occurred within or outside an area of active hostilities.

The Special Rapporteur identifies herein a number of legal questions on
which there is currently no clear international consensus. He considers that
there is an urgent and imperative need to seek agreement between States on
these issues. To that end he is currently consulting Member States with a view
to clarifying their position on these questions. He urges all States to respond as comprehensively as possible.

In particular, the Special Rapporteur urges the United States to further
clarify its position on the legal and factual issues raised herein; to declassify, to
the maximum extent possible, information relevant to its lethal extraterritorial
counter-terrorism operations; and to release its own data on the level of civilian
casualties inflicted through the use of remotely piloted aircraft, together with information on the evaluation methodology used.

The full report can be read here… http://justsecurity.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/2013EmmersonSpecialRapporteurReportDrones.pdf

Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP) have stated they will ceasefire if drones strikes stop. I have yet to receive a response to my letter to Ben Emmerson calling for UN intervention to halt US targeted killing programme (which has taken the lives of many civilians) so that dialogue for peace in Pakistan can finally begin  http://activist1.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/pakistan-drones-must-stop-for-dialogue-to-start-letter-to-un-rapporteur-investigating-drones

Another report has been compiled by Christof Heyns, the UN special rapporteur on extrajudicial killings who calls for greater transparency over armed drones.

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Christof Heyns (UN) and Karim Khan, relative of Pakistani drone victims

Statements from from this report reveal the following:-

Legal and political accountability are dependent on public access to the 
relevant information.92 Only on the basis of such information can effective 
oversight and enforcement take place. The first step towards securing human rights in this context is transparency about the use of drones.

A lack of appropriate transparency and accountability concerning the 
deployment of drones undermines the rule of law and may threaten international 
security. Accountability for violations of international human rights law (or 
international humanitarian law) is not a matter of choice or policy; it is a duty under domestic and international law.

The various components of transparency require that the criteria for 
targeting and the authority that approves killings be known and that drone 
operations be placed in institutions that are able to disclose to the public the 
methods and findings of their intelligence, criteria used in selection of targets and precautions incorporated in such criteria.

One of the criticisms levelled against the current drone programmes has been 
the absence of an official record regarding the persons killed. States must also give 
guarantees of non-repetition and give effect to the right to reparations of victims of drone strikes.

Drone victims, just as any other human rights victims, and society at large 
have a right to have access to information relating to allegations of human rights 
violations and their investigation.96 The Human Rights Council has emphasized the 
need under international human rights law for transparency, highlighting victims’ 
right to know the truth about the perpetrators, their accomplices and their motives 
there.97 Likewise, during an armed conflict, relatives of persons killed or missing have the right to know the fate of their relatives.

The report has been submitted to the UN General Assembly, there will be a debate on this issue on October 25.

The full report  can be viewed on the following link.. http://justsecurity.org/wp-content/uploads/2013/10/UN-Special-Rapporteur-Extrajudicial-Christof-Heyns-Report-Drones.pdf?utm_source=Press+mailing+list&utm_campaign=6de0426c90-2013_10_17_Heyns_drones_report_UN

Amnesty International have also announced that they will launch their report on US drone strikes in Pakistan On Tuesday 22 October .

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Lawyer for drone victims Shahzad Akbar and Malala Yousafzai with Obama

I note once again western hypocrisies. America, which prides itself on upholding human rights and freedom of speech did not see fit to open its doors to Shahzad Akbar, human rights lawyer for drone victims in Pakistan. America had no such problem with schoolgirl Malala Yousafzai who received an invitation to the White House however she is not litigating on drones. She did make comment to President Obama but was echoing what has been said by campaigners for years, that drones kill civilians, lead to radicalization, must stop and there is unlikely to be a ceasefire in Pakistan while they continue.

Madiha Tahir, independent journalist addressed a conference where Akbar was due to give a presentation stating:-

He (Shahzad Akbar) was denied a visa and unable to attend  He was scheduled to take part in “Life Under Drones,” a Friday panel discussion at the Drones and Aerial Robotics Conference at New York University. “The United States government will not allow him to speak to you” 

http://www.huffingtonpost.com/2013/10/11/shahzad-akbar-drones_n_4086320.html

 

Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad.  She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”.

PAKISTAN: TALIBAN ANSWER “MOST COMMONLY ASKED QUESTIONS” VIA SOCIAL MEDIA

“It is haram to kill someone without Sharia justification. We are not followers of whims & desires. Relax”

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Ehsanullah Ehsan with Hakimullah Mehsud, leader of Taliban

Alongside Taliban calls for US drone strikes to stop so a ceasefire can start, Pakistan Tehrik –Taliban (TTP) Political Commission member Ehsanullah Ehsan and “Team TTP” has recently taken to twitter to engage with the public.

As well as disseminating statements from TTP including accepting responsibility for attacks or denying involvement in bombings, the Taliban are now open to questions from the public. They have recently provided answers to “commonly asked questions” on their Jihad Information Network (including some of my own). Amidst hope for talks (supported by the All Parties, Conference, APC) and an end to internal conflict and ongoing violence, this appears to be designed to help clarify the group’s position on certain issues and dispel a few myths. The move is described as “an opportunity for dialogue”

Ehsan had this to say:-

Some ask us why we don’t engage in a peaceful discussion. We do. The problem is some of our opponents spend more time trying to censor us. Interesting how “some ‘liberals’ pounce on other liberals who merely retweeted us. We welcome criticism & smilingly tolerate all sorts of abuse. Some engage in discussions. The intellectually bankrupt try to get us blocked.

Here are the questions and answers as posted by TTP:-

Why do you fight the Pakistan army? You should be fighting America and her Allies…

We ARE fighting America and her allies. Pakistan has been the biggest and self-confessed frontline ally of America since 2001.

It was Pakistan that provided the US with intelligence, airbases and all forms of logistical support against the Taliban in Afghanistan. It is Pakistan that continues to provide the US with intelligence for drone strikes. It is Pakistan that handed over scores of mujahideen to the US – including Mullah Abdul Salam Zaeef, the Afghan Taliban ambassador to Pakistan. Our fighters have carried out several attacks on the US & NATO forces including the attack on Camp Chapman that resulted in the killing of CIA station chief and other CIA officials.

America and her allies are fighting their war in Afghanistan with hardware and fuel that is shipped through Pakistan on Pakistan military contracted trucks (through NLC). It takes a bit of common sense to realise that Afghanistan and Pakistan are a single war theatre.

Does America fund TTP? Where do you get your funds from?

America does NOT fund TTP. America does however carry out a vicious drone campaign against us, using intelligence provided by the ISI. The drones have resulted in the martyrdom of hundreds of our members and leaders such as Nek Muhammad, Baitullah Mehsud and Wali-ur-Rehman Mehsud.

Alhamdolillah we get funds from various avenues including the huge amount of donations from our Muslim brothers and sisters, a huge amount in extortion
from NATO contractors and other allies of kufr, booty from state-owned
capital (never private property of Muslims) and many more.

On the other hand, America DOES fund the Pakistani military through its Coalition Support Fund (CSF) and Pakistan military/ISI have so far devoured over eleven billion dollars as they themselves acknowledge.

Where do you get you most modern weapons from?

Our most common weapon is AK-47 assault rifle which is by no means a modern weapon. We have and continue to capture weapons from NATO forces, their “frontline ally” the Pakistani military, the government funded aman lashkars that have surrendered to us.

Why do you kill innocent people?

Our rules of engagement are defined by Islam and not by some man-made standard. Islam does not allow the killing of someone who is not harbi. A harbi is defined as someone at war with Islam.

This could take the form of someone knowingly fighting against Islam in a physical sense, supporting a war against Islam economically, through propaganda, through strategising and so on.

It is HARAM and a major sin to deliberately target a non-harbi. We NEVER deliberately target a non-harbi. Accidental collateral damage is part of war and there are a number of ahadith on this.

As a policy directed by Islam, we condemn haram attacks such as those in Peshawar Qissa Khuwani Bazaar and Lahore Moon Market. We have nothing to do with them and consider them false flag operations by the anti-Islam forces in a bid to defame the mujahideen.

We do NOT target mosques where ordinary Muslims pray but DO target the modern versions of masjid ad-dhiraar such as the Parade Lane mosque.

More on this:

https://archive.org/details/khoon_e_muslim

https://archive.org/details/khoon_e_muslim

Why don’t you just go and fight in Afghanistan?

Islam is not just for Afghanistan but for the whole world. Bizarre how many people see no issue with jihadi operations against Kabul but object when it comes to Islamabad. They have no issues with jihadi operations against the Afghan National Army but object to the targeting of Pakistani soldiers.  They have no objection to collateral damage in Afghanistan but raise hue and cry when it happens in Pakistan. The authorities in Afghanistan and Pakistan have both been collaborators and allies of the US. Does Shariah not apply once the Durrand Line is crossed?

You are following a misinterpretation of Islam

We sincerely pray to Allah to guide us and all Muslims to what pleases Him.

However by the blessings of Allah we are at ease knowing that we strictly take our guidance from the classical scholars of this ummah – the salaf and not the scholars promoted by the likes of Rand Corporation. Islam is what has been defined by the beloved Messenger, may Allah’s blessings be upon him. It is not the ritualistic, subservient, mutated version that has been genetically engineered in the labs of Rand Corporation, et all.

Are you anti-Pakistan?

Not at all. This is our country and we are striving to turn it into an Islamic Pakistan. What we DO oppose is the present order – the Pakistan that has been turned into a slave of the disbelievers and a fort against Islam.

With regard to recent press reports alleging the death of Swat Taliban chief Maulana Fazlullah, Ehsan stated, “I can confirm with full authority that he is alive and healthy.”

End

TTP also confirmed that Taliban leader, Hakimullah Mehsud’s top aide, Latif Mehsud is currently in US custody, details of his capture can be read on the following link http://tribune.com.pk/story/616941/striking-revelations-hakimullah-mehsuds-top-aide-in-us-custody/

On education, Taliban had this to say, “this nonsense about us opposing education is getting boring now. Education is a MUST for men & women. We oppose intellectual colonialism.”

Ehsan also pointed out the following, “many of these armchair analysts have never met any of us and simply propagate what they get from GHQ.” Having been denied a visa for Pakistan to interview drone victims and with Waziristan out of bounds for most foreigners, I felt compelled to tweet back, that gaining face to face access with Taliban wasn’t exactly easy. I think for a moment of a dear Pakistani friend who interviewed and wrote a book on the Taliban and is no longer with us…  sadly there are those who would punish writers and human rights activists simply for reporting all sides!

Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad.  She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”.

Cricket for peace, Peshawar fills with smiles

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“a game of hope”

I haven’t the first clue about cricket but today that didn’t matter, I saw the people of Peshawar full of smiles as an estimated 24k filled the Arbab Niaz stadium in Peshawar, Pakistan.

The cricket for peace initiative was announced by Sports Minister, Mehmood Khan, Khyber Pakhtunkhawa (KPK)with the theme ‘Love Pakistan T20 Peace Match’ and current and former Test cricketers participating in the event.

Chief guest was cricket legend, Imran Khan who works tirelessly for peace in the region. He was the first politician to call for drone strikes to stop and dialogue with Taliban to start, a call now taken up by the All Parties Conference (APC) as the best way forward to tackle ongoing violence which had seen many civilian victims in Peshawar. Playing for peace were Abdul Qadir who led Pakistan Peace XI team and Inzamamul Haq who captained the KPK Peace XI.

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Smiles all round, something to celebrate

Social media was abuzz with enthusiastic fans of both cricket and peace, tweeting commentaries with Insaf Radio broadcasting live. Technical hitches didn’t matter, what was important was that the event was taking place and Insaf Radio was going all out to spread the message.

The absence of coverage from mainstream media was shameful and disappointing as they fell over themselves to film the recent bombings in Peshawar and the agony of those caught up in the blasts. Where is the balance… are people so immune to blood and guts that only violence now sells?

“if there would have been any blast or election result you’ll see them mentioning “we are the first one to deliver this news” … Seema Malik

Time to change attitudes and celebrate the positive side of life too. The winners were all who contributed to the event whether actively or spectators… There were no losers today other than those who failed to support peace.

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A great day out 

Following the match Imran Khan tweeted to followers:-

Witnessed a wonderful cricket Peace Match in Peshawar. Great 2 see such a huge crowd at a sport’s event in this city after so many years.

He also informed cricket fans of a new initiative,

Have announced an Under-17 talent hunt scheme in Khyber Pukhtunkhwa & FATA plus a sports’ ground in every tehsil of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa

This will give many young people a focus as they strive towards excellence in the sport. It is a breath of fresh air away from the horrors of conflict and towards a collective activity regardless of race, religion, gender, a community spirit to be enjoyed by all.

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Imran promoting peace through sport

It was a great pleasure to be in his companionship in Peshawar (My Hometown). He is a legend, a true legend :)  tweeted Umar Gul (cricketer)

Sport can bring people together in the most surprising ways. I was reminded of a time in 1914 in the trenches of the First World War when  a German had bravely offered a truce for Christmas if the English did not fire.. Both sides agreed giving time for the dead to be collected. When an Englishman accidently knocked a football in No Mans Land it led to an extraordinary game, enemies coming together. This was followed by the singing of Christmas carols with an exchange of greetings and even sharing of cigarettes http://www.telegraph.co.uk/history/9763539/Britons-started-WW1-Christmas-football-match-with-ball-kicked-from-trench.html

A crazy thought perhaps, who knows one day we night see a game of cricket in Pakistan between those now embroiled in terrible conflict. Impossibly you say … today’s match was between love and hate, peace and violence… and love and peace were the winners by far!

Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad.  She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”.

Pakistan: Taliban, politicians and campaigners call for drones to stop to enable ceasefire and dialogue to start

(First published 12.10.2013)

“for every militant killed by drone another young person is radicalized so its a pointless operation that is counter productive and the US is only reinforcing violence”
 

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Hakimullah Mehsud leader of Pakistan Taliban (TTP)

In a rare interview with the BBC, Hakimullah Mehsud, leader of Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP) called for US drone strikes to stop so a credible ceasefire could begin. In conversation with reporter, Ahmed Wali Mujeeb, Mehsud stated, “the government of Pakistan bombs innocent tribal people due to the pressure of America… Drone strikes conducted by Americans were [backed] by Pakistan. Then the Americans pressed Pakistan to start ground operations in these areas, and Pakistan complied.”

The Taliban want direct talks with the Pakistan government, not conducted through the media and call for an approach from the government.

Last month the All Parties Conference (APC) made up of Pakistan’s ruling and opposition parties unanimously agreed to try for talks with the Taliban. Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif is to approach the UN on the issue of drones which are not conducive to peace efforts. Newsweek also reports that Chief of Army Staff Gen. Ashfaq Kayani Army supports the government’s policy of dialogue with the Taliban stating on Saturday that “the national leadership has decided to give dialogue a chance to deal with the issue of terrorism and Pakistan Army fully supports this process.”

Speaking at a press conference in Islamabad during a visit to Pakistan, Baroness Sayeeda Hussain Warsi, Britain’s senior minister of state for foreign and Commonwealth affairs also backed negotiation with Taliban stating, “it is a matter for Pakistan who it engages with in terms of its internal affairs, but any dialogue which would lead to a more peaceful existence for Pakistan is clearly to be welcomed.”

Baroness_Warsi

Baroness Warzi, Westminster

On 12th September, 2013 I wrote a letter to Ben Emmerson, rapporteur on drones (United Nations) in my capacity as a long standing anti -drone campaigner in the UK, appealing for UN intervention to stop drones and give dialogue a chance. In my letter I wrote the following:-

Many people have died due to pressure from America on Pakistan to support its drone strikes and wider foreign policy. Drones are seen by many to be unethical and unlawful with legal cases ongoing from Reprieve. They are creating more violence and “blowback” to the point where media now report that a special militant faction has been set up in retaliation to take revenge for drone strikes. So there are the initial casualties of drone missiles fired, then first responders killed in “double tap” incidents and finally further casualties from revenge attacks..(which are missed off official figures). It’s a vicious cycle.

I understand that politicians in Pakistan are looking to approach the UN on drone strikes. I am approaching you myself in an individual capacity as this is a key time to reconsider drone strikes on Pakistan. 

The full letter can be read here… http://activist1.wordpress.com/2013/10/07/pakistan-drones-must-stop-for-dialogue-to-start-letter-to-un-rapporteur-investigating-drones/

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Carol Anne Grayson UK anti-drone campaigner

During a week of action in the UK, anti-drone campaigners took to the streets. The Waddington Six which included two clergymen were convicted by Lincoln magistrates, fined £100 and given a six-month conditional discharge after being found guilty of criminal damage during a protest at an RAF base that is used to operate drones. District Judge Stobart said he convicted them with a heavy heart and invited the activists to appeal.

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Supporters of Waddington 6, anti-drone campaigners (UK)

Just over a year ago politician Imran Khan led thousands of supporters accompanied by foreign journalists and human rights activists on a march to Waziristan to draw the world’s attention to the killing of civilians by drone. Khan argued that “attacks from unmanned aircraft kill large numbers of civilians and foster support for militants” and were therefore counterproductive.

Peace March (8)

Imran Khan, peace march against use of drones

In a meeting with Obama, Malala Yousafzai (an advocate for girls’ education who was shot by Taliban) also echoed activists long standing concerns that drones were fueling terrorism, killing innocents and creating resentment among Pakistani people. Taliban state that Malala was not targeted for going to school but for being “secular and against Islam”. However this meeting in itself fueled anger from some within Tribal Areas as Obama refuses to meet with families of Pakistani drone victims.

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Malala Yousafzai, advocate for girls’ education

David Ross, Organizer for Veterans For Peace standing beside the Vietnam Memorial Park in New York City had this to say on US foreign policy:-

Reading the names of our dead sister and brother veterans: Vietnam, Panama, Grenada, Somalia, Iraq, Afghanistan etc. Also the names of civilians including selections from millions of murdered children from these lands plus Yemen, Libya and on and on. Our crimes are immense beyond measure and our question is where is the American citizenry and what are they doing to end this brutal cost of empire? In a democracy, the blood is on all of us, not just the government and veterans. You, the public, sent us to do this and we innocently went, believing that we were protecting America. We are beyond forgiveness but we can change, but only if you ACT.

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David Ross (Veterans for Peace)

Linguist and philosopher Noam Chomsky gave his reaction to Obama’s targeted killing programme in an interview on Russia TV:-

The drone campaign is by far the biggest terrorist campaign in the world. It’s never described that way, but of course, [that is] what it is. Furthermore, it’s a terrorist-generating campaign. From the highest levels and the most respected sources, it’s recognized that the drone attacks create potential terrorists on quite a substantial scale. So therefore, it is a threat to U.S. security, quite apart from being a terrorist campaign in itself. It is almost never discussed.”

http://dailycaller.com/2013/10/10/chomsky-drones-by-far-the-biggest-terrorist-campaign-in-the-world-video/#ixzz2hUiUINY9

I posted the following question on Facebook…

Taliban (TTP) have called for drones to stop for a credible ceasefire in Pakistan to begin… what are your thoughts…

These are the responses I received:-

I agree with this only because thousands of innocent are being killed by drone attacks and only some which America quote as terrorists, but real terrorist in the world are the American policy makers they are destroying the whole world. The unstable world we are seeing today is only because of cruel American policy. They forget human values when it is their sin and point fingers on those who don’t believe America their dictator.

M Iqbal Beig (Pakistan)

Just today I heard a bomb go off in the distance. Only to learn FC personnel attacked. It’s about time drones should be unconditionally stopped at all costs because it is harming the peace process. If the drones are not stopped than I can say this by all means that the satan America does not want peace to prevail

Nauman Malik (UAE)

TTP is right govt is completely not serious in talk but I want to say something, keep in mind that there will be no peace if USA stop drone because in future TTP will bring another condition they will say that they don’t believe in constitution of Pakistan, its against Islam etc then what will happen? Think for a while, what will happen after that?

Pashtun from Waziristan, Pakistan (name not given)

What sovereign country could get away with flying armed aircraft into the airspace of another sovereign nation and dropping bonds that kill so many innocent, non-combatting peoples

David H Ford (US)

Yes! Absolutely! This would be the first step towards any resolution and peace in that region. The drones must stop…

Raana Dilruba Yasmin (US)

Their demand is illogical as current Pakistani government has nothing to do with the drones as well as after Salala attack the so called cooperation had also ended when Pakistan expelled CIA from a air strip in Balochistan. Also TTP’s demand can be negatively used by pro drone community as an evidence that drones are killing the ‘culprits’ not the civilians.

Abdullah Khan (Pakistan)

What justification is thus that Tom uses his drones to bomb their hideouts and these people go out and kill Dick. In doing so Harry is also killed but they say it is fine as both are in heaven and they should be thankful to them for making it possible. In all this Tom is chilling out in Hawaii where drone bases are being moved. How absurd.

Rizwan Ahmed (Pakistan)

Drone strikes are the ONLY hurdle (to ceasefire) we can have peace in the region but the US doesn’t want that.

Aamir Ahmed Khan (UK)

Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad.  She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”.

Pakistan, drones must stop for dialogue to start: Letter to UN rapporteur investigating drones

(First published 7.10.2013)

“I condemn both drone strikes and bombing of civilians, both are equally wrong, both acts of terror and one leads to another”    

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All Parties Conference (photo left) and Ehsanullah Ehsan, Political Commission with Taliban leader, Hakimullah Mehsud (photo right)

After years of ongoing conflict between Pakistan’s military and militants, Tehreek –r-Taliban (TTP) the All Parties Commission (APC) consisting of ruling party and opposition parties came to the unanimous decision to go for dialogue with all stakeholders. See DAWN, Resolution of APC, September 9th 2013 http://dawn.com/news/1041675/resolution-of-the-all-parties-conference-on-sept-9-2013

Although to many this may seem a controversial decision, in this informative article “Between militants and military” former ambassador Awaz Wazir lays out the situation in the Tribal Areas stating the following;

Advocates of solely using force to resolve the problem are either not that well aware of the ground realities or have other objectives otherwise they would not have forgotten the fact that combat aircraft have already carried out around 6,000 aerial sorties for dropping more than 11,000 bombs from the sky on Fata although a force of over100,000 regular troops was present there to flush out militants from the area.

But have they? If force alone could have solved the problem it should have done so long ago. So let us not fool ourselves and also not confuse others by calling for use of force in Fata.(Federally Administered Tribal Areas)

http://www.thenews.com.pk/Todays-News-9-206041-Between-militants-and-military

Following the decision of the APC I decided to write to UN rapporteur Ben Emmerson who is currently tasked with investigating ethics and legality of drone strikes and impact on civilians to appeal for intervention to cease US targeted killing programme so that dialogue can proceed. It’s important to remember that you cannot address insurgency whilst turning a blind eye to state terror in all its forms. That would be the greatest of hypocrisies.

Here is my letter written as an independent writer/researcher, human rights activist who advocates peace and is also a survivor of US “collateral damage” (not drones) but equally devastating to my family and community.

Letter to UN, request for intervention on drone strikes (12th September 2013)

As you are aware I have been working for several years educating and campaigning against drones and have very good relations with many people in the Tribal Areas of Pakistan. I decided to focus on this contact, writing on drones and trying to promote peace where I could through my articles/website. I work also from my own life experience of loss and injustice as a victim of US “collateral damage” myself (in another form) which I believe was mentioned in earlier emails.

You may have seen that there was a meeting of the All Parties Conference in Pakistan this week and all parties agreed to try for dialogue with insurgents as a first option rather than a heavy military operation which would only add to the region’s problems creating more violence and displacing civilians that have suffered for years.

I have a great deal of respect and affection for the people of the Tribal Areas.

Many people have died due to pressure from America on Pakistan to support its drone strikes and wider foreign policy. Drones are seen by many to be unethical and unlawful with legal cases ongoing from Reprieve. They are creating more violence and “blowback” to the point where media now report that a special militant faction has been set up in retaliation to take revenge for drone strikes. So there are the initial casualties of drone missiles fired, then first responders killed in “double tap” incidents and finally further casualties from revenge attacks..(which are missed off official figures). Its a vicious cycle.

I understand that politicians in Pakistan are looking to approach the UN on drone strikes. I am approaching you myself in an individual capacity as this is a key time to reconsider drone strikes on Pakistan. Please read my article regarding current situation… http://activist1.wordpress.com/2013/09/10/pakistan-us-drone-strikes-must-stop-now-for-dialogue-to-start-a-window-of-opportunity-should-not-be-sabotaged/

First indications are that the Taliban TTP see the move by the APC as a positive step and will I understand hold a meeting of the Central Shura to make a formal response. I have been in daily contact with Tribal Area journalists for several years and now have direct contact with Taliban political commission member. I have nothing to hide, my only agenda is upholding human rights and as a widow, mother and peace activist of many years that believes in preserving life. Drones also operate from British soil through armed drones from UK appear to mainly attack on Afghanistan side of the border however British drone operators were relocated from Creech to work from UK soil which I wrote about in May 2011 http://blog.approximatetargetfilm.com/drones-over-pakistan-the-british-connection/ and many of our questions on drones remain unanswered from government.

Please check these articles…

Pakistan Takes Step Toward Talks with Taliban http://www.nytimes.com/2013/09/10/world/asia/pakistan-takes-step-toward-talks-with-the-taliban.html?_r=0

TTP welcomes APC’S peace talk decisions. http://dawn.com/news/1041680/ttp-welcomes-apcs-peace-talks-decision

I am making an urgent appeal as an independent human rights campaigner that all possible efforts are made so that America ceases its strikes on Pakistan. John Kerry has indicated that US believes they have eliminated many militant leaders so as he is so adamant why is there a need to continue strikes when there is the possibility of dialogue. He did say to press that they would “stop very soon”. To have drones rain down on those who may be involved in talks is not conducive to creating a positive atmosphere at all and I believe could be considered an aggressive act of sabotage towards those seeking peaceful solutions.

I am therefore approaching you in your capacity of Rapporteur for UN investigating drone strikes and look forward to your reply.

Yours sincerely

Carol Anne Grayson

Since the letter was written the Taliban have stated that US drones must stop before talks begin see link http://www.foxnews.com/world/2013/10/02/pakistan-taliban-say-us-drones-must-stop-before-peace-talks/

To date, Ben Emmerson QC has failed to acknowledge or reply to my letter.

Link for Ben Emmerson, Special Rapporteur on counter terrorism and human rights

http://www.ohchr.org/EN/Issues/Terrorism/Pages/SRTerrorismIndex.aspx

Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. The author is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.

Constitution, killings and the battle for dialogue, will Pakistan fall at the first hurdle?

(First published 2.10.2013)

“The first casualty of peace may be truth”

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Victims of bombings and a vigil for families of “enforced disappearances” Pakistan

At a time when the All Parties Commission, APC (government and opposition parties) voted for dialogue to end years of violence in Pakistan, all efforts must be made to secure a ceasefire date.

Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP) responded positively which gave a sign of hope to end the killing on all sides. Spokesperson, Shahidullah Shahid told DAWN media that TTP welcomes suggestion from Pakistan’s clerics (Ulema) for a ceasefire though claimed it was the government launching the offensive against them so it should take the lead in stopping the war. They would then follow. However until there is a date agreed there are concerns that casualty figures will continue to rise day by day.

This is not a time to clampdown on freedom of speech, surely civilians have a right to be kept informed (at least in general terms) as to what is on the agenda for discussion from both government and militants. Closing down social media accounts connected to insurgents while other state elements with an alleged history of violence can tweet freely stinks of double standards.

It is very easy to polarize and demonize insurgents as being all bad versus good upstanding Pakistani state institutions but that would be to deny reality and bury heads in the sand. Let’s face it there are killings and unlawful actions on all sides, that is often part of the difficulties for those embarking on conflict resolution.

The aftermath of terrible bombings we see are visually very graphic and distressing with many civilian casualties and gain much media attention. (TTP have denied involvement in recent Peshawar bombings). Such appalling acts are to be condemned at the strongest level and all efforts made to find those responsible and hold them to account. To get an idea of the dreadful impact you can read this heartbreaking story of a grandfather who lost 15 members of his family with another 5 lying in hospital injured http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/world-asia-24352693?ocid=socialflow_twitter_bbcworld

A man and a child flee the site of a blast in Peshawar, Pakistan

Peshawar bombing, image from Mohammad Sajjad (Associated Press) Sept 29th 2013

What’s needed now however is not more brutal violence to keep the cycle going but brutal honesty which can sometimes be more challenging.

Imran Khan has spoken of the need to work within the constitution of Pakistan, his interview on dialogue for peace can be viewed here http://www.zemtv.com/2013/10/01/off-the-record-exclusive-interview-of-imran-khan-1st-october-2013/ Taliban dismiss the Constitution, giving some reasons why in a statement at the end of this article.

This morning I was invited to make comment on the following post by Abdullah Khan, Director of the Conflict Monitoring Centre, Islamabad about that very Constitution. The following question was put to a group of people from diverse backgrounds:-

Question: If someone does not endorse or accept Pakistan’s constitution and parliamentary system of government, what will be his/her legal and constitutional position?
Will he/she remain a Pakistani citizen or not ?
Will this action of not accepting the constitution require a legal action against him/her?

These are important questions to consider and would take a committed ongoing process to answer fully. This was the opinion of Jamila Jahanoor Aslam an advocate at the Supreme Court with her own law firm, “anybody can approve or disapprove the constitution. it’s a matter of personal opinion and no action can be taken against this person unless he/she violates the articles, then they would be guilty of treason and legal action can be taken against the individual.”

One thought comes immediately to mind. Upholding the Constitution and working within the law starts at the top. States must lead by example not repeatedly violate their own laws. Once the line is crossed you have a problem as morally and legally the State does not have much of a leg to stand on when condemning the violence of others.

If you look back over on upholding the Constitution and laws of the country, legally you should prosecute EVERYONE that has violated the Constitution which could mean large numbers of people tied up in courts from all sides. When following the Constitution and law there would have to be no exemptions whether ordinary civilian, politician, insurgent, member of security services or armed forces.

Take cases of “enforced disappearances” as one example of violation of human rights law, here you see kidnapping, maybe even murder and little or no legal representation for those detained. Enforced Disappearances are well outside of the law and Constitution. How would that work in practice given some groups appear to be above the law and protected? Are there any other options which could be considered? Where might a Truth and Reconciliation process fit in to encompass such issues?

Is supporting the US to carry out drone strikes within the law and Constitution of Pakistan given that many of those killed are civilians or persons “alleged” to have committed crimes that have not gone through fair judicial process read Drones Now Haunt Nawaz Sharif  http://www.cmcpk.net/2013/10/drones-now-haunt-nawaz-sharif/

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Mullah Muhammad Sangeen of Afghan Taliban recently killed in drone strike

As I was pondering on these issues an an independent writer/researcher/human rights activist, a statement appeared posted on social media written by Umar Khalid Khursasani – the Leader of TTP in Mohmand Agency, FATA. Now some would say don’t publish this but I have never suffered from Ostrich syndrome and like to breath above the sand so I want to hear what is being said. Friends kindly translated and this is what they sent me:-

The following statement reads as follows:-

1. Named four individuals of their group that were arrested and were killed above the law and their bodies dumped in Rawir Roead, Laki Paharai. 10-15 days before they were killed, there were 3 other already arrested brothers and many are arrested without any trial.

(In response to TTP ceasefire appeal, government (allegedly) killed four Taliban prisoners in Karachi. One was Mqbool, Kifayat, Abdul Rahman near Shrab Goth Karachi and one was Muhammad Sami)

2. We praise the martyrdom of our brothers but we ask these so called journalists and scholars, that ask us to accept the law of Pakistan. Would we accept this law which kills others above the law without judicial process? Should we accept this law which has no rights for prisoners? If we cease-fire, they kill our arrested brothers and the talks get underway, some unknown hands kill innocent people and Christians in car-bomb blasts, to which TTP has no role.

3. From this we conclude that Government, Army and Intelligence Agencies don’t want to solve the problems.

4. We appreciate the efforts of Imran Khan and other political parties. We respect Imran Khan thinking for peace. Even though they are sincere in their efforts and we appreciate their positive thoughts but this country is under the control of enemies of Islam.

5. If this country remains under these enemies of Islam and if this the law of Pakistan, then we don’t accept it and we’ll continue to strive to free Pakistan from this so called Non-Islamic Law and save Pakistani people from the hands of these Intelligence Agencies and we’ll revenge the martyrdom of our deceased brothers.

Umar Khalid Khursanai.
TTP – Mohmond Agency.

So bearing in mind the above statement, these are the types of questions that are likely to arise and need to be addressed if Pakistan ever reaches the stage of dialogue. We should also remember that the killing of Major Sanaullah Niazi, Commander of Pakistani Army troops in Swat alongside others on the 15th September (claimed by Taliban Commander, Mullah Fazlullah) brought condemnation at a time when dialogue was being mooted by politicians in the media. Unless the behaviour of ALL sides is taken into consideration during any proposed dialogue, the battle for peace will probably be lost at the first hurdle.

Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad.  She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”.

Imran Khan subjected to defamatory attacks on social media: Are people losing touch with reality?

(First published 30.9.2013)

Libel: A published false statement that is damaging to a person’s reputation; a written defamation

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Over the last few days an extraordinary amount of venomous comments have been hurled at Pakistan, Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) leader Imran Khan following two terrible bombings in Peshawar. What is concerning is that when examined many of these remarks could be labelled as libel, a deliberate attempt to defame a person’s character.

Let’s look at some facts… So far not one person has been able to show me a PTI, Imran Khan statement where he or a party member says the party “support” the Tehrik-i-Taliban (TTP) despite multiple claims to this on social media networks. What Khan and PTI clearly state is that they “support dialogue” in an effort to end violence, a decision agreed by other political parties at the All Parties Conference (APC) in Pakistan. One could argue that had other parties listened to Khan earlier regarding talks with Taliban, some previous attacks might have been prevented.

Last Friday an article appeared in DAWN entitled “Sharif defends talks with Taliban, seeks end to drone strikes” http://www.dawn.com/news/1045950/sharif-defends-talks-with-taliban-seeks-end-to-drone-strikes interestingly Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif did not attract the same poisonous comments which seem to be reserved only for Imran. Why are certain elements wanting him to fail?

The attacks on civilians at a church and local market are horrific and must be condemned in the strongest terms with every effort made to find the culprits. What is disturbing however is that some people seem less worried about the impact on the victims and more focused on vilifying Khan. Imran’s accusers also appear totally disinterested in finding out who was actually behind the last two Peshawar blasts, so it has to be asked, what are their motives for such diatribe?

I have watched numerous press reports, national and international on Peshawar bombings in recent days that have named Taliban as responsible for these attacks while failing to include their denial statements. Surely they must be included otherwise the public are being given only half a picture which could be inaccurate. Past history has shown that TTP have no hesitation in claiming their victims so why deny now? Responsible reporting is very important and the public may form a decision on whether or not to support dialogue based on these media reports.

I am reminded of several violent incidents in Afghanistan where certain attacks were initially blamed on Taliban. A number of us queried who was responsible when vehement denials were issued by Islamic Emirate. This was happening at a time when there were proposals for a Taliban office in Qatar and hope of talks appeared in the press. What we should be asking ourselves now is who would wish to sabotage dialogue in Pakistan? Again Imran Khan has rightly highlighted this concern.

All efforts must be made to identify those carrying out recent bombings as stated by Imran Khan and take whatever action is possible to protect the population. There is however no such thing as absolute security, any security analyst will tell you that. The reality is if terrorists are determined to attack they will go all out to breach the tightest of security whatever measures are put in place.

In the last two days there have also been further drone attacks on the Tribal Areas which given the Peshawar bombings, is adding fuel to an already raging fire. US and its allies are refusing to address retaliation attacks, those claimed by militant groups to be in direct response to drones. These include the killing of mountaineers at Nanga Parbat and the Peshawar Church bombing. No attack on civilians can ever be justified. The sensible approach is to go all out to end drone strikes, such as engaging the UN in support and take away militants using drone strikes as a reason to perpetrate violence.

When we consider drone victims there is a strong case for arguing that those killed in retaliation attacks must be included in official figures which would raise the number of victims considerably.  I am so concerned at this burying of heads in the sand on this issue that I felt compelled to write to the UN rapporteur Ben Emmerson who is investigating drone strikes to take up this matter. The US and allies given this information on revenge attacks are knowingly inciting terrorism and if an individual did this there would be severe legal consequences.

It is important to keep in mind that drones are weapons of mass division causing splits even within the armed forces. Such divisions are dangerous and can be exploited for deadly purposes.

There are so many double standards. Imran Khan who works for peace is ostracised while others get away with extra-judicial killings. On social media, the accounts of militant groups are shut down while states that terrorise are free to express themselves through political accounts on Twitter and Facebook.

Defamatory statements must be challenged and reported as such to those operating social media sites. Although it may be difficult to take such cases forward within certain countries (see article by Zafat and Associates law firm on libel in Pakistan, http://zallp.com/defamation.html ) there have already been cases taken up from cyberspace. I suggest people think twice before making libelous remarks and read up on Twitter law http://www.bbc.co.uk/news/magazine-20782257

Please note the following for starters on a UK case:-

If a tweet or blog post is defamatory, untrue and cannot be defended, the maker of the statement can be liable for defamation and for substantial damages.  As Lord McAlpine’s actions demonstrate, formal legal consequences may well follow.  When individuals post material online, they act as publishers and their publications are subject to the same laws and are as legally responsible as those of professional publishers, such as newspapers or broadcasters.

http://www.taylorwessing.com/news-insights/details/exposing-libel-myths-surrounding-twitter-and-social-media-2012-11-20.html

It is worth noting England’s first libel case involving Twitter,

New Zealand cricketer Chris Cairns was awarded £90,000 in damages after he was wrongly accused of match-fixing by Lalit Modi on Twitter, the former chairman of the Indian Premier League.

I wonder if in future we could see a former cricketer taking up a libel case against misguided attackers, now that would be worth reporting on Twitter!

Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad.  She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”.

“COLLATERAL DAMAGE” DISCOURSE DOMINATED BY AN INDUSTRY THAT OFTEN EXCLUDES THE VICTIMS

EXPLORING DRONES AND “BAD BLOOD” CASES

(First published 14.9.2013)

At least let us “own” our collateral damage!

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Anti -drone campaigners (Pakistan) and “bad blood” protesters (US)

You know an issue is finally making waves when an industry develops around it as with drones and as previously happened with the scandal of contaminated US prison blood, the rise of the “collateral damage” industry.

So firstly what is collateral damage? It is damage to people and/or property which is incidental to the intended target, sometimes but not exclusively a military term.

Secondly, what is meant by industry? This is the journalists, researchers, lawyers, politicians, medical staff, psychologists, tradespersons and policy makers, the NGOs (Non – Governmental Organizations) and charities that develop around an issue. Those actually affected by collateral damage are often the last to be heard. They are occasionally trotted out under the supervision of one of those afore mentioned, suffering huge multiple losses and having to fight for self -determination and the power to direct their own lives.

I campaign jointly with the first group of communities. Citizens that have experienced the terrible impact of US drones used to target and anhilate alleged insurgents as part of the War On Terror but often striking civilian populations with devastating effect. Those hit by drones are termed “collateral damage” a term employed by the military as if to explain away their murderous actions. No death by drone is acceptable as the intended targets are extra-judicial killings, they have never had an opportunity to defend themselves through fair legal process.

I am part of the second community I have chosen to speak about… Those who were born with haemophilia (a blood clotting disorder) and given contaminated US prison blood as part of unethical experimentation and their families. This blood came from prisoners who were DELIBERATELY injected with deadly viruses including types of hepatitis as part of live experimentation to study viruses against the Nuremberg Code. Prisoners received a reduction of their prison sentence in return for participation. The blood was later sold by plasma companies and shipped to hospitals round the world as “treatment”. The term used in litigation for HIV/hepatitis C infected patients and their families was “collateral damage”.

Both examples of collateral damage are a result of dangerous and unethical government policies, resulting in thousands of injuries, and unlawful deaths, causing a devastating impact on the daily life of families and resulting in years of legal action against governments with traumatized survivors fighting for justice.

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Children protest “bad blood” (UK) and against drones (Pakistan)

Of course few of the industry workers involved would admit their dominance as they adopt their self congratulatory position as their careers grow and/or the funds roll in rarely giving the victims ownership of their story. The industry is promoting a “voice over” rather than an equal engagement with survivors on the discourse of drones and contaminated blood.

There is often a dichotomy… a mismatch between the information produced by the industry and the reality on the ground of those living with the consequences of collateral damage. Survivors become “experts” through life experience, often spending years carrying out their own research yet rarely becoming a significant part of any policy and decision making process.

It is apparent that some of those campaigning on behalf of drone victims have little or no daily engagement with those in affected areas and actively exclude those activists that do. We are an embarrassment, people don’t know what to say or how to handle our emotions as survivors nor do they recognize the strength of willpower it takes to keep going day by day.

In the case of drones, invading airbases, interrupting the speeches of Presidents and planting peace gardens have a place but are not survivor led activities. Part of victim frustration is often living thousands of miles away from those that harmed us… there is not even a nearby place where we can vent our anger.

Some industry people mean well but despite eloquently describing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder remotely in their research articles and academic journals would be unlikely to recognize anyone with the symptoms of PTSD even if directly in their company. This makes for a very distant approach to highlighting the issues surrounding collateral damage.

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We celebrate the work of young educators on drones and “bad blood” who were also victims, Saadullah (Pakistan) and Ryan, deceased (US)

There is also the hypocrisy of some industry campaign groups that are very selective in the type of collateral damage they highlight, completely ignoring cases in their own backyard. For example there are campaigners in the west who ignore the ongoing plight of bad blood victims whilst flying off to meet survivors of drone attacks across the globe. Both equally need highlighting, neither have had justice.

Human rights should not be selective and turning a back on thousands of victims of US collateral damage in near proximity breeds anger and resentment at the double standards and is hardly a gesture of caring. There must be support for ALL survivors of US collateral damage, making connections at the enormity of damage caused by US is key and strengthens the case against unethical and illegal practices by governments. Lets face it if governments were to fully compensate all their victims of collateral damage for all their losses most would be bankrupt and therein lies another problem. The reality is that many will never know justice!

If an individual is both a campaigner and survivor of collateral damage, they are generally very well accepted by other survivors at home and abroad but a “persona non grata” to the industry workers, penalized for having insight that they can never have unless they are unfortunate in life and suffer long term physical and/or psychological trauma themselves.

The affected are suppressed by governments and have even been detained and imprisoned for speaking out. Survivors are also frequently the missing element from conferences discussing their plight. It is not that they do not want to attend but little or no financial provision is made to accomodate them which further fuels frustration and distress.

When those affected do have a voice it can be very positive. One young man named Farea al Muslimi was very effective in describing the impact of drones on his village of Wessab in Yemen to a US Senate committee. People across the world sat up and listened  http://blog.approximatetargetfilm.com/farea-al-muslimi-a-yemeni-voice-on-drones/ He was fortunately not himself injured though clearly affected and had spent time and received education in the US. He was also a journalist, so well able to seize an opportunity to present his case.

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Farea Al-Muslimi testifying on drones in US, Hadyn Lewis giving evidence on “bad blood” just before he died

Farea is the exception rather than the rule. Disabled victims of US collateral damage are further disadvantaged in society and may have little income even for the basics of daily living. There have even been criminal cases in the UK where lawyers for collateral damage families have used legal aid funding to furnish their own lavish life style and government workers have embezzled trust

Those affected by drones or deadly diseases are chronically disempowered by their position. having lost family members, support structure, community, health, right to have children, homes and often income. Instead of working jointly with those whose lives have been destroyed to empower and ensure they have a voice, there is a tendency for the collateral damage industry workers to speak for them.

This does little to support the victims but often furthers the careers of those within the industry as they compete to be seen as trailblazing lobbyists, initiators, care providers. Sadly this reflects a microcosm of wider society, a cultural hegemony with a focus on developing the “aid” and research empire rather than determining what the affected actually want and need.

Of course few of the industry workers involved would not admit this as they adopt their self congratulatory position while their careers grow and/or the funds roll in rarely giving the victims ownership of their story but rather funding a “voice over” maintaining control of the discourse of drones or contaminated blood.

There is often a dichotomy… a mismatch between the information produced by the industry and the reality on the ground of those living with the consequences of collateral damage. Survivors of collateral damage are experts through life experience, often doing their own research yet rarely becoming a significant part of any policy and decision making process.

Often it is apparent that those campaigning on behalf of drone victims have little or no daily engagement with those in affected areas and exclude those activists that do. Invading airbases, interrupting the speeches of Presidents and planting peace gardens has a place but is not survivor led. Despite describing Post Traumatic Stress Disorder remotely in their research articles, some industry workers would be unlikely to recognise anyone with the symptoms of PTSD even if directly in their company. This makes for a very distant approach to highlighting the issues surrounding state wrongdoing.

There is also the hypocrisy of some industry campaigner groups that are very selective in the type of collateral damage they highlight, completely ignoring in their own backyard, while flying off to meet survivors across the globe. Human rights should not be selective and turning a back on thousands of victims of US collateral damage in near proximity breeds anger and resentment, is hardly a gesture of the caring and highlights double standards. There must be support for ALL survivors of US collateral damage.

If  a person is both a campaigner and survivor of collateral damage, they are generally very well accepted by other survivors at home and abroad but a “persona non grata” to the industry workers, penalized for having insight that others can never have unless they are unfortunate in life and suffer long term physical, psychological trauma themselves.

Survivors adapt over time, develop coping mechanism, caring skills and can appear very strong on the surface but that does not mean they don’t suffer every single day of their lives. There are good days and desperate days and and often a failure by industry to both detect and support.

The affected are suppressed by governments and have even been detained for speaking out. Victims should be enabled not punished. Survivors are frequently missing from conferences discussing their plight. It is not that they do not want to attend but little or no provision is made to accommodate them which further fuels discontent.

When those affected do have a voice it can be very positive. One young man named Farea al Muslimi was very effective in describing the impact of drones on his village of Wessab in Yemen to a US Senate committee. People across the world sat up and listened  http://blog.approximatetargetfilm.com/farea-al-muslimi-a-yemeni-voice-on-drones/ He was fortunately not injured though clearly affected and had spent time and received education in the US. This witness was also a journalist, so was able to seize an opportunity to present his case.

Farea al Muslimi is the exception rather than the rule. Disabled victims of US collateral damage are further disadvantaged in society and may have little income even for the basics of daily living. At times survivors have even been robbed and deceived. There was one criminal case in the UK where a lawyer for collateral damage families have used legal aid funding to furnish their own lavish life style. In another case a government civil servant embezzled trust funds set up to provide care for victims by creating false profiles and pocketing the money Although these individuals were eventually struck off and imprisoned in one case this betrayal of trust has added to the stress of those already grieving for lost relatives.

Joint initiatives are key. There have been news conferences with lawyers that have included drone victims but that is only the beginning http://tribune.com.pk/story/561076/families-of-drone-victims-appeal-to-nawaz-sharif-for-justice/  Where are the survivor led groups? Where are the conference opportunities which put victims at the fore. Different collateral damage communities across the world can meet to share their experience of loss and trauma, the practicalities of surviving, litigating, truth and reconciliation. To have greater impact on thought and policy, inclusion of victims must be a given in all major events NOT a rare exception.

Survivors of various forms of US collateral damage should be financially supported by politicians that claim to support human rights so they can work with other survivor groups internationally. This enables survivors to learn from each other with regard to setting up community based support groups, educating and lobbying and initiating avenues to justice. Survivors of collateral damage that are invited to work jointly with victims abroad should not have to self -fund their trips. If trillions can be invested in war, surely there can be an adequate budget for those harmed by their governments.

How many displaced drone victims are even aware of conferences discussing their plight or have funds to travel 100 kms within their own region let alone fly across the world to a centre in the UK or the US. It is the same for victims of contaminated blood and their families. Having a voice in educational forums is often the privilege of those employed within the industry not the affected themselves. Industry workers who may travel to meet victims appear to be prioritizing their own agenda and careers as opposed to ascertaining what can assist and empower disadvantaged communities.

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Survivors in the hands of others

And then are the industry “awards”… again often presented to the collateral damage workers but barely recognising the grassroots survivors that have fought to overcome grave injustice, support families and community, gain control of their lives once more and forge a new pathway ahead. Awards are not uppermost on survivors mind but acceptance and social inclusion is important.

In a sense the collateral damage industry is an extension of what Naomi Klein called “shock doctrine” … the rise of disaster capitalism… Some industry workers exploit opportunities to gain financially from disaster shocked people and countries. People have to make a living but budget allocation is imbalanced between industry and survivors who often make committed, dedicated researchers on the subject of disaster management and damage prevention.

If those involved in the industry really care, they should look to the affected but not in a derogatory manner. They should make genuine efforts to learn about their lives, coping strategies and how THEY wish to campaign and highlight the damage caused by drones or contaminated blood. First, take a step back and listen, engage to empower, don’t become part of the exploitation and hegemony suppressing victims’ voices.  Those who currently dominate collateral damage discourse are colluding with governments to keep victims on the periphery unheard.

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Voices need to be heard in Pakistan and UK

Recently I spoke with the All Party Parliamentary Group on Drones (UK) and my views were reinforced when a spokesperson pointed out that they were only hearing “voices in London”. We discussed the need for those that have experienced collateral damage first hand to be included in future presentations but there was no funding.

If funding can be found for politicians to participate in international forums then it can be found for the victims of trauma caused by unethical and allegedly unlawful government policies too! Billions of dollars are generated by both the drone and blood industries, both have caused many deaths (thousands for drones and an estimated 1 million victims of bad blood from prisons globally) yet so little compensation for affected families and virtually no budget for survivor led initiatives. It is time for this to change!

Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad.  Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. (She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”)