Officials promoting Obama’s drone programme continue to churn out the same old rhetoric of how grateful those in the Tribal Areas are every time a drone strike is launched on Waziristan. Well I have news for the White House… Open your eyes, stop being in denial and listen to the voices of Internally Displaced Persons (IDP’s) from Pakistan’s South Waziristan Agency (SWA) camped out in front of National Press Club in Islamabad and now in their 7th day of hunger strike.
“The IDPs from Mehsud tribe have demanded an immediate halt to US drone strikes and prolonged military operation in SWA which was launched in 2009 against the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP). Protestors are vowing to continue their protest until the halt of military operations, which has resulted in the mass displacement of many (civilians ) from the region” (Saleem Mehsud)
On Sunday, Dr Farzarna Bari, Human Right Activists, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf leader of South Waziristan Agency, Doost Mohammad Khan and elders of Mehsud tribe participated in the protest camp. IDPs stated that the Pakistan government should also take the matter seriously because “the coming generation of the Mehsud tribe are facing immense problems and are being deprived of basic facilities as a result of military operations”. The plight of the IDP’s can be viewed on the following website http://www.internal-displacement.org/idmc/website/countries.nsf/%28httpEnvelopes%29/944667B8E6F38FDFC125778C00711DD9?OpenDocument
Advocate, Sherpao Khan Mehsud said the sit-in would continue until the fulfilment of their demands. He said that drone attacks were not only killing innocent people, but were also violating the sovereignty of Pakistan. Mehsud Youth President, Jamal Shah stressed that “the military operation should be stopped immediately in which houses, markets, schools and colleges had been destroyed.” He also said the military operation “Rah-e-Nijaat” was started in 2009 in Waziristan and now hundreds of people, mostly children and women are living in slums and are facing various difficulties http://www.pakistantoday.com.pk/2013/02/15/news/national/idps-vow-to-continue-sit-in-until-halt-of-operation-in-swa/
The Mehsuds are not alone in calling for an end to drone strikes. I spoke to two members of the Wazir tribe, Arman Khan Wazir told me, “I myself am from Waziristan, due to drones people are becoming against Pakistan army and America. Children are joining Taliban because they have no facilities, they become destructive minded. I can’t explain the destruction there in words. How can we show devotion to the world if anybody is not giving me my rights and if any one destroys my home place.”
Politician Imran Khan (PTI) has long condemned US drone attacks calling them a violation of international laws which also violate Pakistan’s sovereignty and is calling for America to identify the victims of drone strikes. He also criticised the Pakistan government saying it had turned the country into a “banana republic” and that US authorities “were allowed to hit and kill any civilian at will inside Pakistani territory”.
Always quick to be on the scene for peaceful protestors, a tweet from Imran Khan’s official Twitter account today read, “my full support for our FATA youth protesting drone attacks in front of Islamabad Press Club. Will try to go personally to join their protest.”
Raheem Ullah Wazir had this to say; “if we start doing justice from the skies than we should get rid of courts from the world. If somebody is a culprit he should be brought into the limelight so that the truth and reality is known to the world. Secondly where is the sanctity of international borders? This is going to set a very wrong precedent. The money that is invested in drone technology could have been used to seal the Pakistan -Afghanistan border thus no infiltration of insurgents if there is any.”
Hanif Ullah highlighted his arguements against the use of drones in an email to me, laying out the following points:- 1) Its illegal? 2) Collateral damage. 3) No international law, norms for strike 4) Counterproductive. 5) Extrajudicial killing…. if Nazis could be brought to trial and prosecuted, why are others killed before they are brought into the realms of the law.
I asked several people whether drones radicalized young people in the Tribal Areas, the answer was unanimously “yes”. One man (name withheld) told me, “many of them, I’ve witnessed on my own. They take revenge on Pakistan army and get more close to Al Qaeda”. He admitted that he himself had considered joining Taliban after drone strikes though decided to stick to his studies.
It is important to note that a recent bombing of an army checkpoint which killed 35 people was claimed by Taliban to be in retaliation for the killing of two of its commanders by drone strikes thus creating more violence. I argue that these “secondary” drone victims should also be added to the death figures to give a true picture of the impact of drone warfare. The Taliban also attacked the Pakistan government for what it called its “complicity” in drone strikes http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=P-gH6gLEgxE
This week more fuel was added to the drone fire by the Pentagon with the announcement of a medal for “remote warriors” outranking the Bronze Star and Purple Heart. This did not go down well with anti-drone campaigners or indeed Veterans of Foreign Wars. The medal has been dubbed the “Geek Cross”. VFW spokesperson described the decision as “bone –headed” arguing that it is going to affect morale and “is sending troops in the field a horrible message” http://www.foxnews.com/politics/2013/02/14/medal-misfire-pentagon-new-off-site-medal/
Meanwhile the White House still refuses to identify drone victims and continues to spend considerable amounts of money and effort droning the children of Waziristan. Some would argue time could perhaps be better spent investigating America’s ever expanding child pornography industry and its alleged ties to the “holier than thou” Pentagon http://www.forbes.com/sites/85broads/2012/09/19/to-catch-government-workers-with-ties-to-child-porn-call-the-irs/
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”.