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.”

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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.

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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”.

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