Published On: Mon, Feb 24th, 2014

‘US drone strikes in Pakistan are making no one safer’


Pakistani anti-drone campaigner Kareem Khan together with several other activists is now on tour in Europe trying to raise awareness about real impact of US drone strikes in Pakistan. He says he wants the Western world to realize that drone campaign is creating more terrorism, instability and chaos in the region, while the drone campaign itself is a failure. The Voice of Russia spoke about this issue with Jennifer Gibson, US lawyer with Reprieve. Ms. Gibson was part of the Stanford research team that visited Pakistan and is a co-author of Living Under Drones.

The US carries out drone strikes having no consent from the government of Pakistan. But according to the media Mr Khan was abducted by men in police uniform in Pakistan. Who is behind the kidnapping of Kareem Khan?

We still don’t know who is behind kidnapping of Kareem. What we do know as you mentioned that there were men in police uniforms who were part of the group that abducted Mr. Khan in the middle of the night in front of his family. I think it raises serious questions to the Pakistani government – what if any role they had in this abduction and what that means to their stands on drone strikes in the country.

Do you think the ongoing campaign of Kareem Kham may have an impact and help stopping drones strikes in Pakistan?

We obviously hope it will. Part of the reason we brought Mr. Khan to Europe was to help put its face to what has largely been a secret program that has been conducted in the shadows without any discussion of the real impact it is having on people. I hope that European countries will start to wake up to what their ally, the US, is doing and start to speak up against those actions because the reality is US drone strikes in Pakistan are making no one safer.

If we talk about the effectiveness as far as how many actual targets were destroyed – is it safe to say that it is an effective program?

Mr. Khan’s point is that it is a very ineffective program. And part of that reason is because they are simply not hitting militants most of the time, they are hitting civilians.

What does Mr. Khan say about the repercussions that go further?

Increasingly evidence we are seeing coming out of this Pakistan and Yemen is that there is a productive effect to these drones. When you make mistakes and you kill civilians you are angering entire community that prior to that mistake had no reason to fight with you.

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has called for an end to drone attacks in Pakistan. However, the government is widely thought to co-operate in at least some of the strikes. Do you think that it is true? And if yes why is the government interested in such a cooperation?

We know from various sources of media that have come out is that in the early days of the program there almost certainly was Pakistani consent. Former president Musharraf has come out and said: ‘I consented to some of the drones strikes’. There is WikiLeaks cable that indicates that even after that Zardari’s government may also have been consenting some of the strikes and that at least at some point in 2010 the US was sending two faxes after the drone strikes to the Pakistani government. What we know for sure is that from the end of 2011 onwards there was very vocal opposition to drone strikes from the Pakistani government. Not only they were condemning the strikes, but you have a parliamentary resolution that says: we are not consenting to the drone strikes, no political leader in Pakistan has the right to consent from our behalf, the only body in this country that consents to the drone strike is the Pakistani Parliament. It is almost certain from that point onwards that the drone strikes that were being conducted were being conducted without Pakistani consent and I think that probably holds true through to today.

Will Kareem Khan be going to the US?

We of course would love to get Mr. Khan and other victims to the US so they can speak directly with Congressional members. Repreive was able to take another one of our clients, a man who lost his 67-year old mother in a drone strike, and two of his children to the US in October and they spoke before Congress. We are very keen to take more voices to Washington DC.

Has there been any positive reaction to these projects of yours?

There has been some movement and some success. The Administration has dramatically scaled down the number of drone strikes in Pakistan and that is largely because of growing opposition in Pakistan to what is going on.

But it is really time for the Obama Administration to deliver on its promises: we need more transparency, we need more accountability.

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