Arundhati Roy on Indian-Pakistani war clouds and the ‘secret’ hanging of Afzal Guru

Does Your Bomb-Proof Basement Have An Attached Toilet?

Afzal Guru

Afzal Guru

An execution carried out to thundering war clouds

What are the political consequences of the secret and sudden hanging of Mohammed Afzal Guru, prime accused in the 2001 Parliament attack, going to be? Does anybody know? The memo, in callous bureaucratese, with every name insultingly misspelt, sent by the Superintendent of Central Jail No. 3, Tihar, New Delhi, to “Mrs Tabassum w/o Sh Afjal Guru” reads:

“The mercy petition of Sh Mohd Afjal Guru s/o Habibillah has been rejected by Hon’ble President of India. Hence the execution of Mohd Afjal Guru s/o Habibillah has been fixed for 09/02/2013 at 8 am in Central Jail No-3.

This is for your information and for further necessary action.”

The mailing of the memo was deliberately timed to get to Tabassum only after the execution, denying her one last legal chanc­e—the right to challenge the rejection of the mercy petition. Both Afzal and his family, separately, had that right. Both were thwarted. Even though it is mandat­ory in law, the memo to Tabassum ascribed no reason for the president’s rejection of the mercy petition. If no reason is given, on what basis do you appeal? All the other prisoners on death row in India have been given that last chance.

Since Tabassum was not allowed to meet her husband before he was hanged, since her son was not allowed to get a few last words of advice from his father, since she was not given his body to bury, and since there can be no funeral, what “further necessary action” does the jail manual prescribe? Anger? Wild, irreparable grief? Unquestioning acc­eptance? Complete integration?

After the hanging, there have been unseemly celebrations. The bereaved wives of the people who were killed in the attack on Parliament were displayed on TV, with M.S. Bitta, chairman of the All-India Anti-Terrorist Front, and his ferocious moustaches playing the CEO of their sad little company. Will anybody tell them that the men who shot their husbands were killed at the same time, in the same place? And that those who planned the attack will never be brought to justice because we still don’t know who they are. Continue reading

5 Things They Don’t Tell You About Drone Strikes

by Mehdi Hasan, The Huffington Post,  October 30, 2012
Yesterday, I was a panellist on BBC1’s Sunday Morning Live show on which, for once, I was able to debate the morality of the Obama administration’s CIA drone programme in Pakistan. There has been little discussion of the specific details of the programme in the mainstream media, on either side of the pond, and the recent US presidential debate on foreign policy saw moderator Bob Schieffer ask Mitt Romney (and not Barack Obama) a single, loaded and unfocused question on the issue.
Now, in the wake of a Pakistani man taking the British government to court over its alleged involvement in the killing of his father in a US drone strike in Waziristan, British media organisations are starting to pay attention.
But here are five things they – politicians, journalists, security ‘experts’, etc – don’t tell you about drone strikes – four out of five of which I managed to squeeze into yesterday’s discussion on the BBC (and which resulted in fellow panellist and former home secretary David Blunkett, to his credit, suggesting he may have to rethink his support for drones):
1) Despite their supposed ‘accuracy’ and ‘precision’, a study by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism says CIA drones have been responsible for between 474 and 881 civilian deaths in Pakistan since mid-2004 – including 176 Pakistani children, who were just as innocent as Malala Yousafzai. Continue reading

What the drones protest march in Waziristan aims to achieve

Sports star turned politician Imran Khan and civil rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith will highlight US drones’ innocent victims

guardian.co.uk, Thursday 4 October 2012

A family from South Waziristan flee the battle zone

[A 2009 Brookings Institution report found that US drone attacks kill 10 civilians for every one militant in heavily targeted regions like Waziristan. Photograph: Aamir Qureshi/AFP/Getty Images]

The British civil rights lawyer Clive Stafford Smith and international cricketer turned politician Imran Khan will begin a peace march on 7 October into Pakistan‘s Waziristan region. Their aim is to highlight the plight of innocent people killed or injured by US drones.

Smith took the precautionary measure of writing to President Obama and his CIA director, David Petraeus, informing them about the march. In the letter, he requested that the president ensure the names of him and the other marchers would not be on the weekly kill list the president reviews, along with security officials, in the White House situation room. Smith wrote:

“Please remember that you and I are both lawyers from the same tradition, and it would be unseemly (as well as being both illegal and upsetting for my family) if you were to authorize my assassination.”

Like the sealed corridors in which the top secret kill list nomination process occurs – an account of which was reportedly leaked by the Obama administration to the New York Times – Waziristan has, until now, remained in the shadows, a place about which very little is known or reported. It is hoped the march will help open the area to public scrutiny by taking media there to gather independent information. Continue reading

Pakistan: US women internationalists join tribal protest against US drone war

US women may stage hunger strike in Pakistan in anti-drones protest

Code Pink activists gathered in Islamabad ready to join march led by Imran Khan into tribal region bordering Afghanistan

, guardian.co.uk, in Islamabad,Wednesday 3 October 2012

Medea Benjamin of Code Pink protests in August outside a building in Florida where the group says drones are built. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty ImagesNot content with a planned march into one of Pakistan‘s most dangerous regions, a group of middle-aged American women are considering mounting a hunger strike outside the US embassy in Islamabad as part a campaign against CIA drone attacks in the country.

Thirty-five activists from Code Pink, a US anti-war group, have gathered in the Pakistani capital this week as they prepare for an unprecedented march and political rally in South Waziristan, one of the semi-autonomous tribal areas on the Afghan border, which is a hotbed of Taliban militancy.

Despite intense publicity surrounding the event, doubts persist over whether it will be able to take place. Local authorities have expressed strong doubts about the safety of the march, even though the Pakistani military has long claimed its operations in the area have brought a semblance of security.

Medea Benjamin of Code Pink protests in August
outside a building in Florida where the group says
drones are built. Photograph: Joe Raedle/Getty Images Continue reading

‘Drones causing mass trauma among civilians,’ major study finds

September 25th, 2012 | by

An armed US Reaper drone over Afghanistan (U.S. Air Force/Lt Col Leslie Pratt/ Flickr)

The near constant presence of CIA drones ‘terrorises’ much of the civilian population of Pakistan’s tribal areas according to a new report.

Men, women and children are subjected to almost constant trauma – including fear of attack, severe anxiety, powerlessness, insomnia and high levels of stress – says a nine month investigation into CIA drone strikes in Pakistan by two top US university law schools. More than 130 ‘victims, witnesses and experts’ were interviewed in Pakistan for the study.

A number of those eyewitnesses corroborated the Bureau’s own recent findings – that rescuers have been deliberately targeted by the CIA in the tribal areas.

The new study heavily challenges US government claims that few civilians have died in CIA drone strikes, saying that there is ‘significant evidence’ to the contrary.

As the report notes in its executive summary: ‘In the United States, the dominant narrative about the use of drones in Pakistan is of a surgically precise and effective tool that makes the US safer by enabling “targeted killing” of terrorists, with minimal downsides or collateral impacts. This narrative is false.’

by bravenewfoundation, http://www.warcosts.com/
Since 2004, up to 884 innocent civilians, including at least 176 children, have died from US drone strikes in the North Waziristan region of Pakistan. A new report from the Stanford and New York University law schools finds drone use has caused widespread post-tramatic stress disorder and an overall breakdown of functional society in North Waziristan. In addition, the report finds the use of a “double tap” procedure, in which a drone strikes once and strikes again not long after, has led to deaths of rescuers and medical professionals. Many interviewees told the researchers they didn’t know what America was before drones. Now what they know of America is drones, death and terror. Continue reading

US drive-by drone attacks: Gunboats and gurkhas in the American Imperium

A complicit government in Pakistan, enabled by US interlocutors, continues to support US drone strikes.
by Muhammad Idrees Ahmad, in an opinion piece in Al Jazeera
14 Jul 2011

”]Meet Resham Khan. The 52-year-old shepherd was brought on a stretcher to a psychiatric hospital in Islamabad in January, traumatized and unable to speak. The father of six witnessed 15 members of his extended family perish last June when a US drone attacked a funeral procession in his native North Waziristan. The atrocity has left him mute and emotionally paralyzed, his vacant eyes staring into the distance. He gave up on food and drink in the months following the attack; shortly afterward, the pious Muslim gave up on prayer too. His condition also prevented him from looking after his ailing mother who died soon thereafter. And his surviving children have suffered. When the Reuters journalist finally got him to talk, one of the few things he said was ‘Stop the drone attacks.’

Kareem Khan, too, has suffered. On December 31, 2009, his son Zaenullah Khan and his brother Asif Iqbal were among the three people killed in a US drone attack which destroyed their home in Mir Ali, North Waziristan. Kareem’s absence spared him the sight of his mutilated family; and unlike the helpless shepherd, he had the wherewithal to demand justice. In November 2010, his lawyer, Barrister Shahzad Akbar served legal notices to the CIA station chief Jonathan Banks, former Defence Secretary Robert Gates, and former Director of Central Intelligence Leon Panetta for $500 million in damages.  Banks, who was in Pakistan on a business visa, took fright and soon fled the scene, and the US government was so terrified of the legal challenge that last month it denied a visa to Barrister Akbar to travel to the US. More survivors have since come forward demanding justice.

Meanwhile, the Pakistani state hasn’t just forsaken the people of FATA, it has actively aided the slaughter and abetted the cover-up. After each drone strike, the Pakistani military rushes out an official who ‘on the condition of anonymity’ announces that all the dead were ‘militants’. The press dutifully reports the numbers without asking why the claim should be trusted when the state has made no effort to confirm the identity of the dead. The numbers are subsequently laundered by Washington-based think-tanks and recycled back to the media. The media then report the stats with attribution to a ‘foundation’ or an ‘institute’, giving them a pseudo-academic pedigree.

In addition, the human rights industry is either AWOL or has actively abetted the programme. In a recent appearance on Democracy Now!, the head of Human Rights Watch Kenneth Roth justified the attacks while waxing idealistic about the rule of law. Most have taken their cue from Harold Koh — Obama’s own John Yoo — who has declared the extrajudicial murder of the indigent thousands of miles from home ‘legitimate self defence’. The terrorized population now finds itself silenced, adrift between the Scylla of a mercenary state complicit in their oppression and the Charybdis of comprador hacks erasing their suffering. Continue reading

CIA station chief pulled from Pakistan after lawsuit blows his cover

CIA-controlled Predator drones have killed thousands of civilians in Pakistan in over 100 attacks this year

Associated Press, December 17, 2010

WASHINGTON — The CIA has pulled its top spy out of Pakistan after terrorists threatened to kill him, current and former U.S. officials said, an unusual move for the U.S. and a complication on the front lines of the fight against al-Qaida.

The CIA station chief was in transit Thursday after a Pakistani lawsuit earlier this month accused him of killing civilians in missile strikes. The lawsuit listed a name for the station chief, but The Associated Press has learned the name is not correct. The AP is not publishing the station chief’s name because he remains undercover and his name is classified.

CIA airstrikes from unmanned aircraft have killed terrorist leaders but have led to accusations in Pakistan that the strikes kill innocent people. The U.S. does not acknowledge the missile strikes, but there have been more than 100 such attacks this year — more than double the amount in 2009.

The lawsuit blew the American spy’s cover, leading to threats against him and forcing the U.S. to call him home, the officials said, speaking on condition of anonymity because of the sensitivity of the issue. Continue reading