Imran Khan speaking in the Pakistani town of Tank on Sunday during a rally against American drone strikes.The demonstration was originally intended for the tribal town of Kotkai. A Majeed/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images
By SALMAN MASOOD, New York Times, October 7, 2012
TANK, Pakistan — Imran Khan, a cricket star turned opposition politician, abandoned plans to hold a much-heralded rally against American drone strikes at a village deep inside Pakistan’s tribal belt on Sunday after the Pakistani military warned him of “imminent danger” if he went ahead with the event.
Instead, Mr. Khan led a motorcade that included thousands of supporters and a contingent of American peace activists to the edge of the South Waziristan tribal agency, then returned to the town of Tank, 11 miles away, where he held his rally.
Mr. Khan’s supporters said their “peace march” offered a new focus for Pakistani anger over the Obama administration’s controversial drone campaign in Pakistan’s border areas, which has killed up to 3,300 people, including as many as 880 civilians, since 2004, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London, which tracks drone strikes. Critics derided the event as little more than a political stunt that capitalized on widespread anti-Americanism in Pakistan and was intended to lift Mr. Khan’s wavering political fortunes.
Mr. Khan declared the rally a success despite the fact that it could not be held in South Waziristan, saying it highlighted the deaths of innocent civilians. “The response has been overwhelming,” he said in an interview. Continue reading →
”]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 →
Nairobi/Mogadishu – The African Union peacekeeping mission in Somalia (AMISOM) has admitted its troops opened fire on a group of civilians in the capital Mogadishu, killing two and injuring seven.
According to a statement released late Tuesday, an AMISOM convoy leaving the airport “accidentally” opened fire on a group of civilians near a United Nations compound. “We are not certain whether the soldiers were responding to a perceived threat to their own safety,” Force Commander Major General Nathan Mugisha said in the statement.
“However, all the soldiers involved have been … taken into a military custody while a full inquiry is launched into the precise circumstances that took place.” “AMISOM takes its responsibility for the safety of civilians in Mogadishu very seriously, and apologises for the fatalities that have occurred today,” he added. The statement was a rare acknowledgment that AU fire had killed civilians.
AMISOM has long been accused of indiscriminate shelling and firing that led to the deaths of non-combatants, but has always denied such actions. Ugandan and Burundian peacekeepers are in Mogadishu to prop up the weak Western-backed government, which is under siege from Islamist insurgent group al-Shabaab and its allies. More than 21,000 people, largely civilians, have died since the insurgency kicked off in early 2007. Somalia has been embroiled in conflict since the ouster of dictator Mohamed Siad Barre in 1991.