Pakistan: 80% of drone strike victims innocent civilians | 19Nov2012 19:14:50
RS (Rory Suchet): The majority of people killed by US drones strikes in Pakistan are not militants. That’s according to the country’s Interior Minister. Rehamn Malik said that 80% of more than 2000 people that died as a result of strikes were civilians. We´ll discuss it further now with Ahmed Quraishi from PakNationalists Forum, Pakistan's first political lobbying group, live from Islamabad.
A pleasure to see you today. These are devastating statistics from the Pakistani Government. Did you think in anyway, shape or form, Washington will actually listen to them?
AM (Ahmed Quraishi): This is a major blow to the US diplomacy and position in Pakistan and this is the first time that a senior officially came out to say this; to make this kind of statement – that a majority of civilians were killed by CIA drones. Will this change the position of the United States? I think the Central Intelligence Agency and the Pentagon are under tremendous pressures. Not just from the Pakistani Government and military, but also from the public opinion in the United States.
I’m sure you know, you followed – weeks backs – there’s been this major march toward the Pakistani tribal belt, where American activist anti-CIA drone activist, and of course Pakistani activists together march towards the region where the CIA has been raining all these drones. And of course this entire thing has been building up against the United States. And of course the Americans have been trying very, very hard to convince Pakistani that these drone attacks were actually for the betterment of the country and would help the country.
But I think that with this kind of statement coming from a senior Pakistani Minister, I think it just totally destroys the position of the US inside Pakistan. I think will be… And I’m sure that the American diplomats at the US Embassy here at Islamabad are increasingly applying pressure on Washington, on their counterparts and specially in people in the CIA and Pentagon…
RS: But if you say diplomats are applying pressure in Washington, it doesn’t seem to be working; these strikes have been going on for years now. Now these new statistics that are coming out of the Pakistani Government are indeed, as you say, very disturbing. But what can Islamabad do to make America listen?
AM: Well, it can do three very important things, immediate actions. No.1) is to withdraw the permission for use of the Pakistan airspace, that’s for one. No.2) if really things become really worst, Pakistan can also resort actually to shooting down one of the drones and that is one of the options on the table and in Pakistani Air Force, and several people connected to the Pakistani Air Force have said this repeatedly: that they have capability to do this and they’re just waiting for a decision from the Government.
As I said, this is the very very first time in the past decade, that Pakistan Government actually came out so strongly, so conclusively to say that civilians are being killed by the CIA drones. And let me tell just one more thing; in addition to the statement on the CIA drones, the same Minister also made a very interesting statement. He said Pakistan had seen 96 incursions, attacks from the Afeghan soil, inside Pakistan, by militants.
And we understand that a couple of days back there was a meeting of the Senior Formation Comanders of the Pakistan Army and according to a report published by the media here today, they were for the first time talking very openly about the fact that the US army and NATO is not doing much to control militants, who are unknown militants – we don’t know exactly who they are – if they’re Pakistani Taliban, Afeghani Taliban, or just simply outgunned militants coming out by the dozens and killing Pakistani soldiers. One of those militants is also being accused of being behind the attack on Malala Yusafzai, the Pakistani teenage activist.
RS: If I could just jump in for a moment; I’m sorry to interrupt you here, I’m so sorry, I got very little time here. But one question is this: If America did stop the drones strikes, can Pakistan cope on its own in dealing with the militants?
AM: There’s no evidence that the drones have actually helped Pakistan control the militants. On the contrary, Pakistan has been very successful, Pakistani military, in flushing out terrorists from the northern region of Swat and cleaning up the entire area. And if we are now seeing resurgence of some of the activity of the terrorist, it is because of the safe heavens on the – what I would call – American side of the border. Which is the Afghan side of the border, under the watches of the US Army, where these terrorists who were flushed out by the Pakistani Army are maintaining now resting and training camps, over there.
So I think the Pakistani Government appears now to be putting the blame in the way… on the Americans. And I think that would be the just of the reports by the Pakistani media today, about the meeting wich was a closed meeting of the Pakistany military commanders accusing, or mentioning for the first time, by the way, a figure: 96 incursions from the Afeghan territory into Pakistan, resulting in killing Pakistani soldiers and Pakistani civilians.
RS: These are very big, big numbers indeed. Ahmed Quraishi from PakNationalists Forum, Pakistan's first political lobbying group, live from Islamabad. Thank you for coming on the program, today.