Yesterday, Reuters reported that security officials said a U.S. drone strike killed nine people in northwest Pakistan. The strike, on a compound near the Afghan border in the North Waziristan region late on Friday, was the first U.S. drone attack in Pakistan since Sharif was sworn in on Wednesday. There was no information about the victims.
Drone casualties are difficult to verify. Foreign journalists must have permission from the military to visit the Pashtun tribal areas along the Afghan border. Taliban fighters often seal off the sites of drone strikes immediately.
Newly sworn-in Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif summoned America’s envoy on Saturday to protest against such attacks and Pakistan’s Ministry of Foreign Affairs said:
“It was conveyed to the U.S. charge d’ affaires that the government of Pakistan strongly condemns the drone strikes, which are a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and territorial integrity. The importance of bringing an immediate end to drone strikes was emphasized.”
Pakistan’s newly-elected prime minister, Nawas Sharif, had called for an end to American drone strikes in tribal areas, during his first speech in parliament.
Peshawar High Court ruling: drone strikes in the country’s tribal belt are illegal
A few days earlier, Yahoo News reported that Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan, who headed the two-judge bench in Peshawar High Court, ruled the drone strikes in the country’s tribal belt were illegal, inhumane and a violation of the UN charter on human rights. The court said the strikes must be declared a war crime as they killed innocent people. The judgment:
“The government of Pakistan must ensure that no drone strike takes place in the future and move a resolution against the attacks in the United Nations. If the US vetoes the resolution, then the country should think about breaking diplomatic ties with the US.”
Civilian victims of American war crimes
The case was filed last year by the Foundation for Fundamental Rights, a legal charity based in Islamabad, on behalf of the families of victims killed in a 17 March 2011 strike on a tribal jirga, a traditional community dispute resolution mechanism, called to settle a chromite mining dispute in Datta Khel, North Waziristan. This strike killed more than 50 tribal elders, including a number of government officials.
Clive Stafford Smith of the London-based group Reprieve, which has supported the case, said:
“For the innocent people killed by U.S. drone strikes, it marks the first time they have been officially acknowledged for who they truly are – civilian victims of American war crimes.”