Will New Pakistani Government Ban US Drone Strikes in Light of Court Ruling? (Ross)

It looks as though the Pakistan Muslim League (N), led by steel magnate Nawaz Sharif, is going to be the single largest party in Parliament, after Saturday’s landmark elections. It is the first time that Pakistan has seen a regular peaceful, hand-off of power from one civilian government to another. Imran Khan’s Justice Movement has about 40 seats, perhaps more than the former ruling party, the Pakistan People’s Party. This result represents a shift of power to the urban middle and business classes and youth away from the ‘feudal’ or landlord-based politics characteristic of the leading trend in the Pakistan People’s Party.

IBN reports:

Former cricketer Imran Khan could end up a power broker in the new government, giving Sharif his majority. Khan wants stronger protections for women and minorities and an end to US drone strikes in the Northwest, from whence he originally hails (and where his party did very well). This outcome raises the question of whether the new government will insist that the US cease droning Pakistani territory, especially given that the Pakistani courts have now ruled the drones illegal. Wikileaks indicates that the PPP government gave the US implicit permission to use the drone strikes, despite public protestations to the contrary. Will this issue be the first to roil US-Pakistani relations?

On the court ruling, Alice K. Ross writes at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism:
Shahzad Akbar copyright Chris Woods

Lawyer Shahzad Akbar said the judgment offered ‘justice’ to drone victims (Photo: Chris Woods)

In the first major Pakistani court ruling on the legality of the CIA’s drone campaign in the country, a Peshawar High Court judge said this morning that strikes are ‘criminal offences’. Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan ordered Pakistan’s government to ‘use force if need be’ to end drone attacks in the country’s tribal regions.

He ruled that US drone strikes in Pakistan constitute a ‘war crime’ and are a ‘blatant violation of basic human rights’, killing hundreds of civilians. He ordered the government to ‘forcefully’ convey to the US that it must end drone strikes and called on the UN Security Council to intervene.

The Pakistani government should also gather data on those affected by drone strikes, and offer redress to the victims, Khan added. At present the only data systematically released on drone strikes comes from independent monitoring organisations such as the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which has been investigating drone strikes and tracking reported casualties since 2011.

The ruling comes two days ahead of national elections marking Pakistan’s first-ever transition from one civilian administration to another. The new government will have to decide between implementing the court’s orders or appealing to the Supreme Court.

The judgment applies to a lengthy case against the CIA brought by the Foundation for Fundamental Rights on behalf of Noor Khan, a tribesman whose father was among dozens of civilians killed in a drone strike on a gathering of tribal elders on March 17 2011. Last year, Noor Khan also attempted to bring legal action against the UK government for providing information that could lead to deaths in drone strikes, in a case backed by legal charity Reprieve. The attempt was refused but he is appealing.

Lawyer Shahzad Akbar, who argued the Peshawar case, said: ‘It is a landmark judgment: drone victims in Waziristan will now get some justice after a long wait. This ruling will also prove to be a test for the new government as if drones continue and government fails to act, it will run the risk of contempt of court.’

Related story: GCHQ intel sharing for drone strikes may be ‘accessory to murder’

In the course of the Peshawar case, Dost Muhammad Khan also clarified that drone strikes were illegal even if – as has been rumoured – senior Pakistani officials secretly consent to strikes.

He also repeatedly demanded that the secretariat for the tribal regions releases any casualty data it holds.

Naureen Shah, an academic at Columbia Law School and co-author of several studies on drones, said the ruling increases the pressure on the US to respond to claims of civilian deaths in drones strikes.

‘The US government can’t afford to be silent on civilian deaths any more,’ she said. ‘The Peshawar High Court says that drone strikes are carried out “at random” and kill hundreds of civilians. That’s a damning charge that may be overstated. The US government must answer it with investigations and public disclosure about who is being killed and on what legal basis. If the US does not respond, it risks the appearance of indifference – to human life, and to the rule of law.’

 

(from the Bureau of Investigative Journalism

21 Responses

  1. My understanding is that Imran Khan has also made a great show of is piety and is playing up to religious fundamentalists, in spite of his Western married-to-a-socialite past. Can someone tell me more about this? Is it anything to worry about? If his party did well in NWFP I cannot imagine that it is really very forward looking or good for women and minorities.

  2. Waiting for the “legalistas” who apologize for the raw power exercises of the Dumbpire to tell us how the judgment of that there Paki court is “inoperative” or that Dumbpire Power trumps and vitiates that there court’s jurisdiction or some other supra-rulalaw nonsense that says “we” or those who are nominally acting “for” this Great Power can do whatever “we” damn please, anywhere, any time, and whatchagonnadoaboutit? Conduct a terrarist activity on the Homeland, which will just make it all that much easier to keep the stupid cows walking up the chutes here in the Vater — oops, Homeland?

    Cuz after all, it’s so patently clear that thousands of “installations” and hundreds of billions of dollars and all these killings, in the Far-away FATA, and sweatiest Somalialand, etc., have kept them Mooslum ragheads from traveling “17,000 kilometers” to ATTACK “US” BACK///(subtle irony)///

    • …and waiting. And waiting.

      And waiting.

      If the Pakistani version of the Supreme Court issues such an order, then it supersedes the authorization that the Pakistani executive branch had previously given to the US to conduct the drone strikes*, just as actions taken by the President of the United States under his Commander in Chief powers are valid, but can be superseded by Congressional action.

      *You know, the one you pretended didn’t exist, and had no legal meaning, until you read this post.

    • Yeah. Pakistan wins by having a peaceful election transition. And countries which are intent on peace… well, their first priority is usually to stop mad bombers and murderous gangs. So the government probably will ban the drone murders.

  3. Where are the American patriots who similarly sue in the US courts for a return to the Rule of Law ?

    .

    What do we get instead ?

    There are dozens of websites, based in the US and UK, asking for donations because Gitmo is evil. But the owners of those sites are not interested in taking the fight to the US Government; they just talk about pushing back.

    Heck, most of them don’t even have a mechanism for receiving input from the public, just their money.
    Each one of these organizations makes a living off of getting people riled up. They don’t need any feedback or new information. And they darn sure can’t afford to have these problems solved.

  4. Although I certainly hope we return to respecting the sovereignity of Pakistan, the win for Nawaz Sharif is likely a win for Saudi Arabia, which has helped him in the past. The Saudis have finally been flexing their political muscles in the last 6 years or so, creating a string of governments more friendly to them than to Washington. Great news on drones, but bad news on women’s rights.

    We have to look at this in the context of why Saudi and the US got involved in Pakistan and Afghanistan in the first place in 1980. They wanted the destruction not only of Soviet puppets, but of the Left in general. The Pakistani Army beheaded the last serious leftist democrat in the region. Meanwhile Egypt was brought under heel by Mubarak, and other states hostile to the US, Israel and Saudi were neutralized. But at a certain point our interests (perhaps plus Israel’s?) and Saudi’s brand of fundamentalism could not be reconciled. I’d point to the crisis in Iraq in 2006-7, with the US backing the Shia government over the Sunni rebels in Anbar over Saudi objections, as the time when the Saud family decided to start backing any Sunni rebels against any regime anywhere from Libya to Pakistan, as well as elected Islamist politicians.

    Question is, will the Saudis allow any of these countries to have normal politics afterward, or has it created a new bloc of satellites to challenge American power? Recall that Richard Clarke claimed he discovered in the mid-1980s the Saudis trying to acquire Chinese nuclear-capable IRBMs, which attempt Reagan quashed.

    • Is it just me, or is it actually the case that Our Players just do not get it that they don’t know how to play the Game, other than by shelling out bricks of laundered currency or this or that weapon system or montly supplies of Viagra (with regular refills), or just wielding a big old club or a Barrett .50 or cluster bomb or Really Hot Pre-Obsolete Air Combat Platform to swat virtual mosquitos? That we have some smart engineers, whose stuff gets stolen or sold by espionage or the profit motive of their post-national corporate employers? That we get played like a tin whistle by people who are much older in the Game of Byzantine cutthroat poker, whether it’s Saudis or Chinese or those charming ex-Central Europeans who run Israel?

      If our consumption is the engine that powers the 12-cylinder Ferrari that is REAL geopolitics, the stuff that goes on apparently beyond the ken and clue of our sneaky petes and diplomats and stuff, gee, what would happen if we just sort of stopped consuming? using up OUR land and water for the folks elsewhere, who will be the ones wagering on the price fluctuations of bitumen converted to “oil” and XL’d to the World Market, who will get richer off the fracking of our landforms, who laugh at our “troops” who are suckered into playing the Redcoats in that old mythical march to and from Lexington?

      We and MI-6 that really ought, one would think, to know better, are still giving Karzai HOW much cash money in exchange for being allowed to keep on kicking in doors in Kandahar?

      • “Is it just me, or is it actually the case that Our Players just do not get it that they don’t know how to play the Game”

        It’s not just you. Erdogan has an understanding of geopolitics. The Saudi princes seem to have an understanding of geopolitics. Khamenei in Iran seems to have an understanding of geopolitics. The people in power in the US don’t seem to have a clue.

        I haven’t seen such craziness on such a large scale, geopolitically, in my lifetime; I had to look back in history to the incompetence of Wilhelm II to see such a dramatic example of idiocy in geopolitics.

  5. That’s a damning charge that may be overstated.

    “Hey, Bill, what’s the target today?”

    “Meh, who cares? Pretty much any random Pakistani.”

    “Yeah…hey, is that a person?”

    “Uh…I think it’s a goat.”

    “Well, let me know if you spot a person. We have standards, you know.”

    It “may be” inaccurate to say that that is how targets are selected for drone strikes in the FATA of Pakistan. Maybe. We can’t really say one way or the other, but there is a distinct possibility that that is not actually how it works, although, at the same time, it might well be.

    I guess that’s just one of those known unknowns.

  6. Professor Cole,

    I hope the first order of business for the newly elected officials is getting President Obama to stop his drone program in Pakistan.

    I served as a medical corpsman in Vietnam during the time when the CIA was running its Phoenix program, the targeted assassination of VC guerrillas and cadres in South Vietnam. It really turned the average Vietnamese peasants and civilians against the Americans, because there was so much collateral damage.

    What a sinister, Orwellian phrase. A little story I heard through the grapevine illustrates how you lose the heart and minds of the people you are trying to win over to your side. Once a Vietnamese farmer walked a couple of miles all the way to our base hospital carrying his dead little daughter in his arms. He wanted our help. But he was in shock and hadn’t realized she was beyond help. When I heard about the story, though I was a non-combatant, I felt such profound shame for what we were doing to these innocent people.

    And President Obama has merely updated the old Phoenix program with his high-tech use of drones. It has to be, once again, turning the Pakistani hearts and minds against the Americans and is also a threat to their chances for a transition toward democracy. It’s a recruiting poster for alienated and angry Pakistani to join the Taliban insurgents.

    Plus ca, plus c’est la meme chose, as the French would say.

  7. I hope there’s some improvements for religious minorities and overall security, however, I’m pessimistic in PML-N’s ability to tackle intolerance and rein in religious Wahhabi/Salafi/Deoband/Sunni extremists and militants, regardless if they are or are not army assets. They’ve made alliances with sectarian extremists ASWJ, who have links to the sectarian terrorists LeJ and religious terrorists TTP (Pak Taliban), who find Sharif’s religious views favourable. Instead of condemning them he panders to them, to avoid getting targeted in killings and bombings like the other competing political parties faced.

  8. Will New Pakistani Government Ban US Drone Strikes in Light of Court Ruling? (Ross)

    I hope the new Pakistani Government brings an end to Drone Strikes those have killed so many innocent Pakistanis. (Mr. Panetta says with a smiling face, there is always collateral damage).

    What will happen if a Cuban Drone kills Lois Posada, who bombed Air Cubana jet killing 73 people? Suppose along Posada some innocent Americans also get killed, could America just simply be quite & will not do anything against Cuba.

    Can Cuba get away by just saying we killed the terrorist & few others were killed as collateral damage?

  9. I long for an informed discussion about our drone program. One that at least acknowledges that the US is at war the al-Qaida and that al-Qaida leadership and membership is prevalent in the FATA. One that understands that we never were going to win the hearts and minds of the FATA residents because al-Qaida and the Taliban have already won their hearts and minds. One that will at least admit that Pakistan does not have sovereignity in the FATA – maybe on paper, but not in fact. And one that can read through the loony leftist agenda easily found in the often cited academic “study” Living Under Drones.

    • Ljudivet, a couple of us have made the very points you mention above. Look back over the past year’s pieces on the drone program in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia. You will find that I (and one or two others) have defended the drone program as being legal under Article 51 of the United Nations Charter (the right of self defense) and under the Authorization for the Use of Military Force (AUMF) passed by the US Congress on September 14, 2001. Moreover, the drone program has been effective in degrading the leadership and operational cadres of Al-Qaeda and its affiliated forces and organizations.

      • Bill, the drone program has been the best recruitment program al-Qaeda and its “affiliated forces” have ever had. There are now far more al-Qaeda leaders than there were in 2000, and they are far more competent. (Because they’re the ones who didn’t get targeted.)

        Face facts. Al-Qaeda is a distributed organization which can’t be stopped by “killing leaders”. There have been many such situations in the past. The drone program has been entirely counterproductive.

        • What’s really sad, Bill, is that I know how the US *could have* neutralized al-Qaeda and eliminated the Taliban. It would have required several intensive immersion programs in various Middle Eastern languages and cultures, taken by hundreds of thousands of American soliders. Nobody even considered it.

    • That sounds not at all like an “informed discussion,” Lj, rather instead like a set of apologist talking points. Kind of confirmed by the reference to “loony leftist agenda.” Interesting: The “apologists” for “our” droning over there rely on “maybeonpaper” they so often cite, like the AUMF, but also say “we” can do that stuff based on “tacit approval” by the non-sovereign Pakistani “government.”

      But keep on selling the line, it works for FOX, since 74% of Republicans believe Benghazi is far worse than that thing called “Watergate” and its progeny, and 39% of those folks have no idea even where Benghazi is — not even the right hemisphere for many of them. link to publicpolicypolling.com

  10. “That sounds not at all like an “informed discussion,” Lj, rather instead like a set of apologist talking points.”

    Of course it doesn’t sound like an informed discussion to you, Mr. McPhee, because in your universe anything that deviates from your anti-drone mantra and set phrases taken from your stack of 3×5 index cards (Notagainistan, Smedley Butler, Great Gamers, etc.) by definition cannot be either “informed” or a “discussion.” In your universe, only your pronouncements reach the level of “informed discussion.”

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