Saudi Arabia has invested in Pakistani nuclear weapons projects, and believes it could obtain atomic bombs at will, a variety of sources have told BBC Newsnight.
While the kingdom’s quest has often been set in the context of countering Iran’s atomic programme, it is now possible that the Saudis might be able to deploy such devices more quickly than the Islamic republic.
Earlier this year, a senior Nato decision maker told me that he had seen intelligence reporting that nuclear weapons made in Pakistan on behalf of Saudi Arabia are now sitting ready for delivery.
Last month Amos Yadlin, a former head of Israeli military intelligence, told a conference in Sweden that if Iran got the bomb, “the Saudis will not wait one month. They already paid for the bomb, they will go to Pakistan and bring what they need to bring.”
Since 2009, when King Abdullah of Saudi Arabia warned visiting US special envoy to the Middle East Dennis Ross that if Iran crossed the threshold, “we will get nuclear weapons”, the kingdom has sent the Americans numerous signals of its intentions.
Gary Samore, until March 2013 President Barack Obama’s counter-proliferation adviser, has told Newsnight:
“I do think that the Saudis believe that they have some understanding with Pakistan that, in extremis, they would have claim to acquire nuclear weapons from Pakistan.”
The story of Saudi Arabia’s project – including the acquisition of missiles capable of delivering nuclear warheads over long ranges – goes back decades.
A Friday drone strike which killed Pakistani Taliban (TTP) leader Hakimullah Mehsud was particularly galling, according to Pakistani officials, because they’d received specific promises that the US would not carry out any strikes during the Pakistani peace talks.
Shahbaz Sharif, the chief minister for Pakistan’s Punjab Province and the younger brother of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif says he was assured at “high levels” that there would be no drone strikes during the Sharif government’s peace dialogue with the TTP.
The US State Department shrugged off the complaints, insisting that Pakistan’s peace talks were an “internal matter” and unrelated to the drone strike, even though it targeted Hakimullah and other leaders of the group Pakistan is trying to negotiate with.
Pakistan has accused the US of “murdering the hopes of peace” after the leader of the Taliban was killed by a CIA drone strike on the eve of a meeting between militants and representatives of the government.
The country’s security forces were placed on high alert after the Taliban vowed to carry out a series of revenge attacks after Hakimullah Mehsud was killed at a compound at Dande Derpa Khel in North Waziristan. The body of the 34-year-old was hastily buried and various Taliban groups reportedly met on today in order to select a new leader.
- Drone Attack Kills More Than Taliban Chief (IPS)
- Divided Pakistan fears violent revenge as Taliban react to Mehsud killing (Guardian)
- Tribesmen open fire on US drone after Taliban chief killed (AFP)
- Protest against drones: Hafiz Saeed demands end to Nato supply (INN Online)
- Pakistan Summons US Envoy After Death of Pakistan Taliban Leader (CNN)
- Interior Minister: Pakistan to Review US Ties After ‘Attack on Peace,’ (DAWN)
Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader Hakimullah Mehsud has been “confirmed” killed by US drones so many times it’s become a recurring joke. However the tenth (or by some counts eleventh) time may have been the charm, as unnamed Pakistani Taliban sources reportedly confirmed his death in today’s attack, which killed at least 25 people in Dandy Darpa Khel.
Pakistan’s Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan condemned the attack, saying it was a US effort to “sabotage” the peace process with the Pakistani Taliban.
[...] Along with Khan and three other victims, Akbar filed criminal charges against Jonathan Banks, the CIA station chief in Pakistan who was responsible for giving the green light on the drone attacks. With his cover blown by the legal case, the CIA station chief was yanked out of the country within two days. Since Khan’s pioneering litigation, others have broken their silence and come forward to seek justice through legal action.
“In the beginning I wasn’t sure that this is something I would do for a long time. It was just about proving my point,” Akbar told AlterNet. But what started off as proving a point has now become Akbar’s legacy.
In 2011, Akbar created the Foundation for Fundamental Rights, an organization that provides legal aid to enforce fundamental rights guaranteed under the constitution of Pakistan. Not only is Akbar the co-founder, legal director and a trustee of this foundation, he is also a legal fellow at Reprieve, a UK based organization that promotes the rule of law around the world. Akbar’s fight is a tough one, and Reprieve provides him with much needed “moral, financial and emotional support.”
Together with other lawyers and researchers in Waziristan, Akbar now represents 156 drone strike victims. While these cases have yet to be resolved, they have played an important role in bringing attention “to the issue of the illegality of drone strikes,” Akbar says.
Despite being heralded as the first time in history that U.S. lawmakers would hear directly from the survivors of a U.S. drone strike, only five elected officials chose to attend the congressional briefing that took place Tuesday.
Pakistani schoolteacher Rafiq ur Rehman and his two children—9 year-old daughter Nabila and 13 year-old son Zubair—came to Washington, DC to give their account of a U.S. drone attack that killed Rafiq’s mother, Momina Bibi, and injured the two children in the remote tribal region of North Waziristan last October.
According to journalist Anjali Kamat, who was present and tweeting live during the hearing, the only lawmakers to attend the briefing organized by Rep. Alan Grayson (D-Fla.), were Rep. John Conyers (D-Mich.), Rep. Jan Schakowsky (D-Ill.), Rep. Rush Holt (D-NJ) and Rep. Rick Nolan (D-Minn.).
Before the handful of reporters and scant lawmakers, however, Rafiq and his children gave dramatic testimony which reportedly caused the translator to break down into tears.
- Ex-State Dept Official: Each drone strike creates at least 40 new militants (RT)
- “She Was Exploded to Pieces” Survivors of Drone Strike in Pakistan Testify to Members of Congress (Alternet)
- Please tell me, Mr President, why a US drone assassinated my mother (Guardian)
- Drone Victims Share Dreams of a Life in Pakistan Without Fear (FDL)
- New Film Highlights the Human Cost of Drone Warfare (The Nation)
- US Dismisses UN Criticism, Insists Drone Strikes ‘Just’ (Antiwar)
- Pakistan makes call for end to US drone strikes at UN committee (Tribune)
- State Dept. Claims Only U.S. Government Can Count Civilian Drone Strikes Accurately (Breitbart)
- Germany helped US with ‘illegal’ drone attacks (The Local)
Two leading human rights groups released detailed reports on U.S. drone strikes Tuesday that accuse the government of killing civilians and violating international law. The White House admitted killing civilians, but denied breaking the law, saying the strikes were “precise” and “lawful.”
Amnesty International, which studied 45 drone strikes in Pakistan in 2012 and 2013, said the U.S. violated the internationally recognized “right to life” and may have committed war crimes.
[...] Asked about the reports Tuesday, White House press secretary Jay Carney said that “we would strongly disagree” with claims that the U.S. had acted contrary to international law.
“U.S. counterterrorism actions are precise, they are lawful, and they are effective,” said Carney. “I think it’s important to note that by narrowly targeting our action against those who want to kill us and not the people they hide among, we are choosing the course of action least likely to result in the loss of innocent life.”
The Sabaoon School for boys in northern Pakistan is anything but average.
Nestled amid the bucolic charm of the Swat Valley’s fertile terraced fields and steeply rising crags it looks idyllic. But if you get up close, a harsher reality becomes clear.
Two army check-posts scrutinize visitors entering the sprawling site. Once inside, the high razor wire-topped walls around the classroom compounds create a feeling reminiscent of a prison.
The boys here, aged 8 to 18, were all militants at some point. Some are killers, some helped build and plant improvised explosive devices, and others were destined to be suicide bombers until they were captured or turned over to the Pakistani army. All of them are at the school to be de-radicalized.
Ninety-nine percent of the boys, I am told, have never heard of Osama bin Laden, despite the fact he was killed by U.S. Navy SEALs in the next valley over from here. What has radicalized these boys instead, the school’s director says, is what turns teenagers the world over to crime: poverty, poor education, limited prospects and often lack of parental control.
It is in this setting that the boys have made ready recruits for Taliban scouts who wean them on tales of the U.S. drone strikes that have killed scores of Pakistani women and children over the past few years.
Despite repeatedly denouncing the CIA’s drone campaign, top officials in Pakistan’s government have for years secretly endorsed the program and routinely received classified briefings on strikes and casualty counts, according to top-secret CIA documents and Pakistani diplomatic memos obtained by The Washington Post.
The files describe dozens of drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal region and include maps as well as before-and-after aerial photos of targeted compounds over a four-year stretch from late 2007 to late 2011 in which the campaign intensified dramatically.
Markings on the documents indicate that many of them were prepared by the CIA’s Counterterrorism Center specifically to be shared with Pakistan’s government. They tout the success of strikes that killed dozens of alleged al-Qaeda operatives and assert repeatedly that no civilians were harmed.
Pakistan’s tacit approval of the drone program has been one of the more poorly kept national security secrets in Washington and Islamabad. During the early years of the campaign, the CIA even used Pakistani airstrips for its Predator fleet.
But the files expose the explicit nature of a secret arrangement struck between the two countries at a time when neither was willing to publicly acknowledge the existence of the drone program. The documents detailed at least 65 strikes in Pakistan and were described as “talking points” for CIA briefings, which occurred with such regularity that they became a matter of diplomatic routine. The documents are marked “top secret” but cleared for release to Pakistan.
- Pakistani PM pleads with Obama to put an end to drone strikes (Guardian)
- From 2011: Why Pakistani Military Demands a Veto on Drone Strikes (IPS)
A recently released UN report suggests there is “strong evidence” that top Pakistani military and intelligence officials approved US drone strikes on Pakistani soil during 2004 and 2008.
The study says in some cases, even “senior government figures” gave their approval to the strikes in the country’s militancy-hit tribal areas.
“There is strong evidence to suggest that between June 2004 and June 2008 remotely piloted aircraft strikes in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas were conducted with the active consent and approval of senior members of the Pakistani military and intelligence service, and with at least the acquiescence and, in some instances, the active approval of senior government figures,” says the report by Ben Emmerson, UN Special Rapporteur on human rights and counter-terrorism.
The report, however, does not elaborate on the details of the evidence collected.
Islamabad officially condemns US drone attacks as a violation of its sovereignty and counter-productive in the fight against terrorism and militancy.
A new report from a special U.N. investigator says drone strikes have killed far more civilians than U.S. officials have publicly acknowledged – at least 400 in Pakistan and as many as 58 in Yemen – and chides the U.S. for failing to aid the investigation by disclosing its own figures.
U.N. Special Rapporteur Ben Emmerson, who issued the “interim” report, said the U.S. had created “an almost insurmountable obstacle to transparency.”
“The Special Rapporteur does not accept that considerations of national security justify withholding statistical and basic methodological data of this kind,” wrote Emmerson in the report, which is due to be presented to the U.N. General Assembly next Friday.
U.S. intelligence officials have consistently downplayed the number of civilian deaths from drone strikes. In a June 2011 speech, White House counter-terrorism advisor John Brennan, who is now CIA director, said that “for nearly the past year, there hasn’t been a single collateral death because of the exceptional proficiency [and] precision” of U.S. counter-terror strikes.
Later, the CIA acknowledged some civilian casualties, but told Congress that they were in the “single digits,” according to a February 2013 statement by Senate Intelligence Committee chair Sen. Diane Feinstein, D.-Calif.
In a major speech on drone strikes this May, President Obama openly acknowledged civilian deaths, saying “they will haunt us for as long as we live” — but didn’t provide any hard numbers or estimates.
- Naming the Dead: Bureau announces new drones project
- Pakistani Lawyer For Drone Strike Victims Misses Drone Conference After Visa Troubles (Huffington Post)
- Is the State Department Trying to Silence Pakistani Drone Victims by Delaying Their Attorney’s Visa? (Truthout)
- Pakistan Slams US as Pace of Drone Strikes Grows (Antiwar)
[Malala] Yousafzai said she was honored to meet Obama and that she raised concerns with him about the administration’s use of drones, saying they are “fueling terrorism.”
“I thanked President Obama for the United States’ work in supporting education in Pakistan and Afghanistan and for Syrian refugees,” Yousafzai said in a statement published by the Associated Press. “I also expressed my concerns that drone attacks are fueling terrorism. Innocent victims are killed in these acts, and they lead to resentment among the Pakistani people. If we refocus efforts on education it will make a big impact.”
US intelligence reports said senior Pakistani military and intelligence officials knew of and possibly ordered a broad campaign of extrajudicial killings of militants and other adversaries, The Washington Post reported on Tuesday [Sept 3rd], adding that public disclosure of such information could have forced the Obama administration to sever aid to the Pakistani armed forces on account of a US law that prohibits military assistance to human rights abusers.
These reports are based on communications intercepts from 2010 to 2012 and other intelligence in classified documents provided to it by former National Security Agency contractor Edward Snowden.
The documents indicate that administration officials decided not to press the issue so as to preserve its relationship with Pakistan which was already frayed at the time.
The Post moreover reported that US spy agencies had also shifted their attention to what they classified as dangers surfacing outside Pakistani areas patrolled by CIA drones.
- Pakistan to Take US Drone Strikes to UN (Antiwar)
- August: Kerry hopes Pakistan drone strikes to end ‘very soon’ (Reuters)
- Pakistani Leader Backs Military’s Pursuit of ‘Full-Spectrum Deterrence’ (NTI)
- Pakistan says nuclear controls are firmly in place (Washington Post)
- Terror themes fuel boom in Pakistan art (Bloomberg)
- Pakistani’s Iron Grip, Wielded in Opulent Exile, Begins to Slip (NY Times)
- Making History in Pakistan Simply by Serving a Full Term (NY Times)
- Pakistan’s internet censors seek help from Canadian company (Reuters)
- Pakistan’s ‘cyberwar’ for control of the web (Daily Times)
- Christians Protest Across Pakistan After Suicide Bombings (Antiwar)
- Pakistan quake survivors complain of slow aid effort (Press TV)
- Pakistan aid chopper targeted; 355 dead in quake (AP)
- Polio breaks out amid militant threats in Pakistan (AP)
- IMF approves $6.7bn Pakistan loan to ease economic crisis (BBC)
- To deal with worsening drought, Pakistan turns to olives (Reuters)
The leaders of India and Pakistan have pledged to work together to halt a recent upsurge of violence in Kashmir, according to senior officials.
Both sides were upbeat about the pair’s first meeting since the May election of Pakistan Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.
On Saturday, India’s Manmohan Singh told the UN General Assembly Pakistan had to stop being “the epicentre of terrorism”.
Bilateral ties have been strained over deadly clashes in the disputed region.
[...] Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan by the Line of Control (LoC).
[...] India has long accused Pakistan of sponsoring militants in the disputed region – though despite a recent spike, overall the violence has declined since the early 2000s.
But relations plunged again over the 2008 Mumbai attack.
OTHER RECENT NEWS:
- Indian PM says Pakistan remains an ‘epicenter of terrorism’ (TNI)
- Pakistani PM wants ‘new beginning’ with India (Press TV)
- PM Sharif says Pakistan-India arms race a ‘massive waste’ (AFP)
- Pakistan to raise objections over four Indian power projects in Kashmir (IHT)
- Strike over civilian killings shuts down Indian Kashmir (Press TV)
- Pakistan, India agree to respect LoC ceasefire (Daily Times)
- Pakistan, India spar in Kashmir in worst border violence in years (Washington Post)
- In Indian Kashmir, angry youth flirt with armed militancy (Reuters)
- Why is US giving Pakistan weapons to be used against India? (First Post)
The US government is being accused of derailing a congressional hearing that would be the first to hear testimony from survivors of an alleged CIA drone strike by failing to grant the family’s lawyer’s a visa.
Shahzad Akbar, a legal fellow with the British human rights group Reprieve and the director of the Pakistan-based Foundation for Fundamental Rights, says the State Department is preventing him for taking his clients to Capitol Hill next week. The hearing would mark the first time US lawmakers heard directly from drone strike survivors.
Akbar’s clients, Rafiq ur-Rehman, his 13-year-old son, Zubair, and his nine-year-old daughter, Nabila, are from the tribal regions of North Waziristan. The children were injured in the alleged US strike on the village of Tappi last year. Their grandmother – Rehman’s mother, Mamana – was killed.
Rehman and his children have spent months making preparations to visit Washington after being invited by US representatives to testify in the ad hoc hearing on drone strikes.
According to Akbar, his clients’ visas for the trip have been approved, but his has not. He believes the hold-up is political.
[...] There is no disagreement that the use of chemical agents to kill innocent people is outrageous, though it isn’t a case for getting involved in a conflict where the United States doesn’t have a national interest or doesn’t represent a clear and present danger.
Though one can argue that the use of chemical weapons in the Middle Eastern country’s civil war is a “game changer,” there is much hypocrisy in the case being made by the Obama Administration for military action in Syria.
Last year, researchers at Stanford Law School and the New York University School of Law put together a study documenting the traumatic effects of the drone strikes that the United States has carried out in Pakistan.
Now, these attacks didn’t start under President Barack Obama. They began under the Bush Administration, though the current administration has continued to carry them out and defend the use of drones, claiming that the program is an essential to eliminate potential terrorists.
But the study, Living Under Drones, shows that these drone strikes killed up to 881 innocent men, women, and children in Pakistan from June 2004 to September 2012. Researchers also documented the physiological effects of the attacks.
“US drone strike policies cause considerable and under-accounted for harm to the daily lives of ordinary civilians, beyond death and physical injury. Drones hover twenty-four hours a day over communities in northwest Pakistan, striking homes, vehicles, and public spaces without warning,” wrote researchers.
“Their presence terrorizes men, women, and children, giving rise to anxiety and psychological trauma among civilian communities. Those living under drones have to face the constant worry that a deadly strike may be fired at any moment, and the knowledge that they are powerless to protect themselves,” they added, also noting that Pakistanis now avoid large groups for fear that they will attract attention. They also point out that some parents have decided to keep their children at home.
The drones strikes being carried out in Pakistan have brought out horror stories from victims that are not unlike the one that Secretary of State Kerry told at his press conference.
- Pakistan calls for end to drone strikes (Daily Times)
- Pakistan to protest US drone attacks at UN (The Hindu)
- 400 civilians died in 339 drone attacks, NA told (Dawn)
- Leaked Pakistani report confirms high civilian death toll in CIA drone strikes (BIJ)
- Pakistan condemns US spy plane attack in North Waziristan (TNI)
- Kerry telephones Nawaz, assures US support in war on terror (TNI)
- US places unprecedented sanctions on Islamic school in Pakistan accused of militant links (AP)
Pakistani ex-President Pervez Musharraf has been charged in connection with the 2007 assassination of opposition leader and former PM Benazir Bhutto.
The former military ruler has denied charges of murder, criminal conspiracy to murder and facilitation of murder.
It is the first time a current or ex-army chief has been charged with a crime in Pakistan. Mr Musharraf says the charges are politically motivated.
Ms Bhutto was killed at an election rally in Rawalpindi in December 2007.
This indictment had long been expected but was delayed because of threats to the former military ruler from the Pakistani Taliban. When he finally made an appearance in the anti-terrorism court in Rawalpindi it was amid tight security.
Six others were charged along with Mr Musharraf, including four suspected militants and two senior police officials. The court set the next hearing for 27 August.
Mr Musharraf’s legal team say the evidence against him is fabricated and dismissed the indictment: “These charges are baseless. We are not afraid of the proceedings. We will follow legal procedures in the court,” his lawyer, Syeda Afshan Adil, told the Agence France-Presse news agency.
U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry told Pakistanis on Thursday he hoped U.S. drone strikes in their nation would end “very, very soon,” a message meant to ease anti-American resentment in the strategic country.
After meeting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Kerry said they had agreed to re-establish a “full partnership”, hoping to end years of acrimony over the drone strikes and other grievances including the May 2011 U.S. raid that killed Osama bin Laden.
In a television interview later, Kerry said of the drone strikes, “I think the program will end as we have eliminated most of the threat and continue to eliminate it.”
“I think the president has a very real timeline and we hope it’s going to be very, very soon,” he told Pakistan Television, when asked whether the U.S. had a timetable for ending drone strikes aimed at militants in Pakistan.
- Kerry: Obama has ‘timetable’ of ending US drone strikes in Pakistan (RT)
- US, Pakistan to Re-Establish ‘Full Partnership’ Ties (Antiwar)
- Imran asks Kerry to stop drone strikes (Daily Times)
- Shooting down a drone isn’t so hard to do (Dawn)
- Zardari asks US to prepare ‘Marshall Plan’ for Pakistan (Daily Times)
- Months of planning led to Pakistan prison break that freed scores of terrorists (McClatchy)
US officials are claiming that an internal Pakistani assessment of civilian deaths from US drone strikes – obtained and published in full by the Bureau – is ‘far from authoritative.’
The secret document was obtained by the Bureau from three independent sources. It provides details of more than 70 CIA drone strikes between 2006 and 2009, and was compiled by civilian officials throughout Pakistan’s tribal areas.
They noted that at least 147 of 746 people listed as killed in CIA drone strikes between 2006 and 2009 were said to be civilians. That number could be as high as 220 civilian dead, the leaked report indicates.
Now unnamed US officials are questioning the contents of the leaked report. A written statement has been provided to news organisations including the Bureau.
- The Pakistan government’s secret document (Bureau of Investigative Journalism)
- US Drone Strike Kills Eight in North Waziristan (Antiwar)
- Suicide Bombers Kill 57 in Attacks on Pakistan Shi’ite Mosque (Antiwar)
- ‘Anti-drone’ militant group claims Parachinar twin blasts (Dawn)
- Pakistan’s mountain region, once immune, now the site of insurgent violence (The National)
A secret document obtained by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism reveals for the first time the Pakistan government’s internal assessment of dozens of drone strikes, and shows scores of civilian casualties.
The United States has consistently claimed only a tiny number of non-combatants have been killed in drone attacks in Pakistan – despite research by the Bureau and others suggesting that over 400 civilians may have died in the nine-year campaign.
The internal document shows Pakistani officials too found that CIA drone strikes were killing a significant number of civilians – and have been aware of those deaths for many years.
Of 746 people listed as killed in the drone strikes outlined in the document, at least 147 of the dead are clearly stated to be civilian victims, 94 of those are said to be children.
The confidential 12-page summary paper, titled Details of Attacks by Nato Forces/Predators in FATA was prepared by government officials in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA).
The Oscar-winning director of Al Gore environmental documentary An Inconvenient Truth is to bring the story of teenage Pakistani women’s rights activist Malala Yousafzai, who survived an attack by the Taliban, to the big screen.
Davis Guggenheim, who also directed the acclaimed documentary Waiting for Superman, about failures in the American public education system, will take charge of the cameras on the as-yet-untitled project.
Recent reports of the Tehreek-e Taliban Pakistan (TTP) setting up shop in Syria and sending “hundreds of men” to fight alongside al-Qaeda appear to have been untrue, according to the Pakistani Foreign Office.
Reports got around with unnamed TTP commanders quoted by Reuters confirming the move, but not only does the Foreign Office say that’s not the case, other TTP leaders quoted by Agence-France Presse (AFP) have also said it’s untrue.
A Pakistani branch of the Taliban has sent hundreds of men to Syria to fight alongside rebels in the battle to topple President Assad. The militant organization has reportedly set up camps, aiming to foster ties with al-Qaeda’s central leadership.
Taliban commanders told Reuters on Sunday that they decided to join the cause in Syria in order to fight alongside their “Mujahedeen friends.”
“When our brothers needed our help, we sent hundreds of fighters along with our Arab friends,” one senior commander said, mentioning that his group would be providing the general public with videos of their“victories” in Syria.
One commander told the agency that the help was sent at the request of “Arab friends.”