Category Archives: Pakistan

Over half of US drone strike victims may be civilians: Interview with Marjorie Cohn

Pakistan, U.S. appear once again to be cooperating on drone strikes

Tom Hussain reports for McClatchy:

0711162-F-9126Z-793‘A series of CIA drone strikes launched last week against Taliban insurgents in Pakistan’s northwest tribal areas provide the clearest demonstration yet that the U.S. intelligence agency and Pakistani security forces are once again cooperating on defeating the insurgents.

The drone strikes – nine in all, launched daily with a day off on Friday – targeted Taliban fighters as they retreated from the country’s advancing military, which has launched an offensive in the North Waziristan tribal area. Pakistani authorities have billed the campaign as the decisive battle of a seven-year war against Pakistan Taliban insurgents.’

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Missing Malala’s Message of Peace: Drones Fuel Terrorism

Peter Hart writes for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting:

yousafzai‘On October 10, Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai–who received worldwide attention after being attacked by the Taliban for her advocacy for girls’ education–was awarded the Nobel Peace Prize, along with Indian activist Kailash Satyarthi.  Yousafzai’s work on educational equity is well-known. But less well-known is what she said to Barack Obama about how his wars were undermining the fight against terrorism.

Last year, Yousafzai’s White House meeting with Barack Obama received wide media coverage.  But as I pointed out  back then (FAIR Blog, 10/15/13), part of Yousafzai’s message didn’t make it into most media accounts: She told Obama that drone strikes in her country were fueling more terrorism.’

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Malala Yousafzai a Polarizing Figure in Her Homeland

Mustafa Hameed reports for ABC News:

‘While most in the country, including leading politicians and public figures, have reacted with pride at her award and have supported her over the years for her activism, a vocal segment of Pakistan’s population has not been so pleased with her global recognition.

Some portions of Pakistani society, leaning on ultra-conservative ideologies and conspiracy theories, hold onto the belief that Malala’s assassination attempt was sensationalized, or even faked, in order to discredit the country and its right-wingers. For them, this victory has done little to change their views.’

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Spasm of Violence in Kashmir Worst in Years

Anjum Naveed and Aijaz Hussain report for The Associated Press:

‘[...] The clashes — which both India and Pakistan blame the other for starting — come even though both governments say they want to improve ties and even resolve the conflict. Indian Prime Minister Narendra Modi invited Pakistan’s leader, Nawaz Sharif, to attend his inauguration in May, saying he wanted to engage the archrival more assertively.

But relations remain fragile, even hostile. India in August abruptly canceled talks with Pakistan after its ambassador met with Kashmiri separatist leaders. The mostly Muslim region, divided into zones controlled by India and Pakistan, and even a chunk by China, has seen fighting off and on for decades. Pakistan and India have fought two wars over the mountainous territory.

Modi, a strident Hindu nationalist, seems intent on showing he represents a new, more forceful India.’

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Drones, the Media and Malala’s Message

Editor’s Note: In light of Malala Yousafzai sharing the Nobel Peace Prize this year, it’s worth reminding ourselves of her visit to the White House last year. Particularly her much ignored words to President Obama about his administration’s use of drone strikes and their links to fuelling the very terrorism that they claim to be fighting.

Peter Hart wrote for Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting in October 2013:

Malala-Yousafzai_2700395b‘Pakistani teenager Malala Yousafzai’s visit to the United States was widely covered in the media, including interviews with ABC‘s Diane Sawyer (10/11/13), CNN’s Christiane Amanpour (10/14/13) and Jon Stewart of the Daily Show (10/8/13). She was selected as ABC‘s “Person of the Week” on October 11, and was considered a serious contender for the Nobel Peace Prize.

And for good reason; just one year ago, Malala was attacked by the Taliban for her outspoken advocacy on behalf of educational equality, surviving a an attack where she was shot in the head.

But one part of her message didn’t seem to penetrate the corporate media.

During her October 11 visit to the White House, Yousafzai told Barack Obama that his administration’s drone strikes were fueling terrorism.’

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US Drone Strikes in Pakistan Kill 26 Over Five Days

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

‘The Obama Administration seems to be precipitously escalating the drone war against Pakistan’s tribal areas this week, and today launched yet another strike, killing three more unidentified people in North Waziristan.

This makes six different strikes across Waziristan in the past five days, killing 26 people overall. One was reportedly a “Uzbek commander,” but none had yet been publicly named by either US or Pakistani officials.

Pakistani intelligence officials have labeled every single person slain in the strikes as a “suspect,” but have offered no evidence backing up those claims.’

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Pakistan: Imran Khan vows to continue protests until PM resigns

AFP reports:

Pakistani cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan: Imran Khan ’plotted with army to oust Nawaz Sharif’, colleague claims‘Opposition politician Imran Khan [last] Sunday vowed to continue his protest against Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif until the leader resigns over allegations of election rigging.

Khan, along with populist cleric Tahir-ul-Qadri, has been staging a sit-in in capital Islamabad since August 15.

Last week he took his protest to Pakistan’s largest city Karachi and on Sunday he addressed thousands of people in his home town and Pakistan’s second largest city — Lahore, which is also the home town of Sharif.

“The Pakistan nation has woken up against injustice and tyranny and I will continue this protest in other cities till Nawaz Sharif resigns,” Khan said.’

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Related news from recent months:

Pakistan is eyeing sea-based and short-range nuclear weapons, analysts say

Tim Craig and Karen DeYoung report for The Washington Post:

‘In one of the world’s most volatile ­regions, Pakistan is advancing toward a sea-based missile capability and expanding its interest in tactical nuclear warheads, according to Pakistani and Western analysts.

The development of nuclear missiles that could be fired from a ship or submarine would give Pakistan “second-strike” capability if a catastrophic nuclear exchange destroyed all land-based weapons. But the acceleration of Pakistan’s nuclear and missile programs is renewing international concern about the vulnerability of those weapons in a country that is home to more than two dozen Islamist extremist groups.’

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Polio: Pakistan polio outbreak hits record high

BBC News reports:

A Pakistani child receives a polio vaccination drops from a health worker in Rawalpindi - 8 April 2014‘Pakistan has recorded its highest number of polio cases for 15 years, with health officials blaming the rise on attacks on immunisation teams. The number of new cases in 2014 so far is 202, exceeding the 199 cases in 2001 but short of the 558 cases in 1999.

Most of the infections are in the north-western tribal region where militants have targeted health teams. Militants there accuse doctors of being spies and say the vaccinations are part of a Western plot to sterilise Muslims.

Suspicions over the programmes worsened after the US was accused of using a fake vaccination programme during its tracking of al-Qaeda chief Osama Bin Laden in Pakistan in 2011.’

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Pakistani Taliban Clarifies Statement Backing ISIS, Insists They’re Only Loyal to Mullah Omar

Tahir Khan reports for The Express Tribune:

‘Pakistani Taliban said on Sunday that they have declared allegiance only to Mullah Mohammad Omar, the Afghan Taliban supremo, rejecting the media reports that the group has declared allegiance to the Islamic State.

“We are loyal to Ameer-ul-Momineen (Mullah Omar) and question does not arise to withdraw from his allegiance,” Shahidullah Shahid, spokesperson for Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) said.

Clarifying his earlier reported comments about allegiance to the Islamic State, Shahid said the TTP had only commended the group.

“We had only praised the Islamic State and advised them to set aside differences and show unity,” the TTP spokesperson told The Express Tribune in a late Sunday email.’

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Related news from recent months:

John Oliver On Drones

American drones ‘killing 49 people for every known terrorist in Pakistan’

Leon Watson reported in 2012 for The Daily Mail:

Bombardment: More than 345 strikes have hit Pakistan's tribal areas near the border with Afghanistan in the past eight years‘Just one in 50 victims of America’s deadly drone strikes in Pakistan are terrorists – while the rest are innocent civilians, a new report claimed today. The authoritative joint study, by Stanford and New York Universities, concludes that men, women and children are being terrorised by the operations ’24 hours-a-day’.

And the authors lay much of the blame on the use of the ‘double-tap’ strike where a drone fires one missile – and then a second as rescuers try to drag victims from the rubble. One aid agency said they had a six-hour delay before going to the scene.

The tactic has cast such a shadow of fear over strike zones that people often wait for hours before daring to visit the scene of an attack. Investigators also discovered that communities living in fear of the drones were suffering severe stress and related illnesses. Many parents had taken their children out of school because they were so afraid of a missile-strike.’

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Al-Qaeda India branch’s first attack ends in dismal failure as jihadists ‘raid wrong ship’

Dean Nelson reports for The Telegraph:

 Pakistani sailors stand on the Tipu Sultan warship during the multinational naval exercise 'AMAN 07' (Peace) in the Arabian Sea off Karachi, 08 March 2007.‘Al-Qaeda in the Indian Subcontinent, the new group announced last week by Ayman al-Zawahiri to bolster his flagging fortunes, suffered a setback when three of its fighters were killed and seven arrested in its first ever terror attack.

Heavily armed militants attacked a naval dock in Karachi’s sea port on Saturday night and targeted what they believed was an American aircraft carrier, but instead found a Pakistan Navy frigate and were overwhelmed before they could cause any damage, investigators said.’

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India says Pakistan border clashes ‘extremely serious and provocative’

Reuters reports:

‘Clashes along India’s border with Pakistan are “extremely serious and provocative” and not conducive to improving relations between the nuclear-armed neighbours, Defence Minister Arun Jaitley said on Saturday.

The comments came nearly two weeks after New Delhi called off top level diplomatic talks, protesting against Pakistan’s meetings with separatists from the disputed region of Kashmir.

Exchanges of fire between Indian and Pakistani troops along the Line of Control (LoC) that divides Indian- and Pakistan-controlled Kashmir have intensified in recent weeks, claiming lives of several people, including soldiers.’

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India’s prime minister accuses Pakistan of waging a “proxy war of terrorism”

The Associated Press reports:

‘India’s prime minister on Tuesday accused Pakistan of waging a proxy, terrorist war because it was too weak to fight a conventional one, a day after India accused its traditional rival of violating cease-fire agreements in the disputed Himalayan region of Kashmir. Prime Minister Narendra Modi pledged to provide Indian troops with more weapons, saying they were suffering more casualties from “terrorism than from war.”

“Pakistan has lost the strength to fight a conventional war, but continues to engage in the proxy war of terrorism,” Modi said in an address to Indian army soldiers and officers in the city of Leh. He also announced that a national war memorial would be installed in the region. The pugnacious comments appeared to mark a reversal from friendlier tones struck in the days after Modi and his Hindu-nationalist party won Indian elections in a landslide in May. Pakistan’s Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif was among regional leaders who attended Modi’s inauguration.’

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The CIA Caused A Polio Outbreak In Pakistan

‘When the White House went public with its catching-bin-Laden story, they told every media outlet just about every detail of the raid possible. They even allowed a Hollywood blockbuster to be made about the event. There was so much leakage of information that Dianne Feinstein called for a criminal investigation. Among the leaks was the information that the CIA had recruited doctors to collect DNA samples to help find bin Laden by going door to door to vaccinate people. The Taliban learned of this and started banning vaccines. Now, there is a huge resurgence of polio in Pakistan. The Resident discusses.’ (The Resident)

Pakistan PM Faces Murder Charges Over June Crackdown

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

Pakistani protesters continue to mass around the capital city of their “long march,” with PTI leader Imran Khan at the head, promising Sunday will be a “decisive day” in the history of Pakistan.

Saturday was already an historic day in its own right, after the Lahore courts ordered murder charges to be brought against sitting Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother, Punjabi Province leader Shahbaz Sharif.

The charges are related to the order of a deadly crackdown against supporters of preacher Muhammad Tahrir-ul Qadri in June. Qadri, an anti-Taliban preacher, also made several anti-corruption speeches critical of the Sharifs and their associates, and has been involved with the long march.’

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Report: Nearly half of identified drone strike victims in Pakistan are civilians

Shayan Naveed reports for The Express Tribune:

‘An investigative project shows that 323 out of a little over 700 identified victims of US drones in Pakistan are reported to be civilians, including 99 children.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism’s ‘Naming the Dead project’ – which was launched last year — has now recorded the names of more than 700 of the 2, 342 people reportedly killed by CIA drones in Pakistan.

According to the Bureau’s website, it uses open source materials to monitor and record all drone attacks in covert war situations, including Pakistan.’

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July the bloodiest month of drone strikes in two years in Pakistan

Victoria Parsons, Jack Serle and Alice K Ross reports for The Bureau of Investigative Journalism:

‘At least 32 people died in three CIA drone strikes in Pakistan, making this the bloodiest month since July 2012. The strikes all reportedly occurred in and around Datta Khel in North Waziristan.

The high death toll from just three attacks dramatically increased the casualty rate – the average number of people killed in each strike on average. This month the casualty rate was 10.7 people per strike. That is more than double the rate for June (4.6) and the highest since April 2011, when 24 people died in two attacks.’

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Chase Madar: U.S. drone attacks undermine national security

Chase Madar, author of The Passion of Bradley Manning, writes for Al Jazeera:

‘Drone blowback is real. Over the past five years, terrorists have attempted serious attacks on American soil that were motivated in part by U.S. drone strikes abroad. We know this because the apprehended terrorists have been loud and clear about their motives. As Pakistani-born Faisal Shahzad, whose car bomb failed to explode in Times Square in May 2010, said at his arraignment:

Until the hour the U.S. pulls its forces from Iraq and Afghanistan and stops the drone strikes in Somalia and Yemen and in Pakistan and stops the occupation of Muslim lands … we will be attacking U.S. The drone hits in Afghanistan and Iraq, they don’t see children … They kill women, children — they kill everybody.

A foiled plot to blow up the New York subway, led by Afghan-born, Queens-raised Najibullah Zazi, also speaks to the growing anger over drone warfare. According to courtroom testimony from the would-be perpetrators, they conceived their effort as revenge for the drone attacks in northwestern Pakistan, where U.S. strikes have killed some 2,800 people. Just how many of those killed were Al-Qaeda fighters and how many civilians is not precisely known. But the connection between drones abroad and danger at home is not hypothetical: It’s a demonstrable fact. And yet our national security experts tend to treat these attempted terrorist attacks as if they were of no relevance to Washington’s increasing use of lethal unmanned aircraft.’

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Israel’s security cabinet discusses both expanding Gaza operation, cease-fire efforts

The Jerusalem Post reports:

‘As Hamas head Khaled Mashaal indicated in Doha Wednesday night that Hamas was ready for a “humanitarian cease-fire,” the security cabinet met to discuss the direction of the military action inside Gaza, as well as the diplomatic efforts to stop it.

Mashaal continued to lay down conditions for the cease-fire, calling for lifting the blockade that has been imposed on the Gaza Strip since 2007 and reopening the border crossings. He said Hamas would not accept any cease-fire that bypasses the demands of the movement and other resistance groups in the Gaza Strip.’

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New Pakistan anti-terror law raises fears over civil rights

Katharine Houreld reports for Reuters:

‘Pakistan’s parliament passed a law on Wednesday giving security forces sweeping powers to clamp down on militancy, but some activists and legislators criticized the provisions as too harsh. The legislation, known as the Protection of Pakistan Ordinance, must now be signed into law by the president. The debate over the law follows months of high-profile Taliban attacks and this month’s offensive by the Pakistani military against militant sanctuaries in the remote border region of North Waziristan. Opposition senators had managed to water down some of the law’s most punitive clauses, said Senator Afrasiab Khattak.

“It is still a very harsh law though,” Khattak said by telephone. “We will be raising these issues again when the law comes up for renewal in two years.” The revised legislation, he said, allows suspects to be held for questioning for 60 days without charges being laid instead of 15 days permitted at present. Senior police officers will be empowered to issue orders to shoot to kill suspects. It allows prisoners to be held at secret facilities but provides for some judicial oversight. Warrantless searches are allowed, but the evidence and cause must be presented in court within two days. In its original form, the bill was far more harsh.’

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US Resumes Drone Strikes Against Pakistan

Jason Ditz reports for Antiwar:

‘Having drawn down the number of drone strikes against Pakistani territory to almost nothing in recent months, the US was surprisingly aggressive today [June 11th] in North Waziristan, launching two strikes in 24 hours, killing 16 people. The first attack killed six “suspects,” in Dargah Mandi, destroying a truck and setting a nearby house on fire. The second strike hit in Dande Darpakhel village, killing 10 people and wounding four others.

Though the Pakistani government is back to the old strategy of labeling everyone slain “suspects,” none of the victims in either attack were actually named, and there was no indication the US even suspected they had a high-profile target in sight. There has been speculation that the recent calm was in part due to almost having killed POW Bowe Bergdahl in previous strikes in the region, and some were predicting Bergdahl’s recovery might give the US a free hand to escalate the attacks again. Whether today’s attacks portend a new escalation or are a one-off situation remains to be seen.’

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After bin Laden backlash, CIA promises: No more fake vaccination campaigns

Oliver Knox reports for Yahoo! News:

‘Amid a deadly backlash again vaccinations and a resurgence of polio in Pakistan, the White House has promised that the CIA will never again use an immunization campaign as a tool of spycraft. “I wanted to inform you that the Director of the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) directed in August 2013 that the agency make no operational use of vaccination programs, which includes vaccination workers,” President Obama’s top counterterrorism and homeland security advisor, Lisa Monaco, wrote to the deans of 12 public health schools.

“Similarly, the Agency will not seek to obtain or exploit DNA or other genetic material acquired through such programs,” Monaco wrote. “This CIA policy applies worldwide and to U.S. and non-U.S. persons alike.” The Central Intelligence Agency had enlisted a Pakistani doctor, Shakil Afridi, to collect intelligence under the guise of an immunization effort in the city of Abbottabad as part of planning for the high-risk May 2011 raid on Osama bin Laden’s compound there.’

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Did CIA’s Fake Polio Vaccination Program in Pakistan Help Fuel a Global Health Emergency?

‘The World Health Organization has designated the spread of polio in Asia, Africa and the Middle East a global public health emergency requiring a coordinated “international response.” Three countries pose the greatest risk of further spreading the paralyzing virus: Pakistan, Cameroon and Syria. In an unusual step, the W.H.O. recommended all residents of those countries, of all ages, to be vaccinated before traveling abroad. The organization also said another seven countries — Afghanistan, Equatorial Guinea, Ethiopia, Iraq, Israel, Nigeria and Somalia — should “encourage” all their would-be travelers to get vaccinated. Until recently, polio had been nearly eradicated thanks to a 25-year campaign that vaccinated billions of children. In Pakistan, the increase in polio is being linked to a secret CIA ploy used in the hunt for Osama bin Laden. With the help of a Pakistani doctor, the CIA set up a fake vaccination campaign in the city of Abbottabad in an effort to get DNA from the bin Laden family. The Taliban subsequently announced a ban on immunization efforts and launched a string of deadly attacks on medical workers. We are joined by two guests: Rafia Zakaria, a columnist for DAWN, Pakistan’s largest English newspaper, who has been covering the rise of polio in Pakistan since the bin Laden raid; and one of Pakistan’s leading polio experts, Dr. Zulfiqar Bhutta.’ (Democracy Now!)

Iran to Pakistan: Beware of ‘hands’ sowing rift between us

From the Daily Times:

‘Supreme Leader Ayatollah Seyed Ali Khamenei on Monday lambasted the US and ‘some other states’ for their attempts to create rift between Iran and Pakistan. “There are hands at work that intend to cause differences between the two friendly and intimate nations through different methods, including stirring insecurity at the lengthy common borders. We shouldn’t allow the big opportunity existing for the expansion of the relations between the two countries to be lost,” Khamenei told Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at a meeting. He underlined the need for further development of ties between the two countries and laid special importance on the implementation of joint ventures, like Iran-Pakistan gas pipeline project. ‘

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How the US Supports Regimes That Support Terrorism

John Glaser writes for Antiwar:

Obama meeting with the Kuwaiti Emir, Shaikh Sabah‘U.S. foreign policy in the Middle East has always been about maintaining dominance over the region, keeping the governments relatively weak and dependent (and undemocratic), and ensuring access to and control over the vast oil and gas resources of the region. The terrorist backlash against this imperialistic and often violent foreign policy is mostly a distraction for U.S. strategists, despite the fact that it became the primary ideological justification for increased U.S. interventionism in the region.

At this point, U.S. policy is perpetuating a dangerous contradiction. Strategists would like to think that this imperialism can be implemented without the blowback of violent extremists and without certain U.S. “allies” directly supporting these terrorists. But it, apparently, cannot be done. Don’t hold your breath for a change in policy to relieve this cognitive dissonance.’

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CIA’s Pakistan drone strikes carried out by regular US air force personnel

Chris Woods writes for The Guardian:

A regular US air force unit based in the Nevada desert is responsible for flying the CIA‘s drone strike programme in Pakistan, according to a new documentary to be released on Tuesday.

The film – which has been three years in the making – identifies the unit conducting CIA strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas as the 17th Reconnaissance Squadron, which operates from a secure compound in a corner of Creech air force base, 45 miles from Las Vegas in the Mojave desert.

Several former drone operators have claimed that the unit’s conventional air force personnel – rather than civilian contractors – have been flying the CIA’s heavily armed Predator missions in Pakistan, a 10-year campaign which according to some estimates has killed more than 2,400 people.

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Nine-month-old baby attempted murder charges thrown out by Pakistan court

Heather Sual reports for The Independent:

A judge in Pakistan has thrown out charges of attempted murder against a nine-month-old baby on Saturday, lawyers said, after the infant appeared in court for a second time. At his first appearance in court last week, baby Musa Khan cried while his fingerprints were taken by a court official.

He appeared in court in the city of Lahore again today, calmly sitting on his grandfather’s lap and drinking from a bottle of milk after being bailed. But the judge said the case should never have come to court

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