Sunday, July 21, 2013

Malala Day Missed Opportunity; Supreme Court Rejects Drones Plea

Discussion at Viewpoint from Overseas focused on two events last week: 1. Malala Day at the United Nations and 2. Pakistani Supreme Court's refusal to hear a petition against US drone strikes in FATA.

1. Malala Day:

Malala Day was celebrated at the United Nations at which Pakistani teenage schoolgirl Malala Yousufzai made a passionate appeal to the world to fully support girls' education in Pakistan and around the world. Pakistani leadership was conspicuously absent from this important event.

The vacuum left by the top political leadership of Pakistan was unfortunately filled by the Taliban sympathizers who spun various conspiracy theories to blame foreigners, particularly the West, for all of Pakistan's problems. While she was still speaking at the U.N., her detractors in Pakistani social media were denouncing her as a “CIA agent" or claiming that her wounds had been “faked.” There were those who said she had not been hurt at all, while others were suspicious of her global fame. The messages were in the thousands.

 Malala Day is a missed opportunity for Pakistani leaders to focus the attention of the people of Pakistan on two very important issues they face: the extremely serious threat of terrorism and the denial of education to girls in the country, particularly in western provinces of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa ruled by Imran Khan's Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf and Balochistan ruled by Nawaz Sharif's PML(N).

2. US Drones:

Pakistani Supreme Court refused to hear a petition seeking an order to declare US drone strikes in FATA illegal. The rejection was based on technical grounds. The Court said that “under Article 247 (7) of the constitution, neither the Supreme Court nor a high court shall exercise any jurisdiction in relation to tribal area, unless (Parliament) by law otherwise provides.”

This court has not hesitated to hear petitions based on such technical grounds in the past. Pakistan's High Treason Act, for example, clearly states that “No court shall take cognizance of an offense punishable under this act except upon a complaint in writing made by a person authorized by the Federal Government in this behalf.” But this language did not stop the Supreme Court judges from hearing a petition against Pervez Musharraf earlier this year.

It appears that there is more to the Supreme Court's rejection of petition against drones than meets the eye. Could it be that the Supreme Court judges, like many others in Pakistan, know that drone strikes are the only effective means of checking the TTP today?

Watch the following video for more on the above subjects:

Pakistan's Reaction to UN Malala Day; Supreme Court Rejects Drone Plea from WBT TV on Vimeo.

Related Links:

Haq's Musings

UN Malala Day

Treason Trial of Musharraf

Does Sharif Have an Anti-Terror Policy?

Blowback of US Drones in Pakistan

Why is Democracy Failing in Pakistan?

Viewpoint From Overseas-Vimeo 

Viewpoint From Overseas-Youtube


Riaz Haq said...

Here's a Bureau of Investigative Journalism's report on drone strikes data in Pakistan's FATA:

The Bureau is publishing in full a leaked internal document – titled Details of Attacks by NATO Forces/Predators in FATA - which contains the Pakistan government’s own estimates of how many people have died in specific CIA drone strikes.

The summary report – obtained from three independent sources – covers the period January 13 2006 to October 24 2009.

Drawn from field reports by local officials in Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas, the document lists over 70 drone strikes between 2006 and late 2009, alongside a small number of other incidents such as alleged Nato attacks and strikes by unspecified forces.

Of 746 people listed as killed in the drone strikes, at least 147 of the dead are clearly stated by the leaked report to be civilian victims. Some 94 of these are said to be children.

Some CIA strikes are missing from the document. None of the five reported strikes for 2007 are listed, for example. Also missing are any biographical details of those killed, although the genders of many victims are reported and – where known – whether any children died.

The document also fails to mention details of a number of senior militant commanders known to have died in the attacks.

The Bureau believes there is a strong public interest value in publishing the report in full. A number of small distinguishing marks have been removed – otherwise the document is presented as-is.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's a NY Times story illustrating how angry anti-US Pakistanis are shooting themselves in the foot:

Usman, who limps on a leg bowed by the polio he caught as a child, made sure that his first three children were protected from the disease, but he turned away vaccinators when his youngest was born.

He was furious that the Central Intelligence Agency, in its hunt for Osama bin Laden, had staged a fake vaccination campaign, and infuriated by American drone strikes, one of which, he said, had struck the son of a man he knew, blowing off his head. He had come to see the war on polio, the longest, most expensive disease eradication effort in history, as a Western plot.

In January, his 2-year-old son, Musharaf, became the first child worldwide to be crippled by polio this year.

“I know now I made a mistake,” said Usman, 32, who, like many in his Pashtun tribe, uses only one name. “But you Americans have caused pain in my community. Americans pay for the polio campaign, and that’s good. But you abused a humanitarian mission for a military purpose.”

Anger like his over American foreign policy has led to a disastrous setback for the global effort against polio. In December, nine vaccinators were shot dead here, and two Taliban commanders banned vaccination in their areas, saying the vaccinations could resume only if drone strikes ended. In January, 10 vaccinators were killed in Nigeria’s Muslim-dominated north.

Since then, there have been isolated killings — of an activist, a police officer and vaccinators — each of which has temporarily halted the campaign....

And here's PTI's chief minister Pervez Khattak saying "our war is not against the Taliban. We say to Taliban this is your province and your country. We want to talk with them."

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an ET report on allocation of UN's Malala Fund for Pakistan:

Up to 70 per cent of the $10 million ‘Malala Fund for Girl’s Right to Education’ throughout the world and Pakistan, announced by President Asif Ali Zardari in December 2012, will be used in Pakistan, whereas the remainder is earmarked for Afghanistan. With the support of the international community, Pakistan and Unesco signed the historic memorandum of understanding (MoU) to establish this fund with $10 million as seed money.
Qian Tang, assistant secretary general (education) of the United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organisation (Unesco) met Minister of State for Education, Trainings and Standards in Higher Education Balighur Rehman on Monday and discussed the modalities for the operationalisation of the fund.
The MoU was signed earlier between the then education minister Sheikh Waqas Akram and Unesco director general Irina Bokova at the UN’s Paris headquarters.
The Malala fund will be disbursed in two categories: special fund and fund in trust. The special fund of $7 million will be used in Pakistan and the remainder $3 million will be used by Unesco in Afghanistan under the fund in trust category.
80 per cent of the special fund in Pakistan would be used for formal education whereas the remainder will be used to support non formal education like Basic Education Community Schools and National Commission for Human Development....

Riaz Haq said...

Former Iranian president Rafsanjani says "we can't stay angry with the world", according to Washington Post:

TEHRAN, Iran — An influential Iranian ex-president is calling for deep changes in the country’s foreign policy, saying Iran can no longer remain “angry with the world.”

The statement by Akbar Hashemi Rafsanjani is an unusually pointed criticism of the combative style of outgoing President Mahmoud Ahmadinejad, whose critics say has internationally isolated Iran.

Rafsanjani made the remarks during a meeting with university teachers in Tehran that was posted on his website,, on Monday.

His ally Hasan Rouhani won a landslide victory in June 14 presidential election, and will be sworn in Aug. 4, replacing Ahmadinejad.

Rouhani has pledged to follow a “path of moderation” and interaction with the outside world, reviving hopes for easing of tensions with the West.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an excerpt of a Dawn editorial on DI Khan jailbreak by the TTP:

The KP administration led by PTI has not even gone as far as owning the war. This head-in-the-sand approach can only boost the confidence of the militants, while demoralising the people that resist them. It may well be that the militants are changing their tactics to springing their men out of jail as opposed to negotiating with the government for their release. This necessitates an urgent fortification of detention centres, not just in KP but across the country. Perhaps even more importantly, it necessitates the recognition that it is the state of Pakistan itself that is under assault.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's the untold story in the British Daily Mail of Pakistan's unsung heroes in the battle to save their countrymen from Taliban savages who are seen by some Pak politicians as "brothers":

Captain Qasim Abbas had finished a six-month stint fighting the Taliban close to the Afghan border and was heading home to get engaged when the militants struck, ambushing his convoy, pitching his vehicle off a 90-foot cliff and leaving him with brain injuries that make speaking and walking a daily battle.
Abbas and the other soldiers recovering at Pakistan's only military rehabilitation hospital are a testament to the human toll from Pakistan's fight against Islamist militants. Their plight receives little attention from Pakistani politicians, possibly because they are afraid of associating themselves with an unpopular fight that many citizens see as driven by the United States.
'Fight, fight, keep fighting,' Abbas said slowly but with purpose when asked if he had a message for his colleagues still battling the Taliban. He raised his fist in the air to drive home his point.

Nearly 3,000 Pakistani troops have been killed fighting insurgents — more soldiers than NATO forces have lost in Afghanistan. Over 9,000 others have been wounded, many by buried bombs that blew off limbs and caused other life-altering injuries, the Pakistani military says.

Abbas fought with paramilitary special forces in the Orakzai tribal area during the first half of 2010 and was awarded a commendation by Pakistan's army chief for his role in seizing a strategic hilltop, said the soldier's brother, Maj. Usman Abbas.
The tall and lanky former army basketball player grew out his hair and beard during his deployment so he could blend in among the locals in the mountainous region near the Afghan border, said Abbas' brother. But his luck ran out when he was ambushed on June 21 of last year as he was leaving Orakzai to meet his future wife.
The attack left Abbas in a coma for six months, but he is now driven to recover. He spends three hours every morning in the hospital's gym trying to coax strength back into his arms and legs and overcome partial paralysis on the left side of his body.

The most common injuries the rehab hospital has had to deal with have been from homemade bombs the militants bury throughout the tribal region, said the head of the institute, Maj. Gen. Akthar Waheed. These weapons also pose the greatest threat to U.S. troops in Afghanistan.
Captain Kaleem Nasar was part of an operation elsewhere in the northwest in January of this year when he stepped on a bomb. The explosion blew off one of his legs, and the other had to be amputated below the knee. He visited the rehab hospital recently so doctors could work on his artificial limbs.
Despite his injuries, he does not regret going to war against the Taliban and hopes he can return to active duty.
Waheed contrasted the lack of political attention in Pakistan with a visit he made to Walter Reed Army Medical Center in the U.S. in April. He was there for only five days but saw a stream of officials and reporters come to the facility to meet with U.S. soldiers wounded in Afghanistan and Iraq, he said....
The hospital hopes to expand its capacity to 150 beds in the next few years from 100 today, said Waheed. He hopes this expansion will be accompanied by greater appreciation of what the soldiers have gone through.
'Any person who has given his limb, say his right hand, what is left with him?' said Waheed. 'His suffering is for all of life.

Riaz Haq said...

Here's an Economist mag story on Pakistani opinion of US drone strikes in FATA:

NATIONAL surveys find that Pakistanis are overwhelmingly opposed to CIA drone strikes against suspected militants in the tribal badlands close to the Afghan border. The strikes are seen by many as an abuse of sovereignty, a symbol of American arrogance and the cause of civilian deaths. So when Sofia Khan, a school administrator from Islamabad, travelled with hundreds of anti-drone campaigners to a ramshackle town bordering the restive Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA) last October she was stunned by what some tribesmen there had to say.

One man from South Waziristan heatedly told her that he and his family approved of the remote-controlled aircraft and wanted more of them patrolling the skies above his home. Access to the tribal regions is very difficult for foreign journalists; but several specialists and researchers on the region, who did not want to be identified, say there is at least a sizeable minority in FATA who share that view.

Surveys are also notoriously difficult to carry out in FATA. A 2009 poll in three of the tribal agencies found 52% of respondents believed drone strikes were accurate and 60% said they weakened militant groups. Other surveys have found much lower percentages in favour. But interviews by The Economist with twenty residents of the tribal areas confirmed that many see individual drone strikes as preferable to the artillery barrages of the Pakistani military. They also insisted that the drones do not kill many civilians—a view starkly at odds with mainstream Pakistani opinion. “No one dares tell the real picture,” says an elder from North Waziristan. “Drone attacks are killing the militants who are killing innocent people.”

American claims about the accuracy of its drone attacks are hard to verify. The best estimate is provided by monitoring organisations that track drone attacks through media reports, an inexact method in a region where militants block access to strike sites. However, the most thorough survey, by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, suggests a fall in civilian casualties, with most news sources claiming no civilians killed this year despite 22 known strikes.

Supporters of the drones in Pakistan’s media are even more reluctant to speak frankly. Many commentators admit to approving of drones in the absence of government moves to clear terrorist sanctuaries. But they dare not say so in print.

In 2010 a group of politicians and NGOs published a “Peshawar Declaration” in support of drones. Life soon became difficult for the signatories. “If anyone speaks out they will be eliminated,” says Said Alam Mehsud, one of the organisers, who was forced to leave Pakistan for a time.

As for Ms Khan, she has had a partial rethink. “I still want the drones to end,” she says. “But if my government wants to do something they should do it themselves, without foreign help.”

Riaz Haq said...

A Pakistani family whose account of a U.S. drone strike in North Waziristan was cited last week in Amnesty International's report on the covert program arrived in Washington on Tuesday, intent on putting a human face on the number of civilian casualties (AFP). According to Nabila Rehman, she was picking okra with her family in their garden last October when a drone strike killed her grandmother and injured seven other people; the U.S. government has never officially acknowledged the strike. The Rehmans, who will appear at a press conference with U.S. Congressman Alan Grayson (D-FL) on Tuesday, are also featured in a new documentary by the Brave New Foundation called "Unmanned: America's Drone Wars."