Pakistan ambassador calls for ban on drones at UN conference as several persons reported killed in latest strike
Sat 24th May 2014
Ambassador Zamir Akram of Pakistan calls for ban on drones at UN Conference in Geneva
The CCW Meeting of Experts on Lethal Autonomous Weapons Systems (LAWS) took place from 13 to 16 May 2014 at the United Nations in Geneva. The event was chaired by Ambassador Jean-Hugues Simon-Michel of France with the mandate declared as follows:-
“to discuss the questions related to emerging technologies in the area of lethal autonomous weapons systems, in the context of the objectives and purposes of the Convention. He will, under his own responsibility, submit a report to the 2014 Meeting of the High Contracting Parties to the Convention, objectively reflecting the discussions held.”
I was following tweets from Sarah Knuckley, an international human rights lawyer at the Center for Human Rights and Global Justice (NYU School of Law), and a Special Advisor to the UN Special Rapporteur on extrajudicial executions, when I read that Pakistan is calling for a ban on use and production of lethal weapons. This rather surprised me as the country has a history of co-operation with the US on drones, with former President Pervez Musharraf (now on trial for alleged treason) openly stating this in an interview with CNN in 2013, see article by Rob Crilly in the Telegraph
Musharraf admitted to a secret CIA drone deal with US, stating that he had authorised strikes, though claiming “only on very few occasions where the target was absolutely isolated and had no chance of collateral damage”. He also claimed that the strikes were “discussed at the military intelligence level” and cleared only if “there was no time for our own special operations task force and military to act. That was … maybe two or three times only”.
Musharraf, admits to being complicit with US on drone strikes
The reality is that many civilians have been annihilated in FATA (Federally Administered Tribal Area) of Pakistan and drone strikes have acted as recruiting tool for militants with a series of violent retaliation attacks adding to the death toll.
At the start of peace talks with the Taliban, Nawaz Sharif politely asked the US to cease strikes but this appeared to be empty rhetoric without meaningful action. Pakistan’s Ambassador Zamir Akram stated at the Convention yesterday that a ban should come through a dedicated protocol under the framework of a UN Convention on Certain Conventional Weapons. Radio Pakistan reported the Pakistan envoy saying that several developing and non-aligned countries are pleading for an immediate moratorium on production and use of such lethal weapons until that times comes.
Protesting drones and interviewing a victim of a drone strike
In the meantime, after a recent lull in strikes, breaking news this morning alleged that more persons had been killed in the border area of Afghanistan and Pakistan. There was the usual confusion due to a ban on journalists and inability to access the affected area. Initial casualty figures ranged from 3 individuals to Dawn claiming the number could be as high as 10 “suspected militants” with 14 injured during an alleged attack on a militants’ compound and vehicles.
Express Tribune reported that an official of the political administration from Khyber Agency informed the media that “a US drone fired three missiles at around 8:30am in Chancharo Khawa area of Naziyan in Afghanistan, targeting the suspected hideouts of militants.” (Prior to that the last drone strike occurred towards the end of December, 2013, killing three suspected insurgents.)
I received the following information on today’s strike in an e-mail from Pakistani journalist Aamir Iqbal stating,
“at least three Taliban fighters of banned outfit Lashkar e Islam were killed in a suspected US drone attack in Nadyan area near Pak Afghan border in Afghanistan. Nasar Khan Shinwari the paramilitary personal confirmed.
‘Suspected US Drone aircraft fired three missiles on a vehicle and killed three militants affiliated with Lashkar e Islam’, Shinwari shared the details.
It is worth mentioned that the banned Pakistani outfit Lashkar e Islam considered the most influential group in Pakistani tribal area Khyber Agency, is in battle since last two months with Afghan Taliban in Nadyan area to take over the administration of the area”
Strikes may have been aimed at Taliban “smugglers” according to Express Tribune. In addition, an Afghan journalist from Jalalabad said that he heard “the drones fire missiles when the Pakistan and Afghan Taliban were holding a ‘jirga’ for reconciliation as they also had some disputes” see article below.
There was also a further report via Amir Iqbal of at least one government official being killed in a (non-drone) attack carried out by militants on a North Atlantic Treaty Organisation (NATO) supply convoy, Godown, Jamrud NLC Khyber Agency. It was unclear however whether this was in response to the latest drone strike.
Opposition party Pakistan Tehreek -e-Insaf (PTI), led by Chairman Imran Khan, has repeatedly called for an end to drone strikes by holding anti-drone rallies and a peaceful blockade of NATO supply line to highlight the victims of US “collateral damage”. Chris Woods, an investigative journalist who is currently writing a book on drone warfare said, “if the airstrike in Pakistan today is confirmed as CIA, it would mark the end of the longest pause (139 days) in [the] US bombing campaign since summer 2006.”
Just Security… Start of the first intergovernmental expert meeting on autonomous weapons (Sarah Knuckley)
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad . She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”. She is also a survivor of US “collateral damage”.