Pakistani Drone Activist Kareem Khan Freed -- after Abduction and Torture
February 15, 2014
Agence France-Presse & The World Can't Wait.org & Medea Benjamin / AntiWar.com &
A drone activist who was kidnapped from his home last week has been freed, Kareem Khan's lawyer tells journalists his client was tortured and interrogated but is unable to identify the men who detained him. Senior Obama administration officials say our government is sharply scaling back its drone strikes in Pakistan. That's a step in the right direction. It would be even better if the entire US program of targeted killings in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia were scrapped.
Drone Activist Kareem Khan Freed
(February 14, 2014) -- A drone activist who was kidnapped from his home last week has been freed, his lawyer said on Friday, adding he had been tortured and interrogated. Kareem Khan was picked up from his home on the outskirts of Islamabad on Feb. 5 by around 20 men, some in police uniform, just days before he was due to testify before European parliamentarians about US drone attacks.
He was bundled into a van blindfolded and pushed off onto the road in the early hours of Friday morning, in the Tarnol suburb of Islamabad, said his lawyer Shahzad Akber. "He has been released," Akber said. "His hands weren't tied and he was able to remove his blindfold and took a taxi home after asking where he was."
Though Khan was not able to identify the men who had detained him, a court on Wednesday had ordered the government to produce him by Feb. 20 or provide the reason for his detention. Khan had been staying in the outskirts of Islamabad with his wife, children and an uncle ahead of a trip to Europe he was supposed to make last week. Akber described Khan as "pretty shaken up, tortured, beaten up, questioned, put in a cell, and handcuffed."
"He was questioned about names and people in Waziristan. Many names he did not know about. He was questioned about his drone work, and was told not to speak to media otherwise they will come back for them," he added.
Khan, who was also a drone investigator, was fighting a legal case in which he had named both the CIA's former station chief and the Pakistani government for their roles in the US drone campaign in the country's tribal areas. Khan's brother and teenage son were killed in a drone attack in their native North Waziristan in December 2009.
Pakistan last month passed a new law allowing its security forces to detain terror suspects for up to 90 days without disclosing their whereabouts or the allegations against them. The law appeared to be an attempt to give legal cover to the cases of so-called "missing persons," suspects who disappear into custody of the security services with no information given to their relatives.
Drone Victim Kareem Khan
Released from illegal Detention in Pakistan
The World Can't Wait.org
(February 14, 2014) -- A Pakistani drone victim who had been missing since being abducted from his home by men in police uniforms on February 5 has been released.
Kareem Khan, who had not been heard from since being taken from his Rawalpindi home, was freed earlier today (February 14).
Mr. Khan lost his son and brother to a 2009 CIA drone strike, and had been set to travel to Europe to discuss his experiences with parliamentarians when he disappeared. He was also involved in legal action against the Pakistani police over their refusal to investigate the killing of his relatives.
After being abducted in the early morning hours of 5 February by 15-20 men, 8 of whom were in police uniform, Mr. Khan was taken to a cell in an undisclosed location. Later in the day of 5 February, he was blindfolded and driven for approximately 2-3 hours to another undisclosed location where he remained until his release.
While detained, Mr. Khan was interrogated, beaten and tortured. He was placed in chains and repeatedly questioned about his investigations into drone strikes, his knowledge of drone strike victims and his work advocating on their behalf.
In the early hours of this morning (14 February), he was driven to the Tarnol area of Rawlpindi, where he was thrown from a van after being told not to speak to the media.
Mr. Khan is now with his lawyer, Shahzad Akbar, a fellow of human rights charity Reprieve. Mr. Akbar, who is also director of NGO the Foundation for Fundamental Rights, had filed 'habeas' proceedings in the courts earlier this week in an attempt to secure Mr. Khan's release.
In response, a judge from the Rawalpindi bench of the Lahore High Court had ordered the Ministry of the Interior, which has oversight of the Pakistani intelligence services, to produce Mr. Khan by February 20.
Mr. Khan plans to go ahead with his trip to meet parliamentarians in the UK, Germany and the Netherlands later this week.
Today he said: "When I was picked up I thought I would never see my family again, that I would never be free again because of all the stories I have heard about disappeared people. Now that I have been released and have seen the news, the efforts of activists, I know it is because of them that I am free, and I would like to thank them."
Shahzad Akbar said: "What happened to Kareem Khan in last few days is nothing new in Pakistan. We are living in a state of lawlessness where the executive enjoys impunity. The lesson learned though this experience is that we must always raise our voices. We need to take this stand for each and every person who disappears, it is the only way to force those in power to listen. That is why I am so thankful to all the local and international activists who spoke out for Kareem."
Reprieve legal director Kat Craig said: "It is a huge relief that Mr. Khan has finally been released, though we are deeply concerned to hear about the mistreatment he has endured. No one should have to suffer as he and his family have done for simply trying to get to the truth about the deaths of their loved ones. Serious questions remain for the Pakistani Government on how this was allowed to happen."
The Dangerous Seduction of Drones
Medea Benjamin / AntiWar.com
(February 13, 2014) -- Senior Obama administration officials say our government is sharply scaling back its drone strikes in Pakistan. That's a step in the right direction. It would be even better if the entire US program of targeted killings in Pakistan, Yemen, and Somalia were scrapped.
By embracing drones as a primary foreign policy tool, President Barack Obama has taken on the role of prosecutor, judge, jury, and executioner.
Without declaring a war there, US forces have hit Pakistan with more than 350 drones strikes since 2004. These US-engineered operations have left a death toll of somewhere between 2,500 and 3,500 people, including almost 200 children.
Despite being billed as a weapon of precision, only 2 percent of those killed in these drone strikes have been high-level Taliban or al-Qaeda operatives. Most have been either innocent people or low-level militants.
Simply put, our drones have killed young men with scant ability – or intent – to attack Americans. And drones don't just kill people, they terrorize entire communities with their constant buzzing and hovering overhead.
A Stanford/NYU Law School study called Living Under Drones shows how the mere presence of drones disrupts community life. Parents grow too afraid to send their children to school or remain in their own homes. They're afraid – with good reason – to attend community gatherings, or go to weddings or funerals.
"Your government is terrifying 250,000 people in my province to get one or two individuals, who could easily be captured," a young woman leader named Entisar Ali told me in Yemen during my trip there last year. "In your fight against terrorism, you are terrorizing us."
By fueling anti-US sentiment, drones also act as a recruiting tool for extremists. In Yemen, when the Obama administration started drone attacks in 2009, there were perhaps 200 people who identified as members of extremist groups. Today, there are over 1,000.
With every drone strike, more and more join the ranks of al-Qaeda to seek revenge. Worldwide, a decade of drone strikes hasn't wiped out al-Qaeda. In fact, al-Qaeda has grown. It now has a larger presence in Syria and Iraq, as well as in several countries in North and West Africa.
If other states were to claim this broad-based authority to kill people anywhere, anytime, using drones "the result would be chaos," explained Philip Alston, a former UN Special Rapporteur on Extrajudicial Executions.
Former Director of National Intelligence Dennis Blair has called drones "dangerously seductive" because they make the government feel it has a strategy for combating terrorism yet really only move the focal point from one place to another and guarantee a perpetual state of war.
Finally, drones are dangerous because they are fueling a new arms race. As of today, only the United States, the UK, and Israel have used weaponized drones, but there is already a multi-billion-dollar arms race going on. Israel is the No. 1 drones exporter, followed by the United States and China. Over 80 nations possess some form of drones, mostly for surveillance purposes. Between 10 and 15 nations are working on weaponizing their drones.
Another factor fueling the proliferation of armed drones is a global push to make smaller weapons that can be tailored to fit smaller aircraft. This will make it easier for non-state actors like al-Qaeda to get their hands on these types of weapons.
After 10 years of an unsuccessful policy of remote-control killing, it's time to seek effective solutions that adhere to international law and promote democratic ideals. These include peace talks, alliance-building, treating terrorists as criminals who are arrested and tried, targeted development aid, and empowering women. The drone wars are making us less safe by simply creating new enemies abroad.
Medea Benjamin is co-founder of the human rights organization Global Exchange and the peace group CODEPINK: Women for Peace. She is the author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.
Drone Strikes in Pakistan:
Reapers of Their Own Destruction
Medea Benjamin / AntiWar.com
(November 25, 2013) -- "We will put pressure on America, and our protest will continue if drone attacks are not stopped," said an angry Imran Khan, leader of Pakistan's third largest political party, the PTI (the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf).
He was speaking on Saturday, November 23, to a crowd of over 10,000 protesters who blocked the highway used by NATO supply trucks taking goods in and out of Afghanistan. The latest protests in Pakistan show that even when the US hits its mark, as in the case of the last two strikes in Pakistan that killed key leaders of two extremist cells, they're still counterproductive.
Most Pakistanis reject the Taliban and other extremists. But they also reject the American drones that violate their sovereignty and operate with impunity. The Pakistani resistance, along with growing opposition within the United States, has had an impact: the number of Predator and Reaper drones strikes in Pakistan has been steadily declining, from a high of 122 in 2010 to 48 in 2012, and even fewer this year.
But the strikes have not stopped, and each strike now receives greater scrutiny and opposition. This is the case of the two attacks that took place in November.
On November 1 a Hellfire missile from a Predator drone killed Hakimullah Mehsud and at least four others. Mehsud was head of Tehrik-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP), a group responsible for the killing of thousands in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The Pakistani Taliban also claimed responsibility for the failed bomb plot at New York's Times Square in 2010, and was connected with the killing of seven CIA employees in Afghanistan in 2009.
The Pakistani government was incensed by the drone attack. They certainly had no love for Hakimullah Mehsud, but Pakistani negotiators had been carefully working for months to bring the TTP militants to the negotiating table to end more than a decade of violence. In fact, the peace talks were scheduled to begin the very next day, November 2.
Interior Minister Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan charged that the drone attack that killed Mehsud also blew up the government's efforts at negotiations, and that peace talks could not move forward until there was an end to drone attacks in Pakistan.
But the CIA, which carries out the strikes in Pakistan, ignored the Pakistani government's wishes and launched another strike on Thursday, November 21. This time the missiles hit a religious seminary, killing at least six people and wounding eight. Among the dead were militants belonging to the Haqqani network, including senior leader Ahmad Jan.
The Haqqani network used to be part of the US-backed forces fighting the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. The US accuses the Haqqani network of orchestrating the 2011 attack on the US Embassy in Kabul that killed 16 people, and an assault on the Intercontinental Hotel in the Afghan capital the same year that killed more than 20.
The November 23 attack was particularly embarrassing for the Pakistani government because it came just one day after foreign minister Sartaj Aziz told parliament the US had agreed to suspend drone attacks while the Pakistani government was in peace talks with the Taliban.
This strike brought a particularly visceral reaction because unlike the hundreds of other strikes in Pakistan that have taken place in the tribal territories, it occurred in the northwestern Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (KP) province which is controlled by the staunchly anti-drone political party, the PTI.
At the Saturday rally, PTI leader Imran Khan threatened to organize a long-term blockade of the NATO supply route. Any prolonged disruption of the key route in the KP province could disrupt the US plans to remove troops, weapons and equipment from Afghanistan by the end of 2014.
This is not an empty threat. The Pakistani government shut down supply routes for seven months after an American helicopter attack accidentally killed 24 Pakistani soldiers and only reopened them after the US apologized.
Imran Khan also used the rally to attack Prime Minister Sharif's government for failing to force the Americans to halt drone strikes. Sharif has been outspoken against the strikes, even during the election campaign.
After becoming prime minister in June, he publicly ordered the military to end its policy of "condemning drones in public while being complicit in them." During an October meeting in Washington with President Obama, Sharif reiterated his belief that drone strikes were counterproductive and should end.
But Sharif's ability to force Washington's hand is constrained by finances: his government relies on $1.6 billion in US aid and is dependent on US support for the $6.7 billion International Monetary Fund loan package it just signed. The government's inability to stop the drone attacks makes it look weak and subservient to US interests, undermining Pakistan's fragile democracy.
The two drone strikes in November show that these attacks don't just kill and maim individuals. They also blow up peace talks. They weaken democratically elected governments. They sabotage bilateral relations. They sow hatred and resentment.
In response, the world community is rising up with mass demonstrations in Pakistan, solidarity protests in London, and hundreds gathering at the 2013 Drone Summit in Washington DC. The 10-year drone-induced killing spree has unleashed the seeds of its own destruction: a nonviolent resistance movement.
Posted in accordance with Title 17, Section 107, US Code, for noncommercial, educational purposes.