US Opposition to Drone Use Growing

drone victims pakistan

Pakistani tribesmen protest US drone attacks in the Pakistani tribal region on February 25, 2012. (AAMIR QURESHI/AFP/Getty Images)

In the past month opposition to CIA drone strikes has started to gather pace as lawmakers in the US have finally started to look more critically at the program.

On Tuesday twenty-six House Representatives – including Dennis Kucinich (D-OH), Ron Paul (R-TX), John Conyers (D-MI) and Michael Honda (D-CA) – wrote a bipartisan letter to the White House expressing concern about the use of ‘signature strikes’, and the legal basis under which they are conducted, telling the President:

“The use of such ‘signature’ strikes could raise the risk of killing innocent civilians or individuals who may have no relationship to attacks on the United States.”

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Journalists Killed for Doing Their Jobs in Pakistan

Pakistani Journalists Protest

Pakistani journalists stage a demonstration during a protest in Karachi on June 3, 2011, against the killing of Pakistani journalist Saleem Shahzad. RIZWAN TABASSUM/AFP/Getty Images

A year after the abduction and murder of Pakistani investigative journalist Saleem Shahzad, little has been done to investigate the powerful Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) and their possible involvement in the murder. Meanwhile another journalist, Murtaza Razvi, was killed in April 2012, and numerous other journalists in Pakistan have reported death threats.

The death threats continue.

A government inquiry into Shahzad’s murder said it was unable to identify his killers. It speculated that any of a number of state, non-state or foreign actors, including al-Qaeda or the Taliban, could have been responsible.

True, but why no mention of the ISI? SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Drones: The Known Knowns

Pakistan drone attack

Pakistani tribesmen carry the coffin of a person allegedly killed in a US drone attack. (Photo by THIR KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)

On Monday John Brennan, the President’s adviser on Homeland Security and Counterterrorism, popped up at the Woodrow Wilson Center to give a major policy speech on the “ethics and efficacy” of drone use.

Brennan’s argument had two main planks: That drones work and that their use is entirely legal. Both claims deserve close examination because neither is quite as simple as it seems.

In a classic rhetorical device Brennan threw out perhaps the most contentious aspect of his analysis as though it was a given, stating that “as a matter of international law, the United States is in an armed conflict with al-Qa’ida, the Taliban, and associated forces.”

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Under Siege of Terror: The Shia Hazara of Pakistan

Pakistani Shiite Muslims Hazara protest

Pakistani Shiite Muslims protest after the sectarian killings in Quetta on April 14, 2012. Eight people, including seven Hazara, were gunned down in separate sectarian targeted incidents. (Photo: BANARAS KHAN/AFP/Getty Images)

Sectarian violence promoted by religious extremists  is not new to Pakistan, but the latest series of brutal attacks on the otherwise peaceful Hazara people has reached a breaking point in recent weeks.  Despite the fact that nearly 30 people have died in the past two weeks,  the Government of  Pakistan seems incapable – if not unwilling – to step in to stop this siege of terror.

The situation in the Balochistan province, located  in south-west Pakistan  has always been complex with a number of different ethnic groups, a seccesionist movement and various Taliban leaders all vying for power. Things have become even worse  in the last few years with escalating tensions between the United States and Pakistan over the NATO supply route leading to even more unrest in Quetta, Balochistan’s capital city and bringing an onslaught of tragedy to the Hazara who live there.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

40 Years After Horror, Bangladesh Is Free

bangladesh

via UNHCR

I get very squeamish over military intervention. Often it results in more human rights violations that it was intended to stop. But the case of Bangladesh makes me less cynical about military-led humanitarian interventions than I would otherwise be. Bangladesh is better off than it could possibly have been under the brutal military rule of Pakistan.

On December 16, 1971, a dramatic ceremony took place at the Rama Race Course in what was then East Pakistan. The picture was beamed across the world showing Pakistani General A.A.K. Niazi signing an “instrument of surrender” with Indian General J.S. Aurora watching. Forever more, Bangladeshis know this day Bijoy Dibosh or Liberation Day.

As George Harrison put it succinctly in his song during the now iconic Concert for Bangladesh in the summer of 1971, something needed to be done:
SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Attack on Afghan Minority Group Leaves Over 60 Dead

Suicide bombers struck Shiite (mostly Hazara) pilgrims on December 6, killing over 60 people in Kabul, Kandahar and Mazar-i-Sharif during holy holiday of Ashura. I was moved by a photo of a woman crying out in horror at the carnage around her. It was also a cry of helplessness and a cry of sorrow. I couldn’t help but feeling that sense of helplessness and sorrow.

The attack seemed timed to coincide with the Bonn Conference on the future of Afghanistan 10 years after the first conference held in the same city. Amnesty International has a delegation in the city monitoring the conference. We have been arguing that human rights must not be sacrificed as the US winds down its security presence in the country. This bombing is an example of need for the international community to maintain its commitment to protect human rights in Afghanistan.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Enforced Disappearances in Pakistan

Zahida Sharif

Zahida Sharif holding a picture of her husband, 48-year old Dr.Abid Sharif, June 2010

My son was born seven months after my husband went missing…he has never met his father, he just looks at his pictures.”

Across South Asia, thousands of people disappear in the context of violence against the state. These thousands are often caught in the crossfire between security forces and militants. You can help by taking action now.

The practice of enforced disappearances has increased dramatically since Pakistan joined the US-led “war on terror” in 2001. Disappearances occur across the country but especially in Balochistan province in the south-west, which faces violence from ethnic and religious armed groups and state security forces. Activists, journalists, and students have been especially targeted and an increasing number have been found dead with their bodies showing signs of torture.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Going to School and Being Ambushed By Gunmen

Pakistani rescue personnel collect evidence from a similar bombing in Matani ©AFP/Getty Images

My daughter just started kindergarten but for us it’s just a 2 minute bike ride to the school. In some places however, going to school can be a death sentence.

The BBC is reporting that gunman opened fire on a school bus south of Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtukhwa province (formerly the Northwest Frontier Province) killing 5 school children between the ages of 9 and 14.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

Hopefully Kashmir Won't Be a Forgotten Conflict

Abid Nabi was protesting against the killing of his younger brother Fida (17 yrs old). (Photo courtesy of Majid Pandit.)

Al-Jazeera English launched a special human rights spotlight on Jammu & Kashmir called “Kashmir: The Forgotten Conflict”.

It’s an apt description given the difficulty human rights organizations have faced in highlighting the abuses that have occurred in the past two decades. For example, we need 30,000 signatures on this petition to improve juvenile justice in the state!

Now, it’s not to say that Kashmir never gets in the news. The problem is that when it is in the news it’s always talked about in the context of the Pakistan-India conflict.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST

War Zone in Karachi, Pakistan

Pakistani children mourn during a funeral procession of a man shot and killed by unidentified armed men in Karachi. © ASIF HASSAN/AFP/Getty Images

Violence in Karachi, Pakistan’s largest city continued on Friday as the death toll in the embattled city rose to over 88 in the past four days. A protest call by the Mottahida Qaumi Movement, the political party that represents much of the city’s Urdu speaking population, paralyzed the city of eighteen million.

Busy streets usually teeming with crowds remained eerily deserted and all petrol pumps were closed preventing city residents from leaving their homes.  Pakistani television reported that many with small children or elderly relatives are suffering owing to the inability to obtain food and supplies.

Uncertainty and tensions in the city have been exacerbated by the “shoot on sight” orders given to security personnel patrolling city streets.  The order leaves Karachi’s citizens vulnerable not only to the ethnic violence ravaging the city but also to excesses by security forces posted around the city who can now kill with impunity.

SEE THE REST OF THIS POST