Amnesty International’s Pakistan Researcher Mustafa Qadri (second, left) addressing a press conference on Amnesty and Human Rights Watch findings on Tuesday in Washington, DC.
ISLAMABAD: Pakistani media yesterday urged the government to do more to show it is sincere about its desire to end US drone strikes in the country’s tribal regions.
An Amnesty International report on the US drone campaign on Tuesday warned some of the strikes may amount to war crimes, though Washington insists they all comply with international law. Islamabad regularly condemns the strikes on suspected Taliban and Al Qaeda militants as counter-productive and a violation of sovereignty, and Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is expected to raise the issue in talks at the White House on Wednesday.
But newspaper editorials warned that if Pakistan wanted to end the drone campaign it needed to take steps to root out militancy in the seven semi-autonomous tribal areas along the Afghan border. The Daily Times agreed, saying Washington had resorted to drones because Pakistan had failed to destroy militant safe havens.
“Drones... will be used until we realise the gravity of the situation and take the right course,” the newspaper said.
Critics say the drones kill innocent civilians but the US defends them as accurate and legally sound, saying they are effective in disrupting Taliban and Al Qaeda militants planning attacks on American targets in Afghanistan and elsewhere.
Sharif repeated a call for an end to drone strikes in a speech in Washington on Tuesday, saying they were a “major irritant” in relations with the US, which on the same day announced it would release $1.6bn in aid to Pakistan.
But despite the public criticism, previous Pakistan governments are known to have approved them in private and Amnesty said it was concerned this collusion was continuing.
US diplomatic cables published by WikiLeaks in late 2010 showed civilian and military leaders privately supported drone attacks. Right-leaning daily The News said that given this past complicity, Sharif faced an “uphill task” in persuading Obama to end the strikes.
“The government must do so since it would prove that it is not lying about its true stance on the drones,” it said.
The Urdu press, more conservative than the liberal English-language media, saved its criticism for the US, saying Washington should end the “illegal” strikes.