24 Sep 2012

‘Drones will push people towards terrorism’ – Imran Khan

Imran Khan tells Channel 4 News drone attacks in Pakistan are “fomenting radicalisation” and calls on the US to name victims to prove they are killing terrorists, not civilians.

Imran Khan: Question and answers with Channel 4 News. (Reuters)

Your march against drones happens on 7 October. What is the rally’s aim?

Imran Khan: The key aim is to show to the world that these strikes are being carried out in clear violation of international laws and fundamental human rights. We want the world to see how counter-productive these strikes are in curbing terrorism. If anything they are actually fomenting radicalisation.

The people of Waziristan stand isolated, infrastructure has been destroyed, people have been displaced, their children haven’t gone to schools in years and economic activities stand paralysed.

We believe that continued reliance on military strategy will push the people of the region towards the terrorists. We want to give hope to the people of the region and show the world that the way to win this war is to isolate the terrorists and win the hearts and minds of the people.

US officials call drones the ‘most precise system’ in their arsenal. What is your response?

IK: There is complete media censorship in the region and there is no reliable way of verifying claims of militant casualties. Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) rejects US and Pakistani government claims suggesting that drone strikes are highly precise and effective. If they were to be believed, why is not the media allowed to verify these claims?

We reject claims suggesting that drone strikes are highly precise and effective. If they were to be believed, why is the media not allowed to verify these claims? Imran Khan

If the strikes are as accurate as being suggested, the identities of the victims should be disclosed for the world to see the efficacy of the drones in eliminating terrorists. We believe that these strikes are killing people indiscriminately, complete media censorship and non-disclosure of victim identities supports our assertion.

A total of 32 drone strikes have hit Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) in 2012. To date, close to 340 drone strikes have killed more than 800 civilians and have caused approximately 3,300 casualties, which, for reasons of media prohibitions in the region, are also dubious as to whether the victims were militants or civilians.

Drone protest in the US. (Getty)

Both In the US and UK, legal challenges related to US drone use are about to hit the courts. The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) will take the CIA to court for refusing to comply with a Freedom of Information request for copies of documents related to the CIA’s drone strike programme.

In the UK, Reprieve and Leigh Day are bringing legal action against the foreign secretary, William Hague, over the passing of UK intelligence to the US for use in targeting of drone strikes in Pakistan. The case is scheduled to take place in the high court next month. The British people have a right to know about the policies being pursued by their government.

Read more: UK accused of 'assisting' covert CIA drone strikes

Why do you think President Obama’s drone policy is not a bigger election issue?

IK: The US government is projecting the drone campaign as a success on the most absurd assumptions. As for President Obama and [as far as] his election campaign is concerned, I must say that I am extremely disappointed for how he has expanded military action in Afghanistan and the tribal areas of Pakistan. Even the Americans feel that Obama has strengthened the police state and expanded US militarism abroad, according to reports.

Ruins of a building hit during a drone attack in Pakistan. (Reuters)

(Above: A building reduced to rubble following a drone strike in a village in Waziristan)

What is your reaction to the Taliban who are reported to have made threats against you and the march?

IK: A man of faith doesn’t fear death and a march for peace against drone strikes that have affected hundreds of thousands of people in the tribal areas is worth dying for. We come in peace, with no political or religious agenda but in humility for humanity – we are not the threat!

What happens next in your fight against drones?

IK: Of drones I think of two words – immoral and insane. Immoral because you cannot justify eliminating suspects and insane because it’s counter-productive. All it does is it turns more people against the US, hatred grows and the beneficiaries of this insanity are the militants. Having seen the impact of drone attacks, I completely disagree with this way. It is inhuman. I dont know how anyone presses buttons and eliminates human beings on information that might or might not be correct. How can this be civilised? As for the PTI, we will continue our struggle against the drone campaign, because we stand opposed to indiscriminate and extra-judicial killings.

Imran Khan is leader of Pakistan political party Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice. He is former captain of the country’s cricket team.