Prominent Anti-Drone Activist Kidnapped in Pakistan
Kareem Khan was abducted just before he was to testify to European parliamentarians about effects of drone strikes
A prominent Pakistani anti-drone campaigner and journalist whose son and brother were killed by drones was abducted February 5th by over a dozen men, just before he was set to travel to Europe to testify to lawmakers about the war crimes wrought by U.S. drone strikes. He is currently missing, according to his family.
"Kareem Khan is not only a victim, but an important voice for all other civilians killed and injured by US drone strikes," said Shahzad Akbar, lawyer for Kareem Khan, and Director of legal charity the Foundation for Fundamental Rights.
Kareem Khan lost his 35-year-old brother, Asif Iqbal, a teacher, and his 18 year-old son Zaneullah Khan, who had just graduated high school and was a staffer at a government school and construction worker, when a U.S. drone struck his home in Machikhel, a village in North Waziristan, on December 31, 2009. The third man who died in the attack was a stonemason who had come to town to work on the village mosque.
Khan stated in a previous interview with CNN, "When my house was attacked, it flashed on the news that militants have been killed. There were no militants in my house, neither on the day of drone strike nor before. My house wasn't a training center, either. Only innocent people where killed."
Khan is currently in the midst of legal proceedings against the Pakistani government for its failure to investigate the deaths of his family members, which he charges constitute murder under Pakistani law, according to the UK-based charity Reprieve. A hearing before the Islamabad High Court had been scheduled for Tuesday.
Khan was also scheduled to meet with German, Dutch and British parliamentarians later this week to testify on his personal experience and journalistic reporting of U.S. drone strikes.
"He is a crucial witness to the dangers of the CIA's covert drone programme," said Clare Algar, Executive Director of Reprieve.
Khan previously lodged legal complaints against the U.S. government and the CIA's Islamabad station chief, who was revealed as Jonathan Banks, demanding that all drone strikes immediately stop. Khan denounced Banks as "a murderer who is to be taken to task."
Khan was kidnapped in the early morning at his home in Rawalpindi by between 15 and 20 men who were wearing police uniforms and plain clothes, according to witnesses cited by Reprieve. His wife and young children were reportedly present at the time of his capture. His family still does not know why he was detained despite numerous inquiries to the Pakistani police.
Khan's supporters are circulating a petition demanding his immediate release.
"Why are the powers that be so scared of Kareem and his work that they felt the need to abduct him in an effort to silence his efforts?" asked Akbar. "Kareem Khan deserves justice and due process and he should be freed immediately of his illegal captivity.”