Pakistanis Reject U.S. "Aid" Flights, As Lawsuit is Filed Against U.S. Drone Attacks
Damn those ungrateful Pakistanis. After U.S. drone attacks killed more than 600 of their people since 2006—most of them civilians—it seems they think they have some right to say they don’t want the U.S. flying its “aid” planes to Swat and other “tribal areas.” The New York Times reports that “the Pakistani authorities have refused to allow American workers or planes to distribute the aid in the camps for displaced people.” The paper reports:
Islamist charities and the United States are competing for the allegiance of the two million people displaced by the fight against the Taliban in Swat and other parts of Pakistan — and so far, the Islamists are in the lead.
Top US officials (and the Times) make no apologies for the fact that the aid is intended primarily as a counter-insurgency program:
The inconspicuous back seat is not what American officials had hoped for. At first, the huge exodus of people from Swat, many of whom had suffered from the brutality of the Taliban, seemed to present an opportunity for Washington to improve its image in Pakistan.
“There is an opportunity actually to provide services, much as we did with the earthquake relief, which had a profound impact on the perception of America,” Senator John Kerry, the Massachusetts Democrat who serves as chairman of the Foreign Relations Committee, said during a hearing attended by the Obama administration’s special envoy, Richard C. Holbrooke, at the start of the exodus.
Here is the best part of the U.S. effort:
In an effort to highlight American concern for the refugees, Mr. Holbrooke visited the camps in June, sitting on the floor of a sweltering tent and talking to people about their plight. “President Obama has sent us to see how we can help you,” he said.
Poor Dick Holbrooke, having to sit in that sweaty tent. I really hope someone at that meeting said, “Obama can help us by stopping his regular, deadly bombings.” The Times claims that what came out of the meeting “was an effort to send Pakistani-American female doctors to assist women in the camps, who according to their cultural traditions must be treated by women.”
Meanwhile, a Pakistani human rights lawyer filed a petition at the country’s Supreme Court asking it to order the Pakistani government to undertake a “comprehensive report” on U.S. drone attacks against the country. “I have filed the petition in the Supreme Court as a protest to let the world know about the sentiments of the people of Pakistan on consecutive drone attacks which are killing scores of people,” said the attorney, M. Tariq Asad.
According to the Pakistani newspaper Dawn:
In his petition, Mr Asad sought the apex court’s direction for the government to submit a complaint against the United States in the International Court of Justice or any other appropriate judicial organ of the United Nations for an appropriate action in accordance with international laws.
The petition said that killing and causing serious physical and mental harm to the inhabitants of the northern areas and systemically oppressing them and denying their right to life and liberty amounted to derogation of the Convention on the Prevention and Punishment of the Crime of Genocide and Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid.
A U.S. drone attack in late June on a Pakistani funeral may have killed as many as 70 people and prompted the Pakistani government to call for an end to the strikes. Obama has been bombing Pakistan since the third day of his presidency. Obama has refused to comment directly on the drone attacks, but told a Pakistani journalist last month he did not comment on specific operations.
© 2009 Jeremy Scahill