ISLAMABAD: The first parliamentary clash between the ruling PML-N and the opposition PTI will likely be over a resolution submitted to the National Assembly Secretariat by the latter on Monday, calling upon the government to use military force, if needed, to halt drone strikes in the tribal areas.
Terming the resolution submitted by Dr Shireen Mazari of the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf a “premature” move, a PML-N member of the federal cabinet categorically said it could not be passed in its present form and the opposition party would have to amend it with mutual consent for the purpose.
“We also want to stop drone attacks, but not through the use of military force because it can have serious and dangerous consequences,” Minister of State Khurram Dastagir Khan said.
He said such a decision could affect the country’s defence relationship with then US which was providing assistance to Pakistan in the sector.
He said the country was getting very little US assistance for civilian purposes.
“The use of military force could be an option, but only after exhausting all diplomatic means.”
The government, Mr Dastagir added, had already lodged a protest with the US over a recent drone strike. Saying that drone strikes were unjustified, the minister said the focus of the PTI’s foreign policy was mainly on drone strikes whereas the PML-N considered it a “small part” in the Pakistan-US relationship.
He said all parties considered drone attacks to be a violation of the country’s sovereignty, but the PML-N and the PTI had differences over the “framework of analysis” on the issue.
The parliamentary party of the PTI in its meeting held at the Parliament House just before the address of President Asif Ali Zardari to a joint sitting of both houses endorsed the resolution submitted by Ms Mazari. The meeting was presided over by PTI vice chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi.
Through the detailed resolution, the PTI has called upon the government to “immediately take steps” and ask the US to end its drone strikes and “take diplomatic and, if need be, military measures to respond firmly to any such attack”.
It reminds the government of its obligations in the light of a judgment by the Peshawar High Court in April.
“This resolution demands the government to protect the sovereignty of Pakistan, the international law and enforce the judgment of the Peshawar High Court as soon as possible,” it says.
Quoting excerpts from the judgment, the resolution says that the court had declared that Article 199 of the constitution “put this court under tremendous obligation to safeguard and protect the life and property of the citizens of Pakistan and any person for the time being in Pakistan, being fundamental rights”.
The court, it says, declared “that the drone strikes, carried out in the tribal areas (Fata), particularly North and South Waziristan, by the CIA and US authorities, are blatant violation of basic human rights and are against the UN Charter, the UN General Assembly resolution adopted unanimously, the provisions of Geneva Conventions. Thus it is held to be a war crime, cognisable by the International Court of Justice or Special Tribunal for War Crimes, constituted or to be constituted by the UNO for this purpose”.
It says the court also declared “that the drone strikes carried out against a handful of alleged militants who are not engaged in combat with the US authorities or forces amounts to breach of international law and conventions on the subject matter. Therefore, it is held that these are absolutely illegal and blatant violation of the sovereignty of the state of Pakistan because frequent intrusion is made on its territory/airspace without its consent rather against its wishes as despite the protests lodged by the government of Pakistan with the US on the subject matter, these are being carried out with impunity.”
The judgment says that “the US government is bound to compensate all the victims’ families at the assessed rate of compensation in US dollars”.
Ms Mazari says in her resolution: “For nine years, the US has rained drones over Pakistani territory, killing innocent Pakistani citizens in far greater numbers than militants. Today we, the newly-elected representatives of the people of Pakistan in the National Assembly, express deep distress over the deaths of more than 3,000 Pakistani civilians due to drone strikes since their initiation in 2004.”
The resolution terms the attacks not only in violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty, but against the UN Charter, the International Covenant on Civil and Political Rights and the Geneva Conventions (1949) since “drones do not even provide the chance for suspects to surrender and any persons having characteristics of a militant are targeted by signature strikes without confirming the identity of the suspect. Further, many drone strikes have targeted rescue workers that come to the site of a drone attack”.