* Note: Some of the information in the article below is outdated and we clarify the fact that Mirza Shahzad Akbar is no longer working with Farooq Law Associates. He also refutes the claims made by the author in this article who has called him a Taliban supporter. Akbar considers this a very serious allegation and has contradicted the author's words by stating firmly that he considers the Taliban criminals. Dawn.com regrets the errors.
In his book ‘Inside Al Qaeda and the Taliban’, slain journalist Syed Saleem Shehzad who spent considerable part of his research with al Qaeda militants, described comprehensively the formation of the new al Qaeda players and their strategic objectives in the lawless FATA region of Pakistan after the crippling defeat of the Taliban and al Qaeda in 2001.
He magnificently illustrates this al Qaeda strategy in well-crafted 3 points:
- The re-grouping of its militant structure and development of a battle strategy against the Pakistan Army and Nato Forces in Afghanistan
- Conduct peace deals with the Pakistan Army and used the breathing space to strengthen its struggle against the United States
- Extending the war into Pakistan, and from there strategising and launching the war from central Asian Republics to India for the sole purpose of defeating the Nato forces in Afghanistan.
According to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, since the outset, there have been a total of 349 drone strikes in Pakistan to date, killing approximately 3300 people of which 500-800 are estimated to be civilians and this estimation has also been credited by the Stanford/NYU Clinics in ‘Living Under Drones’, a recent report heavily critical of the drones which was commissioned by London-based charity Reprieve that represents Guantanamo Bay prisoners .
In the following article I will critically analyze:
- This report and in doing so uncover the lecturer at Islamic International University Islamabad (IIU) who has played a crucial role towards its findings.
- The criticisms of drone strikes and its effectiveness in diminishing terrorist activities in Pakistan.
Firstly this report cannot be considered impartial as claimed by Stanford/ NYU since their researchers were unable to directly access FATA to meet the affected victims due to the heavily guarded checkpoints established for security. Instead, they substantially relied on an Islamabad based Foundation for Fundamental Rights (FFR) for arranging interviews with drone strike victims. This created a conflict of interest between the FFR and the researchers, since FFR is a known legal advocate for drone victims in Pakistan. It would only be logical to presume that they would be inclined against the drones and would present evidence only to support their perspective and not of those residents who are in favor of it.
In addition to this, another issue which arises is what mechanism was adopted to ensure that the victims were really victims of drone strikes since there is a strong possibility that these victims were injured by other blasts such as those from F-16 and JF-17 used during Operation Rah-e-Nijat, which was launched by the Pakistan military in South Waziristan.