LAHORE, Nov 28: The Ministry of Foreign Affairs on Wednesday told the Lahore High Court that the main focus of US drone attacks was on targeting terrorists in federally administered tribal areas of Pakistan, however, these strikes were in violation of country’s sovereignty.
In a written reply submitted to Chief Justice Umar Ata Bandial, the ministry said the Pakistan government had been consistent in registering its strong protest with the US on collateral damage and violation of sovereignty.
It said the quarters concerned and the parliament had also been denouncing these attacks which were also been conveyed to the US government. The US embassy senior officials including ambassador were summoned to the foreign office since 2008 to lodge the protests, the reply added.
The ministry further stated that the US started to opt for drone attacks in tribal areas of Pakistan essentially from 2008 onwards. However, the frequency of the attacks increased in 2009 as 37 strikes were made in that year and 115 in 2010 when the US administration decided to dismantle safe havens of terrorists on the border areas, it said and added that so far more than 200 drone strikes had taken place.
The ministry also clarified that it had neither any record nor was privy to any agreement with the US government for carrying out drone attacks. It said the Pakistan government would continue to underscore with the US side about the futility of these attacks that were enhancing anti-Americanism and affecting the bilateral relations.
This reply was submitted in connection with a petition filed by Jamatud Dawa chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed against US drones attacks on Pakistani soil.
At the end of the reply, the ministry requested the court to dismiss the petition filed by JuD being not maintainable. It said the petitioner approached the LHC under article 199 of the Constitution which allowed only an aggrieved person to file a petition. The public interest litigation fell within the purview of article 184(3) of the Constitution which was the jurisdiction of Supreme Court.
The chief justice handed over a copy of the ministry’s reply to JuD counsel and asked him to file his rejoinder on next hearing (Dec 13). The CJ also asked the counsel to come up with arguments on a point as to what kind of directions could be issued to the government to stop US drone attacks. In his petition the JuD chief had submitted that the federal government be directed to make public information about all matters of public importance, especially the secret ‘deals’ with US in implementation of article 19-A of the Constitution which entitles every citizen of Pakistan to have access to all information.
He asked the court to declare that the pre-emptive strikes by foreign countries were not permitted by international laws, therefore, every man, woman and child have a right to claim protection and a direction in the nature of mandamus may be issued to the government.
He also sought a court declaration that the government had acted against the general will, collective wisdom and obligation to exercise its powers and authority through its chosen representatives of the people.