Pakistani family urges US to end drone strikes

Published October 30, 2013
Nine-year-old Nabila Rehman holds a photo with a drawing she made depicting a drone strike that killed her grandmother, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. – AP Photo
Nine-year-old Nabila Rehman holds a photo with a drawing she made depicting a drone strike that killed her grandmother, Tuesday, Oct. 29, 2013, during a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. – AP Photo
Pakistani Nabila Rehman (2nd R), 9, is escorted by unidentified legal representation to a news conference with her father Rafiq (4th R) and brother Zubair (3rd R) on Capitol Hill in Washington, October 29, 2013. – Reuters Photo
Pakistani Nabila Rehman (2nd R), 9, is escorted by unidentified legal representation to a news conference with her father Rafiq (4th R) and brother Zubair (3rd R) on Capitol Hill in Washington, October 29, 2013. – Reuters Photo

WASHINGTON: A Pakistani elementary school teacher, whose mother was killed in a US drone strike last year, Tuesday urged the United States to end unmanned operations and help bring peace to the tribal areas through cooperative efforts with Pakistan.

Rafiq-ur-Rehman made the plea in a joint Congressional briefing, where his children nine-year-old daughter Nabila Rehman, and 13-year-old Zubair Rehman, who were both injured by the drone strike, also recounted their emotional experiences.

The family traveled to Washington on the invitation of Congressman Alan Grayson, a Democrat from Florida, to provide their accounts of the attack that killed Rafiq's 67-year-old mother, Momina Bibi in North Waziristan, a year ago.

Nobody has been able to explain why this drone hit his home, Rehman told the hearing, also attended by other members of Congress. His mother, Rehman said, was the binding force for the family and life has not been the same for the family since her death.

He said in North Waziristan, people live under fear of drones. “Drones are not the answer” to the problems, he said, speaking through an interpreter. Justice must be delivered to those who have suffered as a result of drone attacks, the school teacher said.

The unprecedented briefing by survivors of drone strikes took place amid international calls for greater transparency. Washington has defended its drone campaign, saying the counterterrorism actions are the least harmful and effective against militants.

If he has the opportunity to meet President Obama, he will ask him to “find a peaceful end to the war in my country, and end these drones,” Rehman said at the briefing.

He said he has seen people living peacefully in the United States and wanted a similar peaceful environment in North Waziristan and dreams that his children would be able to complete their education and help rebuild Pakistan. “We can achieve peace through education,” he said.

A preview from the upcoming Brave New Films documentary Unmanned: America's Drone Wars was shown at the briefing, moderated by Robert Greenwald, the documentary's director.

The lawmakers, attending the briefing, expressed their profound regrets over what had happened to the family and noted that the briefing highlighted the importance of transparency and conversation on the costs and benefits of the drone operations.

Congressman Grayson, Representative Jan Schakowsky and Representative Jon Conyers also addressed the hearing.

Human Rights Charity Reprieve Staff Attorney Jennifer Gibson called for bringing the drone war out of the shadows, stressing transparency.

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