drones, US drones, drone attacks
Pakistan has criticised the drone program saying it inflames anti-American sentiment and extremism by killing scores of civilians. — Photo by AFP

PESHAWAR, Nov 15: The Peshawar High Court on Tuesday asked the federal government whether it allowed the US to carry out drone attacks in the country's tribal areas bordering Afghanistan and if not, why it has failed to deter them.

The government was also told to clarify whether it considered such attacks violation of the country's sovereignty and international conventions.

The directions were issued by a two-member bench consisting of Chief Justice Ejaz Afzal Khan and Justice Yahya Afridi during a hearing into two petitions one filed by lawyer FM Sabir and other by the Defence of Pakistan Council and six others.

The court issued directions for the clubbing of the two petitions for joint hearing whose schedule will be announced later, before putting on notice respondents, including defence, interior and foreign affairs secretaries, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government and political agents of North and South Waziristan tribal agencies.

In the petition, Mr Sabir requested the court to direct the federal government to immediately stop drone strikes for being against the collective will of 180 million people of the country, especially those living in North and South Waziristan.

In the other petition, DPC and others sought the court orders for the government to make public any “secret Pak-US deal” about drone attacks in tribal areas. They claimed that so far, around 277 attacks by pilot-less drones took place in Pakistan, killing 1,680 people and injuries 2,634.

The petitioners said they had a fundamental right in view of Article 19-A of the Constitution to have access to information in all matters of public importance including any secret deal of Pakistani government with the US government allowing drone attacks on Pakistan.

Following preliminary arguments by lawyers Mr Sabir and Moazam Butt, the bench directed the government to explain whether under Article 19-A of the Constitution, any deal between the governments of the US and Pakistan could be made public.

Mr Sabir said hundreds of innocent people, including women and children, had so far been killed in these drone attacks, which was violation of fundamental rights. He said these attacks were in violation of international law and interference in the sovereignty of Pakistan.

Mr Butt, appearing for DPC, said it was not known under which agreement drone attacks were being carried out, adding that it was the fundamental right of individual that he or she should be informed whether any agreement had taken place between the two countries. He said if any such agreement had taken place, then it should be made public.

The petitioners prayed the court that the said deal should also be made public in all leading national and international print and electronic media so that the people of Pakistan might adopt appropriate measures to protect their lives and save their country.

They said in the meantime, the government might be directed to produce in court the copies of the government and parliament's resolution in which they had opposed and condemned the US drone attacks on Pakistan and any correspondence in respect of the drone attacks with the US and Nato forces.

The petitioners claimed that the Washington Post had reported on October 4, 2008 that there was a secret deal between the Pakistani and US governments allowing drone attacks in Pakistan.