PESHAWAR: The Peshawar High Court on Thursday directed the federal government to examine national and international laws for helping it in the case against the US drone attacks in Pakistani tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.
Also, Chief Justice Dost Mohammad Khan and Justice Irshad Qaiser, who formed a bench, gave the same task to the petitioners, including Defence of Pakistan Council (DPC), Foundation for Fundamental Rights (FFR), lawyer FM Sabir and tribal elder Malik Noor Khan.
While ordering the examination of the local and international laws on drone attacks, the bench asked whether the armed forces, including PAF and Strategic Plans Division, had any technology at hand to prevent such strikes carried out at random causing massive collateral damage despite protests and warnings.
It asked whether under international law and keeping in view territorial sovereignty, the armed forces and federal government were not under legal obligation to ward off such attacks and whether while defending its territorial sovereignty, it had the right to hit drones and bring down the same to prevent damage.
Other questions asked by the bench were as follows:
Whether any care and caution being exercised during such strikes to avoid collateral damage and if not, the damage caused to life and property would be made liable to the US for compensation and further liability under any law both constitutional and international conventions and to what extent? Whether in case the court grants any consequential relief what would be the mode and forum which could be adopted and approached to execute the order for recovery of compensation?
The bench observed that it wanted to pass such an order, which should be clear and executable so that no impediment could be created by any forum in its implementation.
These petitioners have challenged different aspects of drone strikes in Pakistan tribal areas including any agreement between the two governments for giving legal sanction to these strikes; number of people killed in the strikes including innocent women and children; damage to public property; the response of the government and armed forces; etc.
The petitioners have made several prayers to the court requesting to make public any secret deal between the governments of Pakistan and the US; order the government to stop drone strikes by force; to declare that the drone strikes were against sovereignty of Pakistan; to order government to take the issue to the UN security council; to pay compensation to people killed in the strikes etc.
Moazam Butt, lawyer for DPC, contended that the US drone strikes were in clear violation of the Constitution of Pakistan as well as international conventions and treaties.
The bench asked him which forum the court should order the government to approach for redressing these grievances.
It further observed that such a forum should be named which the court should order the government to approach for implementation in case the court issued any order.
It added that a super power was involved in this issue and it could exercise veto power if the issue was taken to the UN Security Council.
The chief justice observed that the issue was not so simple and it was technical in nature and therefore, the counsels should fully study all the relevant aspects of the case.
The bench also asked Moazam Butt about submission of his power of attorney on behalf of former president Pervez Musharraf as a few months ago, he had informed the bench that he would be representing him in these petitions.
However, Mr Butt disassociated himself from the former president stating that earlier he was conveyed that he would appear for Mr Musharraf but so far he had not been sent any power of attorney.
Deputy attorney general Mohammad Iqbal Mohmand reiterated that the federal government had no agreement with the US over drone strikes, which were carried out against the consent of the local government.
During one of the previous hearings the court was informed by the ministry of defence that there was no verbal or written agreement between Pakistan and the US governments allowing drone attacks here and these attacks were in violation of the sovereignty of the country.
FFR lawyer Barrister Shahzad Akbar said he had not been seeking compensation and he had raised several international law points regarding sovereignty of the state.