PTI chief calls for compensation to US drone strike victims

kQ5cllwkISLAMABAD: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf Chairman Imran Khan on Thursday said that he would seek compensation for victims of a controversial US drone strike programme, vowing to take their cases to the parliament and the courts.

Imran, whose party opposes US drone attacks, was speaking at the launch of a report demanding compensation for drone victims, organised by the independent foundation for fundamental rights and international legal aid charity Reprieve.

He was speaking at the closing plenary of 8th Sustainable Development Conference, which concluded under the auspices of Sustainable Development Policy Institute (SDPI) on Thursday.

Drone attacks are meant to target militants but are controversial among rights groups because of the high reported numbers of civilian casualties and lack of transparency over targets.

Islamabad officially opposes US strikes in its territory, calling them a violation of its sovereignty, though leaked documents in the past have shown the two countries worked together on the campaign.

“PTI will raise this issue in parliament and also go to court to get compensation for the drone victims,” Imran said.

Afghanistan’s government gets compensation for the families of civilians killed in strikes, he said — but Islamabad neither receives any from the US government and nor has any been offered to a single victim.

Clive Stafford Smith, the director of Reprieve, said that the US does not acknowledge the innocent civilians it has killed in drone strikes.

“This report reflects in stark terms the fact that we value Pakistani life at zero, a situation that is offensive and simply cannot continue. I therefore, call upon my own government to compensate those innocent people caught in America’s cross-fire,” he said.

Fahim Qureshi, 18, whose entire family was killed in a drone strike in 2009 that left him critically wounded, said he still did not know why they had been targeted.

“There is a question in my heart, why did it happen to us? What did we do? “he said, adding that they had no links with militants.

According to the independent Britain-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism, since 2004 the CIA has carried out 421 drone strikes in northwestern Pakistan killing up to 3,989 people, as many as 965 of whom were civilians, including dozens of children.

Imran Khan said only the normalisation of relations between Pakistan and India could de-escalate tension between the two neighbouring countries.

He said political, economic and social integration of the whole region would help reduce poverty in South Asia, which was home to millions of vulnerable populations.

Speaking on the occasion, SDPI Executive Director Dr Abid Qaiyum Suleri said South Asian women parliamentarians could play a major catalyst role in bringing about a change in the political mindset.

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