Pakistan Air Force threatens to shoot down US drones

A US Air Force MQ-9 Reaper drone takes off from Kandahar Airfield, Afghanistan March 9, 2016. (File photo by Reuters)
Updated 08 December 2017
0

Pakistan Air Force threatens to shoot down US drones

ISLAMABAD: The head of the Pakistan Air Force, Air Chief Marshal Sohail Aman, has warned that US drones violating the country’s airspace will be shot down, marking a significant shift in Pakistan’s US policy.
Aman was speaking at the opening ceremony of the Air Tech Conference and Techno Show in Islamabad on Thursday evening.
“We will protect the sovereignty of the country at any cost,” he said, adding that Pakistan is working on its own unmanned drones and that a new unmanned aerial vehicle (UAV) will be manufactured in the next 18 months.
The US has been carrying out drone strikes on militants inside Pakistani territory since June 2004, initially from air bases inside Pakistan. When relations soured in 2011, the US was forced to shift its drone bases across the border to Afghanistan.
Successive Pakistani governments have publicly condemned the drone strikes, but experts have said that there was a tacit agreement in place between America and Pakistan to allow the strikes to take place.
Sen. Nuzhat Sadiq, chairperson of the Senate’s Standing Committee on Foreign Affairs, told Arab News that Pakistan has effectively eliminated terrorists and militants from its territory through various military operations so there is no need for US drones now.
“It is the policy of the government not to allow any more US drone strikes on our soil, and the air chief has effectively conveyed it to the Americans,” she said.
Sadiq said that Pakistan is a nuclear state and could not allow any country to violate its sovereignty. “We are on a strong footing now, and introducing viable changes in our foreign policy toward the US,” she said.
According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the US has carried out a total of 429 drone strikes inside Pakistan since June 2004, killing 2,938 people, including civilians.
The most recent strike inside Pakistani territory was on Sept. 15 in Kurram Agency, on the border with Afghanistan, in which three people were killed.
Aziz Ahmad Khan, an expert on foreign affairs and former diplomat, told Arab News that Pakistan would not need to shoot down any US drones as the “matter has already been settled with the Americans in some recent high-level meetings.”
“The number of US drone strikes in Pakistan has already reduced significantly and we hope to get rid of this counterproductive menace forever,” he added.
Retired Gen. Talat Masood, a defense analyst, told Arab News that Pakistan has explained to the US that Pakistan will no longer be used as a base for terrorist attacks in neighboring countries as it has eliminated all the militants’ “safe havens.”
“The air chief’s statement is a message to the US that it should cooperate with Pakistan to fight against militancy, instead of carrying out unilateral drone attacks in Pakistan,” he said.
He warned, however, that the government should be prepared for repercussions from the US, as “the superpower is not going to digest this change in policy easily.”


Malawi becomes 1st nation to immunize kids against malaria

Updated 17 min 38 sec ago
0

Malawi becomes 1st nation to immunize kids against malaria

  • The vaccine, known as Mosquirix, was developed by GlaxoSmithKline and was approved by the European Medicines Agency in 2015
LONDON: The World Health Organization says Malawi has become the first country to begin immunizing children against malaria, using the only licensed vaccine to protect against the mosquito-spread disease.
Although the vaccine only protects about one-third of children who are immunized, those who get the shots are likely to have less severe cases of malaria. The parasitic disease kills about 435,000 people every year, the majority of them children under 5 in Africa.
“It’s an imperfect vaccine but it still has the potential to save tens of thousands of lives,” said Alister Craig, dean of biological sciences at the Liverpool School of Tropical Medicine, who is not linked to WHO or vaccine. Craig said immunizing the most vulnerable children during peak malaria seasons could spare many thousands from falling ill or even dying.
The vaccine, known as Mosquirix, was developed by GlaxoSmithKline and was approved by the European Medicines Agency in 2015. A previous trial showed the vaccine was about 30% effective in children who got four doses, but that protection waned over time. Reported side effects include pain, fever and convulsions.
Pedro Alonso, director of WHO’s malaria program, said similar vaccination programs would begin in the coming weeks in Kenya and Ghana, with the aim of reaching about 360,000 children per year across the three countries.
Alonso called the vaccination rollout a “historical moment,” noting that it was significantly more difficult to design a vaccine against a parasite as opposed to a bacterium or virus.
He acknowledged the vaccine was flawed but said the world could not afford to wait for a better option. “We don’t know how long it will take to develop the next-generation vaccine,” he said. “It may be many, many years away.”
In the meantime, he said, the stalled progress against malaria demanded new tools now. Resistance is growing to medicines that treat the disease, while mosquitoes are becoming more resistant to insecticides. In addition, funding for malaria efforts has plateaued in recent years.
It took GSK and partners more than 30 years to develop the vaccine, at a cost of around $1 billion. GSK is donating up to 10 million vaccine doses in the current vaccination initiatives. A company spokesman said GSK is working with partners to secure funding for potentially broader vaccination programs.
Some experts warned the vaccination programs should not divert limited public health funds from inexpensive and proven tools to curb malaria such as bed nets and insecticides.
“This is a bold thing to do, but it’s not a silver bullet,” said Thomas Churcher, a malaria expert at Imperial College London. “As long as using the vaccine doesn’t interfere with other efforts, like the urgent need for new insecticides, it is a good thing to do.”
Craig said one of health officials’ biggest challenges could be convincing parents to bring their children for repeated doses of a vaccine that only protects about a third of children for a limited amount of time.
More commonly used vaccines, like those for polio and measles, work more than 90 percent of the time.
“This malaria vaccine is going to save many lives, even if it is not as good as we would like,” Craig said. “But I hope this will kick-start other research efforts so that the story doesn’t end here.”