ISLAMABAD: Ghareed Sher lost his younger brother in a US drone strike in September 2014 in North Waziristan and has been trying to get financial compensation from the government ever since, to no avail.
“Nobody here is willing to listen to us, despite the fact that America has killed my innocent 32-year-old brother in the drone attack,” Sher, 41, told Arab News.
He also accused the Pakistani government of being complicit in US drone strikes inside Pakistani territory and the killing of civilians living in the restive tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.
“If our government wasn’t complicit in killing civilians (in US drone attacks), it would have raised the issue at international forums,” he said.
But on Monday, following immense pressure from human rights activists and families of innocent victims of American drone attacks, Pakistan’s Senate passed a resolution recommending that the government demand financial compensation from the US for the victims and to highlight the impact of the drone attacks on their social, economic and psychological conditions.
The resolution, moved by Sen. Mohammed Javed Abbasi of the ruling Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) party, stated: “This House recommends to the government to demand payment of compensation from the US government on account of lives lost and damages done to the lives and properties of innocent citizens of Pakistan as a result of drone attacks inside Pakistan since 2000.”
The Senate also urged the government to send copies of its resolution to the UN General Assembly, the North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO), the EU, the Asian Parliamentary Assembly, and the Commonwealth.
As many as 2,938 people — including 424 civilians — have been killed by the 429 US drone strikes that have taken place inside Pakistani territory since June 2004, according to data collected by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
The most recent US drone strike inside Pakistan — on September 15, 2017, in Kurram Agency, a border region with Afghanistan — killed three people.
Mirza Shahzad Akbar, a well-known anti-drone activist in Pakistan, called the resolution “a positive step” and urged the government to take up the issue of financial compensation for the victims of drone attacks in bilateral talks with US officials.
“The government has a moral and legal obligation to fight for the rights of the families of civilians killed in US drone attacks,” he said, adding that there was a good chance of this happening “if the matter is pursued diligently.”
Akbar suggested the government should sue for financial compensation on humanitarian grounds in the UN and the International Court of Justice.
In May 2013, the Peshawar High Court ruled that US drone strikes on Pakistani soil were illegal and should be declared a war crime, and directed the federal government to raise the matter with the UN Secretary General.
“In view of the established facts and figures with regard to civilian casualties and damage caused to the properties, livestock of the citizens of Pakistan, the US Government is bound to compensate all the victims’ families at the assessed rate of compensation in kind of US dollars,” the 2013 judgment says.
Dr. Mehdi Hasan, chairperson of the Human Rights Commission of Pakistan, told Arab News that the demand for financial compensation from the US is legal and justified, but will not achieve anything unless Pakistan pursues it persistently on all international forums.
Hasan pointed out, too, that Islamabad depends on US support in many sectors, including defense, and will, therefore, likely be careful in pursuing the matter.