Ministry tells court: No agreement on drone attacks
PESHAWAR, June 20: There exists no verbal or written agreement between Islamabad and Washington on the US drone attacks inside Pakistan and therefore, these attacks violate the country’s sovereignty, the defence ministry informed the Peshawar High Court on Wednesday.
During the hearing into two petitions against drone attacks, deputy attorney general Mohammad Iqbal Mohmand told a bench comprising Chief Justice Dost Mohammad Khan and Justice Waqar Ahmad Seth that the Pakistani government had condemned drone attacks inside the country several times and a joint sitting of parliament had passed unanimous resolution against them but the strikes by the US pilotless aircraft continued.
The bench observed that apparently, the US conducted drone attacks inside Pakistan in violation of international laws, including the Geneva Convention, and therefore, the UN should have taken notice of them.
The chief justice asked the DAG if the government approached any international forum to challenge these attacks. Mr Mohmand
replied in negative saying these strikes had begun during the rule of former military ruler Pervez Musharraf.
Lawyer FM Sabir and the Defence of Pakistan Council (DPC) along with six others had filed the petitions.
Mr Sabir requested the court to direct the government to immediately check drone strikes, which, he said, were against the collective will of 180 million people of the country, especially those of North and South Waziristan agencies.
In their petition, the DPC and six others requested the court to issue orders for making public the ‘secret deal’ between the Pakistani and US governments about carrying out drone attacks in tribal areas.
They claimed that so far, around 277 attacks by the US pilotless aircraft had killed 1,680 people and injured 2,634 inside Pakistan. The court has already made Musharraf a respondent in the petition filed by Mr Sabir.
During the last hearing, Moazzam Butt, lawyer for the DPC, informed the court that he would also represent Musharraf.
He, however, couldn’t produce on Wednesday the power of attorney given by the former military ruler prompting the court to give him the last chance to produce the same on the next hearing.
The bench adjourned hearing into the case directing lawyers of the two sides to study different aspects of drone attacks, especially international laws on them and their violations.
At the outset of the proceedings, DAG Mohmand submitted an affidavit to the court on behalf of the defence ministry’s director (legal), Shahbaz Ahmad, saying the ministry had in clear terms said there was no verbal or written deal between Pakistani and the US governments on drone strikes inside tribal areas.
He, however, acknowledged that innocent people, including children and women, were killed in such attacks. He said Musharraf received a phone call from US President Bush after September 11, 2001 and decided to toe the US line on terrorism without proper agreement.
The chief justice observed that under the Geneva Convention and additional protocols, non-combatants should not be harmed even during wartime.
He asked the DAG whether any representative of the UN could be summoned to ascertain the organisation’s viewpoint on the issue.
The DAG replied that he would enlighten the court on it after consulting the Foreign Office in Islamabad.