ISLAMABAD: Top officials in the Ministry of Defence confirmed to The News on Tuesday that the figures of civilian casualities in drone strikes sent to parliament right after the return of the prime minister from his US trip were “wrong and fabricated”.
However, in response to questions on conflicting numbers of civilian casualities, Natrina Farhan, spokesperson of the ministry, said: “Ministry of Defence will come up with the actual situation in the next few days.”
Top officials in the Foreign Affairs Ministry seriously doubted the intention of secretary defence for providing it with completely different figures of civilian casualties in drone attacks in March this year compared to what was presented before parliament recently.
“It seems the figures changed with the change of circumstances, demands and requirements,” an official commented.The Foreign Office officials are disturbed because of the defence ministry’s reply submitted in parliament as it contradicts the position Pakistan has taken before the world on the drones issue in the past.
Officials say that the stance by the foreign secretary was changed deliberately, probably on the instigation of some institutions, without considering the national interest and dignity.Only in March 2013, on the basis of information provided by the Ministry of Defence, the Foreign Office had told the United Nations (UN) that around 600 civilians were killed in 330 American drone strikes on Pakistan from 2004 to March 2013.
However, the figure was incorrect as the Fata administration providedphysically verified data to the Peshawar High Court (PHC) in early months of this year according to which 1,450 civilians were killed in drone attacks during the last five years.
However, when parliament asked the Ministry of Defence about the figures of the last five years (2008-2013), the ministry said only 67 civilians were killed in 317 drone strikes in that period.
The defence ministry, in its response to parliament, added that not a single civilian had been killed in dozens of drone strikes since January 2012.
It is worth mentioning here that frequency of drone attacks increased in 2008 and only a few drone attacks were carried out from 2004 to 2008. If both the reports of defence ministry are considered true, 533 civilians (600 minus 67) were killed in merely 13 drone strikes (330 minus 317) between 2004 and 2008.
The defence ministry hasn’t provided any further official comment on any allegation in addition to what was given above.
However, senior officials without pointing out any conspiracy, admitted that the figures provided to parliament were wrong and fabricated adding that “latest investigations in the ministry have established this fact”.
“The report will be presented to the prime minister within the shortest possible time so that Pakistan may again come up with a statement of facts pointing out the mistakes in the reply submitted in parliament,” a senior official said.
Even during off-the-record conversations, defence ministry officials hesitated to disclose the conspiracy behind this move, which ultimately resulted in providing the United States an excuse to launch more attacks after the one that hit TTP leader Hakimullah Mehsud and resulted in sabotaging the dialogue process.
On the other hand, officials at the Foreign Office are anxiously waiting for the latest response from the defence ministry to make up yet another comprehensive statement on the behalf of Pakistan against the drone strikes.