ISLAMABAD: The CIA-run deadly drone campaign in the largely lawless tribal areas of Pakistan, which mostly targets South and North Waziristan, has killed 2,670 people and injured 646 others in 342 strikes which were carried out in the past eight years between January 1, 2004 and December 31, 2012.
According to facts and figures compiled by the Ministry of Interior, of the 2,670 people killed by the US drones, 487 were innocent civilians including 171 children and 43 women. Of the remaining 2,183 people killed by the drones, hardly 42 were high value CIA targets while the rest of 2,141 people were believed to be low and mid-level al-Qaeda and Taliban-linked operatives. On average, the American drones have killed 333 people every year over the past eight years between January 2004 and December 2012. The monthly average of the drone killings for the last eight years stood at 27. Fata had to suffer 42 drone attacks every year and four such strikes each month between January 2004 and December 2012.
The US drone campaign, which was actually launched by the Bush administration and is controlled by the CIA’s Special Activities Division, has been intensified substantially under the Obama administration which claims to have successfully killed several most wanted al-Qaeda leaders in the Waziristan belt. The drone attacks were halted for a brief period of two months in November 2011 after a Nato air strike had killed 24 Pakistani soldiers at Salala check post on the Pak-Afghan border. But the deadly drive was resumed on January 2012 after Islamabad agreed to reopen the suspended Nato supply for Afghanistan.
Subsequently, between January 1 and December 31, 2012, the Americans launched 50 drone strikes, killing 378 people and injuring 101 others. According to the month-wise break-up of the attacks and casualties, the US drones launched four attacks in January, killing 22 people, four more attacks killed 38 people in February, another four strikes killed 37 people in March, one attack killed four people in April, six strikes killed 51 people in May, six more attacks killed 41 people in June, five strikes killed 53 people in July, a record number of seven drone attacks killed 42 people in August, three more strikes killed 28 people in September, four attacks killed 30 people in October, one drone hit in November killed four people and five strikes killed 28 people in December 2012.
Available figures show that of the 50 drone strikes conducted in 2012, 42 hit their targets in North Waziristan while the remaining eight struck their objects in South Waziristan. On average, Pakistan suffered four drone attacks every month, killing 32 people each month. Of the 50 drone attacks conducted in 2012, 15 were directed against moving vehicles supposedly carrying al-Qaeda and Taliban-linked operatives, killing 65 people. The remaining 35 drone hits were directed against the alleged hideouts of the militants including compounds and houses which killed 313 people.
The CIA-run drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas are one of the contentious issues affecting the Pak-US ties since long. Pakistan is demanding a complete stop to drone attacks as part of the new terms of engagement with the US, terming the same a violation of Pakistan’s sovereignty and resulting in the death of innocent civilians. Even though the international media has frequently claimed that the CIA’s drone drive was being aided by the ISI, the Pakistan government criticises the deadly drive.
UN High Commissioner for Human Rights Navi Pillay had backed Pakistan’s stance during his June 2012 visit to Islamabad by calling for an investigation into US drone strikes in Pakistan.
A September 2012 report by several researchers from the Stanford University and the New York University had criticised the drone campaign, stating that it was killing a high number of civilians and turning the Pakistani public against the US.