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November 7, 2012

UK drones never carried out strikes in Pakistan

November 7, 2012

LONDON: British defence minister has said that unmanned British drones have fired weapons in Afghanistan on almost 350 occasions but insisted that no strikes had been carried out by in Pakistan territory.

During a Westminster debate on Tuesday, Defence Minister Mr Philip Dunne MP, however, refused to be drawn on whether UK intelligence had been used by the US to target Pakistan, giving rise to the suspicion that Britain is colluding with the US in drone campaign inside Pakistani areas, a view widely held by many human rights groups.

The minister clarified after Conservative Party MP Rehman Chishti challenged his own government over its use of drones in countries such as Pakistan and Afghanistan.

Chishti MP, the Member of Parliament for Gillingham and Rainham who was also an advisor to former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, asked the Defence Minister to clarify the government’s policy on the use of drone strikes and their future role in the UK’s defence policy.

He raised questions about allegations that the UK has shared “locational intelligence” with the United States leading to drone strikes in Pakistan.

Noor Khan, whose father was killed in a drone strike in Pakistan, is currently taking legal action against the UK Government regarding the sharing of information with the US. The Pakistani national, through legal charity Reprieve,

Mr Khan’s case argues that if Britain had assisted the US then the government in principle could be liable under UK criminal law. Rehman said that such allegations “damage our relationship with Pakistan, who will draw their own inferences from the government’s refusal to confirm or deny whether intelligence has been shared with the United States.

This fosters anti west sentiments, which could be a danger to our own security.” He argued in the parliament: “Despite their growing significance there has been little debate about this issue and I believe the time

is right for a review into how they are currently used and how they may be developed and deployed in the future.” Rehman asked whether the death of civilians through drone strikes “undermines the aim of winning over hearts and minds and feeds anti-west feelings,” and if “we should consider suspending the use of drones” in Afghanistan.

Mr Chishti added: “if drones are to become more widely used, then we must ensure they are deployed so as not to risk civilian deaths, collateral damage, our international relations and do not pose a danger to our own national security.”

Speaking to The News after the parliamentary debate, Chishti said that there are real concerns about the use of drone strikes in Pakistan by foreign countries. “This is causing resentment and feeding into an anti-west attitude where 74% of Pakistanis now see the United States as an enemy. This threatens the work that the west is achieving in the country through international aid and cooperation.”

Chishti said that more and more politicians from across the political spectrum are beginning to ask questions about “the effects of drone strikes in Pakistan and elsewhere and it is important for us to debate this issue and review how they are being deployed”.

He said the drones have not been effective in eradicating terror as originally claimed by the supporters of drone attacks. “”The high number of civilian deaths associated with drone strikes undermines the aim of winning over hearts and minds and can be counter-productive to eradicating terrorism.”

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