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article imagePakistani government in court to explain drone policy

By Ken Hanly     Nov 29, 2012 in Politics
Lahore - Early in November, Jama'at ud-Da'wah, a Pakistani political group, took legal action against continuing U.S. drone strikes in Pakistan. The group filed a petition demanding the attacks stop and the government explain its inability to stop them.
The Lahore High Court ordered the Pakistani government to respond to the petition. The petitioners complained that despite a resolution passed by the Pakistani government demanding that the attacks cease they continued. The attacks claimed the lives of a number of civilians.
In response, the Ministry of Foreign Affairs told the court that the drone strikes were indeed in violation of Pakistan's sovereignty. In a written reply to Chief Justice Umar Bandial, the ministry noted that the government had consistently lodged protests with the U.S. government. The protests cited the collateral damage caused by the strikes and also argued that the strikes were a violation of Pakistan's sovereignty.
The ministry also noted that parliament had denounced the attacks and that this had been conveyed to the U.S. government. Senior officials had been summonsed to the foreign office over the issue.
While drone attacks started back in 20008, the frequency increased in 2009 to 37 strikes and in 2010 to 115. This year so far there have already been over 200 strikes. The ministry denied that there was any agreement between the U.S. and Pakistan government to allow the strikes. Wikileaks releases show that at least in an earlier period there obviously was a tacit agreement: According to secret diplomatic cables leaked by Wikileaks, Pakistan's Army Chief Ashfaq Parvez Kayani not only tacitly agreed to the drone flights, but in 2008 requested Americans to increase them.
The ministry vowed that it would continue to emphasize to the U.S. that the attacks were counter-productive in that they increased anti-American feelings in the Pakistani public, making bilateral relations more difficult.
Finally, the ministry asked the court to dismiss the petition because it was filed under a section of the constitution which allowed only for an aggrieved individual to file a petition. Public interest litigation falls under a different section of the constitution the ministry claims. The chief justice said that he will ask counsel for the JuD to respond at the next hearing on December 13th.
Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Khar claims that the relationship between the U.S. and Pakistan has been fully restored and is becoming more positive day by day. Khar's optimism must be based upon the fact that in the last few weeks there have been no specific incidents that have made relations worse. Certainly, the drone issue has not been resolved at all, or if it has it is only by another secret agreement.
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