|Attacks on Pakistani terriroty by CIA-operated drones have proven to be a controversial US tactic [AFP]|
A Pakistani man whose son and brother were killed by what he claims was a US drone strike is seeking $500 million in compensation from the US government over the incident.
Kareem Khan said that a CIA-operated drone fired missiles at his house in Pakistan’s North Waziristan on New Year’s Eve in 2009, killing his son 18-year old son Zaenullah and his brother Asif Iqbal.
In a legal notice to US officials, including the heads of the Pentagon and the CIA, Khan’s lawyer has demanded a staggering $500m in compensation.
“We say to them that these drone attacks you are carrying out are killing innocent people,” Khan told the Reuters news agency, describing the message he wanted to convey to the Americans.
The US embassy said that no communication had been received over the case. Pakistan’s government has repeatedly criticised the strikes, but experts say they could not occur without help from Pakistani authorities.
Khan’s lawyer, Shahzad Akhbar, also plans to file a constitutional petition in an effort to force the US to cease the attacks.
“If the government is really pushed, we expect it to say it is happening with their knowledge, but not their consent, that they can’t do anything against the United States.”
Akbar hopes the supreme court will then rule the drone attacks illegal and put the United States under moral and legal pressure to end them.
“The main aim is to stop drone attacks and two, get compensation for the victims of drone attacks,” he said.
Slim chance of success
But Khan’s chances of victory are slim, as the strikes are seen as a key part of the Obama adminstration’s fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban.
Tariq Mehmood, a retired high court judge dismissed the case as a media stunt. “You need to build public opinion against these strikes, stage demonstrations, hold seminars. Such suits will not work.”
Khan remains defiant, despite the low chance of sucess in his legal challenge, which he says he is launching because he cannot attack the perpetrators physically.
“I wanted to get revenge, but there was no one to attack. So I decided to sue,” said Khan, who is 43.
He expressed sympathy with the cause of the Pakistani Taliban, who have carried out a series of deadly attacks in Pakistan in recent years.
“I am a Muslim and they are Muslims so they are all my Muslim brothers. They are fighting for the cause of Islam and also for the defence of their own territory and country,” said Khan.
Drone strikes are a controversial tactic that have attracted widespread criticism, with many believing them to be counter-productive because they could inspire more anger towards the US.
Khan said that children in his village reacted angrily when they see drones. “They pick up sticks and they point them towards the sky and make believe they are shooting drones down,” he said.