FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail

Father of Drone Victim Kidnapped by Pakistani Police

In October 2012, I was with a CODEPINK delegation in Pakistan meeting families impacted by US drone strikes. Kareem Khan, a journalist from the tribal area of Waziristan, told us the heartbreaking story of a drone strike that killed his son and brother. Since then, Khan has been seeking justice through the Pakistani courts and organizing other drone strike victims. On February 10, he planned to fly to Europe for meetings with German, Dutch and British parliamentarians to discuss the negative impact drones are having on Pakistan. But days before his trip, in the early hours of the morning on February 5, he was kidnapped from his home in Rawalpindi by 15-20 men in police uniform and plain clothes. He has not been seen since.

Terrified, Khan’s wife said the men did not disclose their identities and refused to say why her husband was being taken away.

Khan’s tragic story began on December 31, 2009. He had been working as a journalist in the capital, Islamabad, leaving his family back home in Waziristan. On New Year’s Eve, he got an urgent call from his family: their home had just been struck by a US drone, and three people were dead; Kahn’s 18 year-old son Zahinullah,  his brother Asif Iqbal and a visiting stonemason who was working on the village mosque.

The news reports alleged that the target of the strike had been a Taliban commander, Haji Omar, but Khan insisted that Haji Omar was nowhere near the village that night. Khan also told us that the same Taliban commander had been reported dead several times by the media. “How many times could the same man be killed?,” Khan asked.

Khan’s son had just graduated from high school, and his brother was a teacher at the local school. Khan’s brother taught his students that education was far more powerful than weapons. The drone strike that killed their teacher taught the students a very different lesson.

Khan was the first family member of a drone victim to take the issue into the Pakistani courts. With the help of human rights lawyer Shahzad Akbar, he sent a legal notice to the American Embassy in Islamabad, detailing the wrongful deaths and accusing the CIA of grossly violating the Universal Declaration of Human Rights.

Speaking outside a police station after he had lodged a legal complaint, Khan asked that Jonathan Banks, the CIA station chief in Islamabad, be forbidden from leaving Pakistan until he answered to the charges against him. (While CIA agents’ identities are secret, Banks’ name had been revealed in the local press.) While the accusation against Banks made headlines in Pakistan, the CIA chief was allowed to flee the country. But in the ensuing months, Khan organized other families of victims and jointly, they have been pressing their cases in several lawsuits now pending in Pakistani courts.

Khan has obviously been an embarrassment to the US government, which is responsible for the drone strikes. And it has put the Pakistani government in an uncomfortable position. On the one hand the Pakistani government—from Prime Minister Zardari to the legislature—has come out publicly against the US use of drones. But Pakistan is heavily dependent on US aid and the government has been unwilling to bring charges against the US in international bodies or send an irrefutable rebuke by shooting down a US drone.

Given the political backroom deals that have obviously been going on between the US and Pakistan, Khan took great risks by speaking out.  “Kareem Khan is not only a victim, but an important voice for all other civilians killed and injured by US drone strikes,” said Khan’s lawyer Shahzad Akbar, who is also Director of the Foundation for Fundamental Rights. “Why are Pakistani officials so scared of Kareem and his work that they felt the need to abduct him in an effort to silence his efforts?”

How tragically ironic that someone whose loved ones have been killed by a CIA drone program condemned by the Pakistani government has now been abducted by that very government. Pakistanis we have talked to say this could only happen on orders from the United States, which did not want Khan speaking out in Europe against US policy.

“We are extremely worried about Kareem Khan, a gentle, warm man who opened up his heart to us when we were in Pakistan,” said Alli McCracken, who was on the CODEPINK delegation. “We have launched a campaign to free him, flooding the Pakistani Embassy and State Department with calls.” You can add your voice to the call to free Kareem Kahn by signing this petition, which will be hand-delivered to Pakistani and US government officials.

Medea Benjamin is cofounder of www.codepink.org and author of Drone Warfare: Killing by Remote Control.

More articles by:

Medea Benjamin is the co-founder of the peace group CODEPINK and the human right organization Global Exchange. Follow her on twitter at @MedeaBenjamin.

December 13, 2018
John Davis
What World Do We Seek?
Subhankar Banerjee
Biological Annihilation: a Planet in Loss Mode
Lawrence Davidson
What the Attack on Marc Lamont Hill Tells Us
James McEnteer
Breathless
Ramzy Baroud
The Real Face of Justin Trudeau: Are Palestinians Canada’s new Jews?
Dean Baker
Pelosi Would Sabotage the Progressive Agenda With a Pay-Go Rule
Elliot Sperber
Understanding the Yellow Vests Movement Through Basic Color Theory 
Rivera Sun
The End of the NRA? Business Magazines Tell Activists: The Strategy is Working
Kevin Zeese - Margaret Flowers
Historic Opportunity to Transform Trade
December 12, 2018
Arshad Khan
War, Anniversaries and Lessons Never Learned
Paul Street
Blacking Out the Yellow Vests on Cable News: Corporate Media Doing its Job
Kenneth Surin
The Brexit Shambles Rambles On
David Schultz
Stacking the Deck Against Democracy in Wisconsin
Steve Early
The Housing Affordability Crisis and What Millennials Can do About It
George Ochenski
Collaboration Failure: Trump Trashes Sage Grouse Protections
Rob Seimetz
Bringing a Life Into a Dying World: A Letter From a Father to His Unborn Son
Michael Howard
PETA and the ‘S’-Word
John Kendall Hawkins
Good Panopt, Bad Panopt: Does It Make A Difference?
Kim C. Domenico
Redeeming Utopia: a Meditation On An Essay by Ursula LeGuin
Binoy Kampmark
Exhuming Franco: Spain’s Immemorial Divisions
ADRIAN KUZMINSKI
Democratizing Money
Laura Finley
Congress Must Reauthorize VAWA
December 11, 2018
Eric Draitser
AFRICOM: A Neocolonial Occupation Force?
Sheldon Richman
War Over Ukraine?
Louis Proyect
Why World War II, Not the New Deal, Ended the Great Depression
Howard Lisnoff
Police Violence and Mass Policing in the U.S.
Mark Ashwill
A “Patriotic” Education Study Abroad Program in Viet Nam: God Bless America, Right or Wrong!
Laura Flanders
HUD Official to Move into Public Housing?
Nino Pagliccia
Resistance is Not Terrorism
Matthew Johnson
See No Evil, See No Good: The Truth Is Not Black and White
Maria Paez Victor
How Reuters Slandered Venezuela’s Social Benefits Card
December 10, 2018
Jacques R. Pauwels
Foreign Interventions in Revolutionary Russia
Richard Klin
The Disasters of War
Katie Fite
Rebranding Bundy
Gary Olson
A Few Thoughts on Politics and Personal Identity
Patrick Cockburn
Brexit Britain’s Crisis of Self-Confidence Will Only End in Tears and Rising Nationalism
Andrew Moss
Undocumented Citizen
Dean Baker
Trump and China: Going With Patent Holders Against Workers
Lawrence Wittner
Reviving the Nuclear Disarmament Movement: a Practical Proposal
Dan Siegel
Thoughts on the 2018 Elections and Beyond
Thomas Knapp
Election 2020: I Can Smell the Dumpster Fires Already
Weekend Edition
December 07, 2018
Friday - Sunday
Steve Hendricks
What If We Just Buy Off Big Fossil Fuel? A Novel Plan to Mitigate the Climate Calamity
Jeffrey St. Clair
Cancer as Weapon: Poppy Bush’s Radioactive War on Iraq
Paul Street
The McCain and Bush Death Tours: Establishment Rituals in How to be a Proper Ruler
Jason Hirthler
Laws of the Jungle: The Free Market and the Continuity of Change
FacebookTwitterGoogle+RedditEmail