Friday, November 29, 2013

Pakistan: Militant involved in GHQ attack injured in drone attack

Two militants, including an accused linked with attack on Pakistan Army headquarters in Rawalpindi, were also injured in the US drone attack that targeted a compound in Miranshah town of North Waziristan. According to sources, Aslam alias Yaseen is linked with attacks on General Headquarters (GHQ) and another attack on the naval base in Karachi. The sources further said that three militants were killed in the drone strike. Two militants were from Punjab. They said that the injured militants have been taken to hospital. The militants were fighting in Afghanistan, the sources claimed. The militants were living in the attacked compound for four months, the sources added.

"Pashto and Urdu" Song By Ismail Junaid

Chinese jets shadowed US and Japanese planes in new air defense zone

Chinese fighter jets were scrambled and followed US and Japanese planes that had entered the newly-proclaimed Chinese air defense zone in the disputed area of the East China Sea, Xinhua reports. Two US surveillance aircraft and 10 Japanese F-15 jets were ‘tailed’ by Chinese pilots on Friday. China ordered an urgent dispatch of its Su-30 and J-10 fighter jets to an area in the East China Sea after the foreign aircraft “invaded” the air defense zone, they said. The reported intrusions came in defiance of the East China Sea Air Defense Identification Zone (ADIZ), established by Beijing last week. China’s move has triggered outrage from several states in the region and critical rhetoric from the US, as the vast zone covers disputed areas, including the islets claimed by both China and Japan. Earlier on Thursday, the Chinese Air Force conducted its first air patrol flights over the zone, as Japan and South Korea sent their own military aircraft into the zone's airspace in an act of defiance. China has stressed its decision to enforce the airspace identification zone - which requires all aircraft flying over or near it to identify themselves - follows common international practices and “is a necessary measure in China’s exercise of self-defense rights.” No international flights will be affected by the setup of the zone, Chinese Air Force spokesman, Shen Jinke, told Xinhua. Japan and its US ally blasted the decision as “unacceptable” and rejected the “unilateral” declaration, saying it would create dangerous tension. However, Chinese officials gave a reminder that both countries have long had their own ADIZ, and that the Japanese never discussed theirs with their neighbor. “If they want it revoked, then we would ask that Japan first revoke its own air defense identification zone and China will reconsider it after 44 years,” China’s Defense Ministry spokesman, Yang Yujun, said in a statement posted on the ministry’s website on Thursday. While possible action against the zone’s infiltrators has been vaguely defined as “defensive emergency measures,” The Global Times, a Chinese state media newspaper, on Friday called for “timely countermeasures without hesitation,” should Tokyo violate the new ADIZ. At the same time, the paper suggested China could ignore violations by some other states, including the US. Two US military B-52 bombers flew over the area on Monday without prior notice, with a Pentagon spokesman telling Reuters we “have continued to follow our normal procedures.”

Karzai: No pact signing until arbitrary acts end

President Hamid Karzai has said "for as long as arbitrary acts and oppression of foreign forces continue, the security agreement with the United States will not be signed. The president expressed these views in the wake of a coalition forces’ airstrike that killed an eight-year-old child in southern Helmand province.
The drone strike on Thursday also killed a Taliban commander and injured two women in Garmsir district. The drone targeted a residential house in Faqiran village. The US-led international coalition in a statement said an investigation into the airstrike had been launched, saying it regrets any civilian casualties as a result of its airstrike. President Hamid Karzai in a statement said if such incidents continue he will not sign the security deal with Washington. He has already deferred signing the deal until his second and last term expires in April, but has not completely excluded the possibility of doing so. While vehemently condemning the incident, Karzai telephoned Helmand Governor Naeem Baloch and directed him to extend all possible assistance to the victims’ families. The Helmand governor said a Taliban commander and a child had been killed in the drone strike that also left two women injured in Faqirano village of Garmsir district. “I extend my heart-felt sympathies to the families and loved ones of those killed or wounded. I pray that the Almighty grants courage to the bereaved families to bear the irreparable losses and early recovery to those injured,” the president added. Meanwhile, The New York Times quoted an unnamed coalition official as saying NATO top commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Joseph F. Dunford Jr., made a late-night phone call to President Karzai on Thursday to apologize for the drone strike “He talked to President Karzai directly, expressed deep regrets for the incident and any civilian casualties, and promised to convene an immediate joint investigation to determine all the facts of what happened,” the coalition spokesman said, speaking on condition of anonymity in line with official policy. Karzai vowed this week, at the conclusion of a loya jirga, or grand council, that he would cancel the security agreement completely if there was even one more raid that killed civilians. On Thursday, he said that in effect that moment had come. The coalition spokesman confirmed that two drone incidents had taken place in Helmand on Thursday. The first, in Garmsir District, targeted an insurgent commander traveling on a motorcycle, but missed him and apparently hit civilians; one child was reported killed and two women were severely wounded. The targeted man fled on foot and was killed by a later drone strike. In the second incident, in Nawa Barak Sai District nearby, another drone strike killed a single insurgent target and caused no civilian casualties, the spokesman said. “Neither of the strikes were directed at a house or hit a house,” he said. The civilian victims were apparently nearby on the road where the first attack took place. The drones were military, but in keeping with its standard practice, the coalition did not identify which country they belonged to. Both the United States and Britain are believed to have drones operating in Helmand Province. Karzai, in a statement posted on the president’s website on Thursday night, said that a NATO drone strike on a house in Faqiran had killed at least one child and wounded two women on Thursday morning. “This attack shows that American forces do not respect the lives and security of the people of Afghanistan and the loya jirga decision,” Karzai said. “For years, our people are being killed and their houses are being destroyed under the pretext of the war on terror.” In a text message on Friday morning, Aimal Faizi, the president’s spokesman, said, “It makes very difficult for the president to authorize the signing of BSA.” “Zero is not an option for us,” the American ambassador, James B. Cunningham, told a public meeting in the city of Herat on Wednesday. “It could be a consequence of decisions that your government takes or doesn’t take.”

Pakistan: Day of appointments

This past Wednesday, November 27, will be remembered as a 'day of key appointments' made by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif whose skills in performing tasks such as selections to the country's top-notch military positions had been subject to warranted dispute and doubt. Though, objectively speaking, times have changed and his extra caution was perhaps not warranted given not to be easily circumvented traditions and precedents set in stone by the outgoing Chief of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Pervaz Kayani. That appointment of Lieutenant-General Rashad Mahmood as Chairman Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee could have been made earlier but was held up till this day is the only plausible reason; the same thinking. Maybe also, having won a heavy electoral mandate and his experience-based perceptions Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif would like to present himself as a 'master of the show' of all things big happening in Pakistan. Not only this, he appointed a new defence minister by offloading this charge apparently more as a move to avoid his appearance before the Supreme Court and account for the missing persons. The post of the CJSC has been kept with the Army and not rotated in accordance with the widely held perception that it stands for collective leadership of all three services. The argument in support of Prime Minister's decision is that with nuclear capability that has acquired a central role in national defence, being part of the army, the said position has gone to the GHQ. Is it a profound argument? With all this happening on the day of appointments no wonder the notification of Justice Tassaduq Hussain Jilani as the next Chief Justice of Pakistan was also issued. Until the passage of the 18th Constitutional Amendment the appointment of army chief was the exclusive right of the President, who would only 'consult' the Prime Minister, but make his independent decision. Now it is to be done on the 'advice' of the Prime Minister, who, in turn, receives a list of four or five three-star generals eligible to be appointed to lead the 600,000-strong Army. If the army chief were to be appointed on the basis of seniority alone then Article 243, under which this appointment is made, would have said so. But that's not the case; the new army chief had to be the Prime Minister's choice, though he is to be from the list provided by the GHQ. All the men who make to the position of Lieutenants-General are equally eligible to occupy the top slot, leaving the choice to be made by the Prime Minister as the deciding factor. Given General Kayani's path-breaking role in weaning the army high command off the smell of taking over civilian governance there should not be such secretiveness as exercised by Nawaz Sharif. Possessed with identical secretiveness President Ghulam Ishaq Khan had gone to the other extreme - he announced appointment of General Mirza Aslam Beg's replacement months ahead of the due date, thus neutralising the apprehension of the COAS extending his own tenure. But given the fact of humongous challenges - both, internal and external and the reality that over the last decade or so a variety of new power centres have emerged, the military is no longer biting the bait of taking over civilian control. The generals are profoundly conscious of the imperative to have the people at their back as they confront security-related challenges, a thinking largely inspired by Kayani and his colleagues. Then there are these vibrant media, proactive judiciary and highly motivated civil society who are no more willing to acquiesce military interventions in civilian affairs. A kind of balance of power and perspectives has been obtained between the military and the civilian stakeholders, indeed a positive development that must persevere in the larger national interest. That said, a word of caution is due; the ball is now in the civilians' court to show maturity by rising above petty political considerations. The armed forces, judiciary, media and civil society can only provide an effective, work-oriented ambience. To deliver is the civilian rulers' responsibility. Unfortunately, however, they haven't so far. Coming to the point, Nawaz Sharif should feel fully safe and secure after these appointments have been made. If he felt handicapped thus far that is no more the case. His government must deliver now.

Imran Talib's Pti: ''Undemocratic way to protest''

On Tuesday the PTI and JI workersm for the third consecutive daym checked the documents of trucks near Hayatabad Tool Plaza in Peshawar to make sure that vehicles carrying Nato supplies did not continue their journey onward to Afghanistan. It boggles the mind that the political parties and their provincial government professing belief in the concepts of democratically elected government, strict observance of law and remaining within the parameters set by the Constitution in their activities have chosen the path of physically defying the federal government; especially, when there are chances that terrorists and criminals may join the workers and create violent situations which could get totally out of hand.
It is beside the point whether there is wisdom in stopping Nato supplies through Pakistan. The point of reference for the PTI and JI policymakers in this matter should have been whether it is within the bonds of the Constitution for private citizens or a provincial government to obstruct vehicles travelling under an international agreement signed by the Federal government of the country. The above mentioned action by the workers of the two parties is unconstitutional. It infringes upon the authority of the federal government and touches the fringes of rebellion against the Federation of Pakistan. No matter what one thinks or says regarding what is good or bad for the federation, one cannot act in defiance of the expressed will of the federal government: such actions challenges the sovereign rights of the state which the state exercises only though the central government. In very plan words when the Taliban carry out acts of terror against Pakistan's armed forces or civilians, they are in open rebellion against the state and defying its sovereignty; when the US drones strike in Pak territory or when Nato trucks are stopped by PTI and JI workers, both the US government and the parties' workers stand in defiance of the sovereign state of Pakistan; the difference is not qualitative, rather of degrees. Besides, getting crowds of civilians involved in such acts as whom to allow the right of way is vigilantism and can lead to further deterioration in the already worse law and order situation in the country. Vigilantism was okay in the Wild West of America of the eighteenth century. It was then correct for citizens to form hunting parties and go after criminals. The residents of these far and flung towns and cities of the New World had to decide who could enter and reside their towns and who was to be banished because there were no lawmen for hundreds of miles around. After the writ of government was established all over the United States of America, vigilantism became a crime there. Civilians accept the authority of the state by surrendering some of their inalienable rights; the citizens have the right to disagree with the policies of their governments, object to some actions and laws as not beneficial and they also have the right to change the situation through peaceful and democratic means, but they, citizens, have no right to stop, physically, the implementation of any policy or the enforcement of any law.
There are reasons why even government departments are not allowed to overstep their jurisdictions: for example a cop, whose job description is to go after criminals, is prohibited from enforcing law in the jurisdiction of a police station where he or she is not posted. If such prohibitions are not in place, the country will fall into utter confusion. The reason for which civilians are prohibited doing tasks assigned to government servants or its agents is also to avoid anarchy and confusion in the country. The PTI and JI workers, most of them young men, have come out and are stopping Nato trucks because they don't know better.
But are the senior leaders of the party so unsophisticated that they don't understand the long-term consequences of promoting such vigilantism among its workers which ultimately can greatly harm the nation or, is it that the prospects of personal and party gains have so overwhelmed these leaders that they have lost sight of national interests? The workers are not to be blamed. They are doing, out of a deep sense of patriotism, what they are told to do by the party leaders. While their emotions have to be appreciated, their methods cannot be condoned. The Most people have made up their minds about JI but this streak of extremism in the PTI leaders of doing what is right in their mind; regardless; of the illegality of their actions or of the consequences is frightening and unfortunate. The PTI had captured the hearts and minds of millions of Pakistanis as a party which was very much for providing social, economic and legal justice to the people and against corruption and other illegalities. However, it was also the perception that the party also stood for achieving these goals within the limits of the law. By such actions as allowing its workers to stop Nato vehicles in violation of the international agreement signed by the Federal Government of Pakistan, this perception regarding PTI as a moderate party is changing. It is hoped the PTI leadership will revisit the decision regarding its methods.

Pakistan's Blasphemy case: ‘Mentally-ill’ accused may face attempted suicide charge

Additional District and Sessions Judge Safdar Ali Bhatti has sought comments from the Kot Lakhpat SHO for December 3 on a petition seeking an attempted suicide case against a woman already being tried for blasphemy. The petitioner, Advocate Tahira Shaheen Mughal, submitted that at the last hearing of the blasphemy case against Waleeha Irfat in Central Jail, warders had told the court that they had foiled a suicide attempt by the accused. She asked the court to direct the SHO concerned to register a case against Irfat for attempted suicide under Section 325 of the Pakistan Penal Code, which carries a term of up to a year in prison. A witness told The Express Tribune that when the judge directed jail officials to produce the accused before the court, the warders responded that she did not wish to come out as she was not appropriately dressed. She was eventually brought to court covered in a long shawl.
Blasphemy trial
Meanwhile, M Amanullah, who claims to be Irfat’s fiancé, has filed a petition asking that she be sent to a private hospital for treatment and for him to be allowed to stay with her as an attendant. He said that Irfat had been behind bars for a year and a half and her confinement had caused psychological issues. The Punjab Institute of Mental Health, in a report dated August 29, 2013, declared that Irfat was suffering from a mood disorder which caused impulsivity issues and she required pharmacological treatment as well as counselling. Advocate Ghulam Mustafa Chaudhry filed an objection petition in response, alleging that the medical report issued by the Mental Health Institute was invalid and an attempt to evade criminal prosecution. He said that no notice had been issued to the complainant when the constitution of a medical board to examine the accused was ordered, which was illegal. A board of certification had not been assembled to examine the accused, he said. The judge directed the jail superintendent to get the accused medically examined by a medical officer. If this facility was not available in the jail, the judge said, the accused should be examined elsewhere. The judge fixed December 3 for recording the statements of prosecution witnesses.
At the last hearing, Irfat had complained to the judge that women prisoners in the judicial lock-up had told her she deserved to be killed as a blasphemer. Irfat’s request for post-arrest bail was dismissed in July 2012 and an acquittal application was dismissed on April 8, 2013.
An FIR was registered against Irfat at the Factory Area police station under Section 295-B (defiling the Holy Quran) of the Pakistan Penal Code on the complaint of Abdul Monam Shah, a security guard at Punjab Society near DHA. He said that at 5a on March 3, 2012, while he had been on patrol, a woman named Saima Bibi had made a hue and cry stating that she had seen Irfat tearing up two copies of the Holy Quran and then sitting and spitting on them. He said that he and a society resident named Boota had entered Irfat’s residence and seen her sitting on pages of the Holy Quran and using derogatory language.

World Watch Monitor Discloses An Increase In Blasphemy Allegations After The Peshawar Church Bombings

According to statistics presented by the World Watch Monitor: four blasphemy cases against Christians were registered in not more than a month’s time; this ratio is four times higher than the monthly average recorded from 2011 till date. Notwithstanding the fact that no direct or substantial proof was available against those accused in all of these cases. The incident of All Saint’s Church bombings was a marker in the history of Pakistani Christians.
Reactions from the Muslim majority to Christians protesting against the deadliest bombings were mixed. Few days back UK Foreign Office Minister Baroness Warsi also expressed concerns for Christians in Pakistan urging for international reaction to minorities being persecuted in WashingtonDC. World Watch Monitor has examined the time period since the Peshawar Church bombings; noticing a general environment of much commiseration and kindness towards Christians however few blasphemy charges have tainted the set-up of mutual harmony. In a recent write-up, the World Watch Monitor claims that as a reaction to the twin suicide bombings targeting Christians, the Pakistani Christians erupted in nationwide protests showing annoyance with the government to provide security to the minorities. The WWM presented a case from Hyderabad, as Christians held protest rallies in almost every corner of the city. However, some anti-rally protesters got in amongst the Christians and started attacking passers-by and buildings such as gas stations, said Catholic priest Father Samson Shukardin.”The situation got tense but it still remained calm because the Muslims were equally saddened by the attacks,” he said.
Another incident was reported in this write-up from Rawalpindi involving a clash between the Malik and Pashtoon tribes and the Christians of Iqbal Town. When the Christians there held a protest rally on September 23, about two dozen men pelted them with stones. Saleem Masih, a resident of Iqbal Town, said that three days after the protest, a Muslim desecrated a copy of the Qur’an, but Christians were blamed. For the following few nights, he said more than 100 armed Christians guarded the Christian area in Iqbal Town. On October 29, at about 7pm, worship was taking place in the Pentecostal Saints Church of Pakistan in IqbalTown when about five young Pashtoon men thumped the main gate shouting to close the Church. When the congregants came out, the young men fled from the scene. A similar episode extended on November 2 in IqbalTown, where a Christian convention was taking place. A group of young men again tried to disrupt the gathering. “One of them said that they are the ‘lords’ of this area and nothing can take place without their permission,” said Riaz Masih.
The WWM further writes about another incident in Lahore, when Christians from the Christian colony of Yahounabad were holding a rally, a Muslim vegetable vendor, Muhammad Akbar, known as Billa, jeered at them. He shouted at protesters that it didn’t matter that a “few Christians had died in the [Peshawar] blast”. He said these same Christians had also come out to protest when Joseph Colony was set on fire. “He even went on to ridicule the poor Christian community by saying that Christian women were willing to do anything for the sake of two kilograms of potatoes, so what right did they have to protest,” Pakistan People’s Party minority wing leader Napoleon Qayyum told World Watch Monitor. Violence then broke out between the Christians and Billa, during which his shop was damaged. Since then, local Christians have boycotted Billa’s vegetable stall.
The report goes on with another incident in Karachi, when the Christians of Michael Town had to flee from their homes following a rally on September 23, after they were accused of committing blasphemy by pelting the sign of a mosque with stones. A journalist working for a local news channel, who reached the site when the attack was taking place, told World Watch Monitor that “a large number of attackers wearing dark brown and green turbans” told him that a text message had been circulated saying that the Christians had demolished a mosque, so they had come to avenge the “blasphemous act”.Although the Pakistani police initially tried to strike a compromise between the Christians and Muslims in Karachi, in the end they registered two criminal cases against the Christians. The first case was registered against three men (Yasir, Harry and Waqas Masih) for allegedly murdering a man who was part of the Muslim mob and who died in the stampede.The second case was lodged against Ubert, Ilyas and Babar Masih under Pakistan’s blasphemy laws. No criminal case for the rampage and arson carried out by the Muslim mob was registered, primarily because the Christians feared a backlash.About 300 Christian families had to flee from their homes in the wake of the blasphemy accusation. They returned after two weeks following mediation by the Sindh government.
However, the legal cases are still pending and these Christians will face trial.
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Troubled history hangs over Pakistan’s new Army chief

''Each of Nawaz Sharif’s past choices for army chief has ended in a crisis for the country. Will he prove fourth time lucky?''
Everything had been planned down to the last, small detail — but one. Late on the evening of October 12, 1999, as Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif swore in Lieutenant General Khwaja Ziauddin as Pakistan’s new army chief, there was no star to pin on his shoulder, to add to the three already there. Mr. Sharif’s military secretary, Brigadier Javed Malik, took one from his own uniform, so that it could be put on to his new chief’s shoulder. It proved an ill-omen: late that evening, the man Mr. Sharif had sacked, General Pervez Musharraf, flew back to Pakistan from Sri Lanka, and rode to power in a coup. Lieutenant General Khwaja Ziauddin was arrested and relieved of his new-found rank at gunpoint. Mr. Sharif went to prison, and then exile.
Brigadier Malik never got his star back.
Now, with Mr. Nawaz Sharif appointing General Raheel Sharif — no relative — to lead the Pakistan Army, he’ll be hoping to break with the past.
Mr. Sharif’s past appointments to lead Pakistan’s army have all involved breaking with seniority — and ended in crisis for his governments. General Wahid Kakkar, appointed in 1993 superseding Lieutenants-General Rehm-Dil Bhatti, Mohammad Ashraf, Farrakh Khan and Arif Bangash, eventually forced Mr. Sharif’s resignation from office.
In 1998, Mr. Sharif sacked the soft-spoken General Jehangir Karamat for demanding the creation of a National Security Council to adjudicate on civil-military relations. He brought in General Musharraf — with historic consequences.
The man Mr. Sharif has now picked, Pakistan Army sources say, has made a career by avoiding controversy. Lieutenant General Raheel Sharif, soft-spoken and dignified, comes from a Punjabi family with a long military history: his father was an officer, as were his brothers and at least one brother-in-law. His older brother, Major Shabbir Sharif, was among the country’s most decorated officers, winning both its highest military honours, the Sitara-e-Jurrat and the Nishan-e-Haider, for his role in separate battles in the 1971 war. In Pakistani accounts of the 1971 war, Major Shabbir Sharif is credited with holding back Indian armour at the Gurmakhera Bridge for several days.
Former Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf was a course-mate of Major Shabbir Sharif — and took the younger brother under his wing when he was commissioned into service in October, 1976. In 1998, General Musharraf was hand-picked as chief of army staff by Mr. Nawaz Sharif — superseding his seniors, Lieutenant General Ali Kuli Khan and Lieutenant General Khalid Nawaz Khan, just as General Raheel Sharif has now done.
His rise to power gave General Sharif a mentor at the highest level of the Pakistan Army. General Sharif was chosen as personal secretary to the new army chief, but General Musharraf then changed his mind and instead sent him for a prestigious course at the Royal College of Defence Studies in London.
Later, General Sharif served as chief of staff to Lieutenant General Abdul Qadir Baloch, then commander of the Gujranwala-based XXX corps. In the wake of the 9/11 attacks, Lieutenant General Baloch was transferred to the Quetta-based XII corps, a formation responsible for operations against jihadists who were known to be crossing the border from Afghanistan. He took General Sharif with him as his chief of staff, a Brigadier-rank appointment. Then, General Musharraf promoted General Sharif to the rank of Major General, assigning him as General Officer-Commanding of the prestigious Lahore-based 11th Infantry Division — a formation with a key role in the event of a land war with India.
The challenges before General Sharif are huge. His predecessor, General Pervez Kayani, sought to heal the fractures between the Pakistan Army and its jihadist clients during General Musharraf’s tenure. Even though terrorist violence has sharply escalated in Pakistan, it is generally unnoticed that both military and jihadist fatalities are in decline, suggesting a diminishing will for combat.
In a 2010 article, former United Nations official Chris Alexander charged General Kayani with “sponsoring a large-scale, covert guerrilla war through Afghan proxies” — a charge western and Afghan leaders have since repeated. General Kayani also part-reversed a ceasefire General Musharraf had put in place on the Line of Control, and loosened restraints on jihadists operating against India.
Experts say General Sharif, a conservative figure, is unlikely to spearhead a radical shift in Pakistani military thinking. The military expert, Hamid Husain, has written that General Sharif “is a gentleman but almost all agree that for a peacetime army, it would make no difference but he is probably not suited to lead an army engaged in a war.”
“The biggest challenge before General Sharif,” says Rana Banerjee, a Pakistan expert who earlier served in the Research and Analysis Wing, “is to find a way to deal with the existential threats posed by the Taliban. We’ll have to watch closely, though, if he’s able to build a consensus around this in what is evidently a very divided Pakistan army.”

Drone strike kills 3 in North Waziristan

The Express Tribune
A drone strike in North Waziristan early Friday killed three, Express News reported. The unmanned aircraft fired two missiles in Miranshah town at a time when many in the country are protesting against the CIA drone campaign. The timing is further controversial as the strike comes on the eve of Pakistan Army’s change of command ceremony where Chief of Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani will hand the baton to his successor General Raheel Sharif. Express News correspondent Nasrum Minallah reported that the drone remained in the area for a while after the attack, flying very low. It could not be ascertained whether the drones targeted a vehicle or a compound. The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf-led (PTI) government in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has held an increasingly anti-drone stance with regular sit-ins being arranged to protest against the strikes. The November 21 drone strike, which killed six people and injured eight others in the populated area of Hangu, had angered the people in the province further with many political parties, including PTI and Jamaat-e-Islami blocking the Nato supply routes. Drone damage The Pakistani government officially condemns drone strikes as a violation of its sovereignty and this has been a contentious issue between the two countries. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif during his visit to the US urged President Barack Obama to halt the programme. Despite their deep unpopularity in Pakistan, the US sees them as a vital tool in the fight against militants in the tribal areas. The number and identity of casualties is often hard to determine because the tribal areas are off-limits to foreign journalists and aid organisations, but the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates deaths at between 2,500 and 3,700. Hundreds of civilians have died in the attacks, according to various estimates, prompting outrage in Pakistan and abroad. A major report last month from rights campaigners Amnesty International said the US may be guilty of war crimes.