Friday’s Grand Jirga against drone strikes, at which Tariq was present – Pratap Chatterjee
Two boys aged 12 and 16 years old were reportedly killed in a CIA drone strike in Pakistan on Monday night. One of the boys, Tariq Khan, had attended an anti-drone rally in the Pakistan capital just days beforehand.
It’s profoundly shocking that a teenage boy who had travelled to protest these drones should be killed by them just days later.
Monday’s deadly attack struck a vehicle near the town of Mir Ali in Waziristan. Up to four people died, including 16-year old Tariq Khan and his 12-year old cousin Wahid.
It was the second attack in as many days in which civilians have been reported killed. On Sunday four chromite miners are believed to have died as they traveled to work in Waziristan. The US has been insisting that it has killed no civilians since May 2010.
The Bureau’s own data shows that between 111 and 281 civilians have been reported by credible media as being killed in US drone strikes between May 1 2010 and Monday’s attack. Sixteen of those killed were reportedly children, including Tariq and Wahid.
He was one of the potential camera trainees we hoped would film the activity of drones in Waziristan. He was young and very enthusiastic.
Shahzad Akbar, Pakistani lawyer
The death of the two boys on Monday takes to 175 overall the number of children reported killed in US drone strikes since 2004.
For the Bureau’s full data on Pakistan drone strikes click here.
Days before his death on Monday 16 year old Tariq Khan had traveled to Islamabad to protest against US drone strikes in Pakistan’s tribal areas. He attended a jirga, or tribal meeting, organised to protest the attacks by UK legal charity Reprieve and its Pakistani partners.
The Bureau’s Pratap Chatterjee was at the gathering and photographed the participants: ‘It’s profoundly shocking that a teenage boy who had travelled to protest these drones should be killed by them just days later. Despite the Bureau’s evidence to the contrary, the US continues to deny that it is killing civilians in Pakistan. Whether it will continue to do so remains to be seen. ‘
It was billed as a ‘Waziristan Grand Jirga’ on behalf of drone strike victims in Pakistan – to be held at the Margalla hotel in Islamabad. Some 25 men, young and old, filed into the first floor conference hall shaking hands and kissing cheeks with over a dozen Waziri elders who had convened the high level meeting to discuss ‘how to end the suffering of innocent civilians.’
One of the young men who walked in to the jirga on October 28, 2011, was Tariq Khan, a 16 year old boy. He shook hands with Karim Khan of Mir Ali, the father of a drone strike victim, and then took his place in the audience.
The night before, I sat with some of his companions and we ate a traditional Pashtun dinner. The youngest among them stayed silent and reserved as their elders spoke with me on their behalf, as is Pashtun tradition. Rahimullah, another Waziri teenager who ate with me, smiled only when we discussed their local football teams.
The next morning I watched and filmed Tariq Khan sitting quietly at the meeting. Like Rahimullah, he said little, and listened respectfully as the elders discussed what to do.
For four hours, the Waziris debated the drone war, and then they listened to a resolution condemn the attacks, read out by Mirza Shahzad Akbar, a lawyer from the Foundation for Fundamental Rights. The group voted for this unanimously.
After lunch, the group travelled to a rally outside the Pakistani parliament. Imran Khan, a former cricketer, and now the leader of the Tehreek-e-Insaaf political party and Clive Stafford Smith, the founder of Reprieve, a UK legal charity, addressed some 2,000 people gathered.
The next day, the Waziris returned to their homes, eight hours drive away.
Just over 72 hours later Tariq Khan was dead. He was killed in a drone strike on Monday when he was travelling in a car to Miran Shah, the biggest town in North Waziristan. Wahid, his 12 year old cousin, was also killed together with two other men.
The boys were on their way to see a relative, according to Noor Kalam, Tariq’s uncle, who spoke to the BBC by phone. ‘We condemn this very strongly,’ he said. ‘He was just a normal boy who loved football.’
Shahzad Akbar is a Pakistani lawyer engaged in a number of lawsuits on behalf of clients injured in CIA drone attacks. Speaking to the Bureau from Islamabad, he recalled meeting Tariq last week: ‘He was one of the potential camera trainees we hoped would film the activity of drones in Waziristan. He was young and very enthusiastic.’
Shahzad described the two most recent drone attacks as ‘completely meaningless.’
Clive Stafford-Smith of Reprieve said of the deaths: ‘Could you ever have clearer proof against the line that the US is not killing ‘non-combatants’, with the death of a 16-year old boy I just met, and his 12-year old cousin?’
When asked whether it still maintained that it has killed no civilians since May 2010, the CIA declined to comment.