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Pakistan’s court declares US drone strikes as illegal
Islamabad: A Pakistani court on Thursday declared that US drone strikes in the country's lawless tribal belt were illegal and directed the Foreign Ministry to move a resolution against the attacks in the United Nations.
The Peshawar High Court issued the verdict against the strikes by CIA-operated spy planes in response to four petitions that contended the attacks killed civilians and caused collateral damage.
Chief Justice Dost Muhammad Khan, who headed a two-judge bench that heard the petitions, ruled the drone strikes were illegal, inhuman and a violation of the UN charter on human rights. The court observed that the strikes must be declared a war crime as they kill innocent people.
"The government of Pakistan must ensure that no drone strike takes place in the future," the court said. It asked the Foreign Ministry to table a resolution against the American attacks in the UN.
"If the US vetoes the resolution, then the country should think about breaking diplomatic ties with the US," the judgment said.
US officials have said the drones target al Qaeda and Taliban elements in Pakistan's tribal regions who are blamed for cross-border attacks in Afghanistan. Pakistan insists that the US spy planes kill innocent people, damage civilian property and are counter-productive to the war on terror.
The US has rejected Pakistan's calls for halting drone strikes.
The Peshawar High Court had earlier reserved its verdict after the completion of arguments by lawyers for the federal government and the petitioners, including the Defence of Pakistan Council, an amalgamation of religious groups, tribal elders and rights groups.
The petitioners had asked the court to direct the government to make public any secret deal with the US on drone strikes, stop drone strikes by force, take the issue to the UN Security Council and pay compensation to families of people killed in missile attacks.
During a previous hearing, the Chief Justice questioned why the US, which considered itself a champion of human rights and democracy, had not been paying compensation to the people killed in drone strikes.
Government lawyers had informed the court that Pakistan had no agreement with the US on drone strikes, which were carried out against its consent.
Former military ruler Pervez Musharraf recently told the media that Pakistan had signed off on some drone strikes during his regime.
Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf chief Imran Khan has said that he will order the air force to shoot down US drones if his party comes to power in the May 11 General Election.