ISLAMABAD/MIRAMSHAH: A US drone attack with an unusually high death toll of 40 on Thursday drew a rare condemnation both from civilian and military leadership.
In the attack which came a day after CIA operative Raymond Davis had been set free by a court in Lahore, US drones fired missiles when a jirga was in progress in Nevi Adda Shega area of North Waziristan, killing 40 people, including tribal elders.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani strongly condemned the incident and called the attack an “irrational act”.
“Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani has strongly condemned the drone attack and said it will only strengthen hands of radical and extremist elements,” an official statement said.
“Such an irrational behaviour negatively impacts efforts to separate militants from peaceful and patriotic tribesmen of the areas,” he said.
In a statement issued by ISPR, Chief of the Army Staff Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said: “It is highly regrettable that a jirga of peaceful citizens, including elders of the area, was carelessly and callously targeted with complete disregard to human life.
“In complete violation of human rights, such acts of violence take us away from our objective of elimination of terrorism.”
In a rare statement, the first during his second term in office, Gen Kayani said it was imperative to understand that this critical objective could not be sacrificed for temporary tactical gains.
“Security of people of Pakistan, in any case, stands above all.”
He said: “Pakistan Army condoles with the families whose dear and near ones have been martyred in this senseless attack. It shares the grief of people of Waziristan. Troops on the ground have been ordered to render all possible assistance to bereaved families.
“Pakistan Army wishes to assure the brave people of Waziristan that we shall do our best and utmost to protect their life, honour and dignity at all costs. Pakistan Army is fighting terrorists and not its brethren in tribal areas,” Gen Kayani said.
A statement issued by ISPR said that Pakistan Army had already lodged a protest in the strongest possible terms. It has been highlighted clearly that such an aggression against the people of Pakistan was unjustified and intolerable under any circumstances.
The Khyber Pakhtunkhwa governor also condemned the killing of civilians and police officers in the drone attack. “I strongly condemn this drone attack. A tribal jirga (council) was targeted in which several tribal elders and tribal policemen were martyred,” said Syed Masood Kausar.
“We want to make it clear that the government of Pakistan and its people will not tolerate such attacks. These attacks are against the sovereignty of Pakistan,” the statement added.
According to our reporter in Miramshah, people said that unmanned planes fired a volley of missiles when a jirga was in progress in Nevi Adda Shega, some 40km east of Miramshah. The attack, considered to be one of the deadliest over the past few months, was carried out at about 10am.
Elders of Madakhel, a sub-clan of the Ahmadzai Wazir tribe, had been called to resolve a dispute between two local tribes over the ownership of a chromite mine in the area. An official said that about 50 people, elders among them, were attending the jirga.
Sources said that four missiles were fired at the gathering. US drones had been seen flying over the area since morning.
Tribal people have disputes over the ownership of mines and forests and such disputes are usually resolved through jirgas.
US drones have intensified movement over North and South Waziristan.
The sources said that eight drone attacks had been carried out in both agencies so far, killing 80 people, militants among them.
Some of the elders killed in the missile attack were identified as Malik Bary Khan, Malik Daud, Malik Ismail, Malik Sherbad Khan and Malik Hassan Ahmad.