The South Asia Channel

New report says CIA drone strikes in Pakistan at all-time low

Bonus read: "Musharraf’s malaise," Shamila N. Chaudhary (AfPak)  Falling numbers A new report released by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism on Monday notes that the number of reported civilian deaths caused by the CIA’s drone campaign in Pakistan is at an all-time low (ET).  The drone strikes are at their lowest level since early 2008, ...

John Moore/Getty Images
John Moore/Getty Images

Bonus read: "Musharraf’s malaise," Shamila N. Chaudhary (AfPak) 

Falling numbers

A new report released by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism on Monday notes that the number of reported civilian deaths caused by the CIA’s drone campaign in Pakistan is at an all-time low (ET).  The drone strikes are at their lowest level since early 2008, and the average number of people killed in each strike has also fallen sharply over the last few years.  Similar data from the New America Foundation shows that, to date, there have been 13 drone strikes in Pakistan and 82 people have been killed, down from the record 122 strikes and 849 people killed in 2010.  Peter Bergen and Jennifer Rowland have written repeatedly about the sharply falling civilian casualty rate for the past year on CNN.com. 

In an effort to fulfill his campaign promise to fix Pakistan’s crippling energy crisis, Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif is expected to request China’s help when he meets with Premier Li Keqiang in Beijing on Thursday (ET).  According to government officials, some of the items of Sharif’s wish list include a 1,100 megawatt nuclear power plant, a $448 million loan for a 969 megawatt hydroelectric power plant, and help setting up an oil refinery at Gwadar port. 

Some observers have also wondered if more power plants in Pakistan will be privatized in an effort to combat the country’s frequent power outages, which can last for up to 12 hours (NYT).  Since the Dubai-based private equity firm, Abraaj Capital, purchased a controlling stake in the Karachi Electricity Supply Company, the only privately-owned utility company in Pakistan has been able to reduce its workforce, cut-off subscribers who don’t pay their bills, and destroy illegal power lines – problems that affect most of the government-owned utilities in the country.

The Anti-Terrorism Court in Rawalpindi ordered authorities on Monday to produce former President Pervez Musharraf on July 9th, before it adjourned the case relating to the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto (Dawn, ET).  Musharraf, who is accused of failing to provide adequate security for Bhutto, has not appeared at the court due to security concerns.  Neither has Chaudhry Azhar Ali, the Federal Investigative Agency’s special prosecutor in the case, who is also concerned about adequate security at the court. 

In accordance with a 2008 Consular Agreement, the Pakistani and Indian governments exchanged lists of prisoners currently held in each other’s respective prisons on Monday (Dawn).  According to the lists, there are currently 386 Pakistani prisoners in Indian prisons and 491 Indians in Pakistani jails.  The lists, which are not used to facilitate any potential prisoner exchanges, are shared twice a year to help the governments’ see which prisoners are completing their sentences and to advocate for their release once their respective jail terms have been completed. 

Not impressed

Navanethem Pillay, the U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights, publicly condemned Afghan President Hamid Karzai’s recent appointments to the Afghanistan Independent Human Rights Commission (AIHRC) last Friday, saying that "serious concerns have been raised [over] whether the new commissioners meet…important eligibility standards" (NYT, OHCHR).  AIHRC Chairperson Sima Samar agreed on Tuesday that the appointments – which include a mullah who believes sharia law is the best source for human rights legislation, a fundamentalist party bureaucrat, a politician with close ties to Karzai, and a retired four-star general – were not in line with the criteria spelled out in the Afghan constitution, but did not say what, if anything, would be done to address these concerns (Pajhwok).

At least four Nepalese security guards and two Afghan civilians were killed in Kabul on Tuesday when Taliban suicide attackers detonated a truck bomb outside the gates of a foreign-owned supply company compound and gunmen opened fire on responding personnel (AFP, Pajhwok, Post).  The company provided logistical support to coalition forces and the bombing was the latest in a series of high-profile attacks that have occurred since the Taliban opened a political office in Doha, Qatar.  Taliban spokesman Zabiullah Mujahid claimed responsibility for the assault.

The chief of Afghanistan’s Independent Election Commission, Fazl Ahmad Manawi, announced on Tuesday that 75,000 individuals have been registered to vote since the voter registration process began in May (Pajhwok).  Of those 75,000 new voters, 16,000 are women – a proportion Manawi admitted was inadequate.  He told reporters that commissioners have experienced no security or technical issues during the registration process, and that they are working with the government and civil society organizations to increase public awareness about the importance of the female vote.

Drone as art

Art Chowk, an art gallery in Karachi, opened an exhibition titled "Drone Dialogue" on Monday to expand the drone debate in Pakistan beyond the statistics of the number of strikes and the numbers of those killed (Dawn).  The exhibit consists of postcards and letters from Pakistani students at Tufts University in Boston, and students at the Lahore University of Management Sciences and the National University of Science and Technology in Islamabad, which showcase a variety of opinions on the CIA drone program.  The exhibit will run through Friday.

— Jennifer Rowland and Bailey Cahall  

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