Briefing to Congressmen: ‘I didn’t have any bad feelings for the US before drone killed my mother’

By Ismail Sheikh for the Express Tribune.

WASHINGTON: A Pakistani family who survived US drone strikes, appeared before members of the US Congress on Tuesday to record their account from when they were targeted last year.

The family, who survived a drone strike in October 2012,  challenged the US’ claim regarding accuracy of the campaign.

School teacher Rafique Rehman, son of a 67 year old woman who was killed in a drone attack, told the briefing through a Pushto-translator that he did not have any general bad feelings towards the US before his mother was killed in the drone strike. Rehman, along with his nine year-old daughter Nabila, and 13 year-old son Zubair have travelled from North Waziristan to the US to tell their tale.

Zubair told the Congressmen that the “US drone took my grandmother’s life.”

The family was accompanied by Jennifer Gibson, an attorney with the human rights charityReprieve.

Replying to a question Rehman said when his mother died in the drone strike, the neighbours “told me that see what US has done to your mother, you should hate US.”

Rehman’s daughter Nabila, who spoke at the briefing, was out picking okra with her grandmother when the drone struck. ”Children now do not want to go to school, they even fear to play outside, we live in constant fear. Before the drone campaign started, we were busy in our own lives,” Rehman said.

To a question on what would he say if he got the chance to meet President Obama, who approves the strikes Rehman said, “I would like to tell President Obama that what happened to me and my family is wrong”.

“I would urge him to find a peaceful answer to end this war.

“During my stay here in US I noticed that everyone here lives in peace here and I dream that my children also be able to live in peace.”

Rehman urged the US and Pakistan government to achieve peace.

Congressman Alan Grayson, who hosted the briefing, said that the presence of five members of Congress at the briefing indicated that there was a fair amount of interest from representatives. He, however, conceded that he does not see any formal briefing on drones soon as most of the house committees are chaired by the people who are friends of military industrial complex not those who oppose of it or are sceptical of it. “I believe that over the span of time people will realise the gravity of this issue.”

The Congressmen present, including Rick Nolan, Jan Schakowsky, Rush Holt and John Conyer, defended the strikes against allegations that they ammounted to war crimes citing legal issues.

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