Congressional briefing: Victim family urges end to drone warfare

By Staff Writer for The International News (Pakistan)

WASHINGTON: A Pakistani elementary school teacher, whose mother was killed in a US drone strike last year, Tuesday urged the United States to end unmanned operations and help bring peace to the tribal areas through cooperative efforts with Pakistan.

Rafiq ur Rehman made the plea in a joint Congressional briefing, where his children nine-year-old daughter Nabila Rehman, and 13-year-old Zubair Rehman, who were both injured by the drone strike, also recounted their emotional experiences.

The family has traveled to Washington on the invitation of Congressman Alan Grayson, a Democrat from Florida, to provide their accounts of the attack that killed Rafiq's 67-year-old mother, Momina Bibi in North Waziristan, a year ago.

Nobody has been able to explain why this drone hit his home, Rehman told the hearing, also attended by other members of Congress. His mother, Rafiq ur Rehman said, was the binding force for the family and life has not been the same for the family since her death.

He said in North Waziristan, people live under fear of drones. "Drones are not the answer" to the problems, he said, speaking through an interpreter. Justice must be delivered to those who have suffered as a result of drone attacks, the school teacher said.

The unprecedented briefing by survivors of drone hits took place amid international calls for greater transparency. Washington has defended its drone campaign, saying the counterterrorism actions are the least harmful and effective against militants.

If he has the opportunity to meet President Obama, he will ask him to "find a peaceful end to the war in my country, and end these drones," Rehman said at the briefing.

Rehman said he has seen people living peacefully in the United States and wants a similar peaceful environment in North Waziristan and dreams that his children would be able to complete their education and help rebuild Pakistan.

"We can achieve peace through education," he said. The United States and Pakistan should work together to resolve the problem, he said.

A preview from the upcoming Brave New Films documentary Unmanned: America's Drone Wars was shown at the briefing, moderated by Robert Greenwald, the documentary's director.

The lawmakers, attending the briefing, expressed their profound regrets over what had happened to the family and noted that the briefing highlighted the importance of transparency and conversation on the costs and benefits of the drone operations.

Human Rights Charity Reprieve Staff Attorney Jennifer Gibson called for bringing the drone war out of the shadows, stressing transparency.

Congressman Alan Grayson said the American drone policy was not just wrong. It is "dead wrong." He also stated, "No other country in the world does this. Certainly, Russia has their enemies, but you don't see the Russians sending drones to other countries. At this point, sending military forces to other countries is very unusual if you're talking about any other country other than the United States."

"The problem here is that people sitting here in this city in Washington, DC, are making life and death decisions over specific individuals in Pakistan and Yemen and elsewhere," added Grayson.

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