A tribal elder from Pakistan is in the U.K. this week in an attempt to get Britain to persuade the United States to stop trying to kill him. Malik Jalil, from the village of Waziristan on Pakistan’s border with Afghanistan, has a role as an intermediary in settling disputes. He is a member of a community devoted to trying to keep the peace in the region, and he is sanctioned by the Pakistani government.
Malik claims he has been put on a ‘kill list’ and targeted at least four times by U.S. drone strikes for his role in attempting to prevent violence between the local Taliban and the authorities.
It is not only horrific that in the 21st century, a list has been drawn up of people governments want to kill; in Pakistan, which is out of sight and out of mind, only a minority of those killed by U.S. drones are even identified. Of the 2,494 people killed since 2004, only 729 have been named. At least 1,765 victims remain nameless, according to research by the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.
Invited by Lord Ken MacDonald, the former Director of Public Prosecutions, Jalal has traveled to the U.K. to ask for the government’s help in taking him off the kill list. Writing for Stop the War, he said:
I have been warned that Americans and their allies had me and others from the Peace Committee on their Kill List. I cannot name my sources, as they would find themselves targeted for trying to save my life. But it leaves me in no doubt that I am one of the hunted.
Speaking via a translator on national radio, he recounted a number of near-misses that have convinced him he is a U.S. military target. On one occasion, he was visiting a nearby village in a people carrier when the vehicle just meters behind him was hit by a missile. As his back window shattered in the explosion, the car behind him went up in flames and the bodies of those in it were blown to pieces.
“I realised they must have been targeting my car, the people in the other car were just shopkeepers, ordinary people,” he told Radio 4’s Today programme.
On another occasion he had been invited for dinner with a friend. There are no telephones in the region, so the arrangements had been made using walkie-talkies. As Jalal approached his friend’s house, it exploded. “I was on my way to his house, about 500 meters away in my car and the house was hit by a missile. We went up to the house after the strike and it was destroyed, everything was on fire,” he recalled.
Convinced that yet again he was the intended target, he said the actual victim was just a poor local man. He believes his conversation via the walkie-talkies was intercepted by U.S. forces, who bombed it knowing he was going to be there. Asked how he can be so sure, he said whenever there is an attack, dispute or fighting in the area, he is always the first on the scene in an attempt to resolve the situation.
“I came close to being bombed four times, so in the end I realised they were on to me,” he said, adding that people from the security services had warned him he should leave the area.
Insistent that the Americans don’t want peace in Waziristan, Jalal believes the progress made in his special role improving security is what has put him in the American crosshairs. Denying criticism he has vowed to avenge U.S. killings and has encouraged suicide attacks against Americans, he said:
“Twenty-seven people in my village had already been killed in a drone strike. After that a tribal gathering was bombed. Those who died were my childhood friends. When the killings happened there were huge protests in Waziristan and people were asked to demonstrate against America. On that day if we hadn’t held a press conference calling for calm, there would have been war in Waziristan,” he said.
Describing the damning effects of U.S. drone strikes on his family and the wider community, he claimed there are 400,000 people in Waziristan alone with mental problems as a result of the relentless drone strikes. In addition, he says six of his own family members have been mentally destabilised. He has had to leave and his son is too terrified to return.
Asked if he is scared of arrest during his visit to Britain, the reconciliation worker was clear:
“I had a peaceful role, in Pakistan. I am not involved in terrorism, I am clean so I am not scared. The thing is, is that I don’t trust America and won’t go there. I came to Britain because I feel like it is like a younger brother to America. I’m here to tell Britain that America doesn’t listen to us so you should tell them to stop killing Waziristanis.
“The British police, the British Army, the British Courts can ask me anything they like. I came here for that reason and am happy for them to question me,” he added.
Clive Stafford Smith, Director of the human rights organisation, Reprieve, has called for the British prime minister to order a full and transparent inquiry into the kill list, immediately.
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