Why a Pakistani reporter is suing the CIA for murder

For the Christian Science Monitor:

Kareem Khan’s son and brother died in a US drone strike. His lawsuit has made waves in Pakistan and overseas, and he was recently detained for nine days.

On Dec. 31, 2009, Kareem Khan, a journalist in Islamabad, got a call from a cousin in his hometown in Pakistan’s tribal belt. He was told to come quickly. He reached his village a few hours later to find locals gathered around the rubble of his house, the target of an American drone strike.

The dead included Mr. Khan’s teenage son Zahinuallah, his brother, Asif Iqbal, and Khaliq Dad, a stonemason who spent the night in their hujra, an attached guestroom.

Zahinullah worked as a guard in a government school, and Asif Iqbal, taught in another school. “They had never even spoken to anyone from a militant group,” says Khan. “And our hujra was no [militant] compound or training center, and no one else was there.”

The strike also killed Haji Omar, a Taliban commander who once led the group in South Waziristan and was later identified as the target.

Since 2004, US drone strikes have killed thousands of militants in Pakistan’s border areas, including Al Qaeda and Taliban leaders like Haji Omar, as well as civilians with no such affiliations. The program is highly controversial in Pakistan, but enjoys tacit support from its political establishment, despite their public condemnations.

Pakistan also employs air power against militants in the tribal belt: Air force jets carried out bombing raids Wednesday night in North Waziristan, killing 15 suspected fighters and destroying an arms cache, according to news media.

What happened in Khan’s case is more unusual: he filed murder charges against John Rizzo, a senior CIA lawyer, and Jonathan Banks, the CIA’s station chief in Pakistan. In 2010, the CIA took the unusual step of pulling Mr. Banks out after Khan’s complaint leaked his identity. A district court in Pakistan is set to hear the case later this year.

Khan has become an outspoken critic of the drones. His lawyers have identified scores of cases like his that merit legal investigation. His campaign has begun to make waves in Pakistan and drawn attention from European lawmakers, who recently invited Khan to discuss their countries’ logistical support for the CIA-run drone program.

Continue reading here.