Drone ‘Kill List’ target speaks

The Independent on April 12 runs a piece by one Malik Jalal, a community leader from Pakistan's tribal areas, who traveled to the UK to speak out, claiming he has been placed on the US drone "Kill List" for his efforts to broker peace with the Taliban. He writes: " I don't want to end up a 'Bugsplat'—the ugly word that is used for what remains of a human being after being blown up by a Hellfire missile fired from a Predator drone. More importantly, I don't want my family to become victims, or even to live with the droning engines overhead, knowing that at any moment they could be vaporized. I am in England this week because I decided that if Westerners wanted to kill me without bothering to come to speak with me first, perhaps I should come to speak to them instead."

Jalal lives in the conflicted North Waziristan district of Pakistan's Federally Administered Tribal Areas. He says that in January 2010 he was targeted in a drone strike that seriously injured his nephew. He says he survived another in September that killed four riding in a vehicle to the same Jirga, or meeting of elders, he was headed to. Still another that October he says hit a friend's house just as he was due to arrive, killing his cousin. In March 2011, a drone strike targeted a Jirga, where local Maliks or community leaders were meeting, killing some 40—"all friends and associates" of Jalal.

Jalal believes he has been targeted for his work with the North Waziristan Peace Committee (NWPC), a body of local Maliks "that is devoted to trying to keep the peace in our region." He says the group is sanctioned by Pakistan's government, "and our main mission is to try to prevent violence between the local Taliban and the authorities." He claims he was directly told he is on the "Kill List"; although he "cannot name" his sources, they are presumably in Pakistani intelligence.

Some of his text sets off a few warning bells for us:

I am aware that the Americans and their allies think the Peace Committee is a front, and that we are merely creating a safe space for the Pakistan Taliban. To this I say: you are wrong. You have never been to Waziristan, so how would you know?

The mantra that the West should not negotiate with "terrorists" is naive. There has hardly ever been a time when terrorists have been brought back into the fold of society without negotiation. Remember the IRA; once they tried to blow up your prime minister, and now they are in parliament. It is always better to talk than to kill.

The "how would you know?" line is singularly unconvincing, basically a demand that we accept his assertions on faith. And the distinction has certainly been amply made between old-school secular "terrorist" groups like the IRA, with limited demands and grievances, and the contemporary jihad, with its millennialist visions. We are skeptical of any "peace-for-sharia" deal that would betray the Tribal Areas' women, secularists and minorities. We recall a long history of dubious alliances between "peace" activists and political Islam. For instance, Code Pink sparked controversy in Pakistan a few years back by participating in a cross-country march in protest of the drone strikes organized by Imran Khan, a politician widely considered too soft on the Taliban.

There has also been controversy around the British rights group Reprieve, which is sponsoring Jalal. Reprieve has partnered with CagePrisoners, a group that advocates on behalf of Guatnánamo Bay detainees, and which advocates a doctrine of "defensive jihad."

Jalal concludes with a rhetorical statement to US authorities: "Ask me any question you wish, but judge me fairly—and please stop terrorizing my wife and children. And take me off that Kill List." We second those demands, but we would like to know more about the North Waziristan Peace Committee…