Pakistan court upholds the country's right to shoot down U.S. drones

A provincial high court on Thursday upheld the right of Pakistan to shoot down CIA drones that have killed more than 1,400 civilians in the North and South Waziristan tribal areas in the last five years.

"The drone strikes in Pakistan are a blatant breach of the absolute right to life" and "naked aggression on the sovereign territory/airspace of Pakistan...carried out at the whim and will of the CIA," Peshawar High Court Chief Justice Dost Mohammad said in a ruling.

"It is never permissible for killing to be the sole objective of an operation as is the case in these U.S. drone strikes," the judgment said.

The court further observed that "the peoples of Pakistan have every right to ask the security forces either to prevent such strikes by force or to shoot down the intruding drones."

The judgment was announced in response to four petitions by the Foundation for Fundamental Rights, the Defense of Pakistan Council and two others groups campaigning against drone strikes in Pakistan.

The petitioners had asked the court to order the Pakistani government "to immediately assert its state sovereignty and convey forcefully to the United States in clear terms that no further drone attacks will be tolerated on its sovereign territory." They also sought redress for the victims of the drone attacks.

In its judgment Thursday, the court asked the Pakistani government to go to the U.N. Security Council to condemn drone strikes and require the United States to stop the strikes in Pakistan. It asked Pakistan to seek reparations from the United States "for the wrongful acts."

Quoting official figures from the tribal area administration, the court said drone attacks killed 896 civilians in North Waziristan in the five years until December 2012 and 553 civilians in South Waziristan in the five years until June 2012.

The civilian casualties included infant babies, preteen and teenage children, women and others.

It said that only 47 foreigners were killed and six injured in drone attacks in North Waziristan.

"The ratio of killing of foreign elements is negligible while local civilians, noncombatant casualties are shockingly considerable," the judgment said.

The United States have maintained that drone strikes have been helpful in taking out militants engaged in cross-border attacks on Afghan and NATO-led international security troops in Afghanistan.

Foundation for Fundamental Rights lawyer Shahzad Akbar described the Peshawar High Court judgment as a landmark that could become a test case for the next government to emerge from Saturday's general elections. He observed that the next government would commit contempt of court if drones continue and it failed to act.