Pakistani Activist against U.S. Drone Strikes Claims Torture by Unknown Assailants

Monday, February 17, 2014
Kareem Khan and his lawyer, Shahzad Akbar (photo: Anjum Naveed, AP)

A Pakistani anti-drone activist who was released more than a week after being kidnapped says he was tortured and interrogated about his work on drone strikes during his detention.


Kareem Khan was taken from his home February 5 by 15 or 20 men, some dressed in police uniforms. The action came as Khan was preparing to leave Pakistan to testify before German, Dutch, and British parliamentarians about drone strikes. Khan said he still plans to make the trip.


After his release, Khan said, “Some armed men in police clothes and plain civil uniform came in my house after midnight and took me with them. They tortured me. They punched me on the head, they slap my arms and they beat me with a stick.”


Khan reported that his captors questioned him during his detention. “During the torture, they dropped many names and asked me if I know these persons. Some of them where drone victims, others were people he does not know,” Khan said.


Although Khan was unable to identify his captors as members of the military, police, or other groups, his release came after a Pakistani court ordered the nation’s intelligence forces to produce Khan.


“When I was picked up I thought I would never see my family again, that I would never be free again because of all the stories I have heard about disappeared people,” Khan said, according to Common Dreams. “Now that I have been released and have seen the news, the efforts of activists, I know it is because of them that I am free, and I would like to thank them.”


Khan’s family has been victimized by drone strikes: His teenage son, Zaneullah, and his brother, Asif Iqbal, were killed in their Waziristan home in 2009. Khan has been active in the anti-drone campaign since, taking legal action against former Islamabad CIA station chief Jonathan Banks and the government of Pakistan over their roles in drone strikes.


“The lesson learned through this experience is that we must always raise our voices,” Khan’s lawyer, Shahzad Akbar, told Agence France-Presse. “We need to take this stand for each and every person who disappears, it is the only way to force those in power to listen. That is why I am so thankful to all the local and international activists who spoke out for Kareem.”


Akbar last year was blocked from entering the United States with three Pakistanis who testified before Congress about drone strikes. He said at the time that he was not granted a visa because of his role in suing the CIA over drone strikes.


His clients, teacher Rafiq ur Rehman, whose mother, Momina Bibi, died in a drone attack, and two of his children who were injured in that same attack, were able to testify. However, only five members of Congress, all Democrats, were present for the testimony.

-Steve Straehley


To Learn More:

Pakistani Drone Activist “Interrogated and Tortured” (Agence France-Presse)

Freed Anti-Drone Activist: I Was Tortured, Beaten, Interrogated (by Sarah Lazare, Common Dreams)

Pakistani Anti-Drone Activist Kidnapped Just Days Before his Scheduled European Testimony (Agence France-Presse)

Members of Congress Avoid First-Ever Testimony by Pakistani Drone War Victims (by Noel Brinkerhoff, AllGov)

State Department Blocks Lawyer of U.S. Drone Strike Survivors from Testifying Before Congress (by Noel Brinkerhoff and Danny Biederman, AllGov)


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