Malik Jalal Independent/UK 12 April 2016
There have been 255 drone strikes on Pakistan since 2004. AP
I am in the strange position of knowing that I am on the ‘Kill List’. I know this because I have been told, and I know because I have been targeted for death over and over again. Four times missiles have been fired at me. I am extraordinarily fortunate to be alive.
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. I’ll tell my story so that you can judge for yourselves whether I am the kind of person you want to be murdered.
I am from Waziristan, the border area between Pakistan and Afghanistan. I am one of the leaders of the North Waziristan Peace Committee (NWPC), which is a body of local Maliks (or community leaders) that is devoted to trying to keep the peace in our region. We are sanctioned by the Pakistan government, and our main mission is to try to prevent violence between the local Taliban and the authorities.
In January 2010, I lent my vehicle to my nephew, Salimullah, to drive to Deegan for an oil change. Rumours had surfaced that drones were targeting particular vehicles, and tracking particular phone signals. The sky was clear and there were drones circling overhead. As Salimullah conversed with the mechanic, a second vehicle pulled up next to mine. There were four men inside, just local chromite miners. A missile destroyed both vehicles, killed all four men, and seriously injured Salimullah, who spent the next 31 days in hospital. Upon reflection I was worried that they were aiming for me.
The next attack came on 3 September 2010. That day, I was driving a red Toyota Hilux Surf SUV to a ‘Jirga’, a community meeting of elders. Another red vehicle, almost identical to mine, was some 40 meters behind. When we reached Khader Khel, a missile blew up the other vehicle, killing all four occupants. I sped away, with flames and debris in my rear view mirror. I learned later the casualties were four local laborers from the Mada Khel tribe, none of whom had any ties to militant groups. Now it seemed more likely that I was the target.
The third drone strike came on 6 October 2010. My friend Salim Khan invited me to dinner. I used my phone to call Salim to announce my arrival, and just before I got there a missile struck, instantly killing three people, including my cousin, Kaleem Ullah, a married man with children, and a mentally handicapped man. Again, none of the casualties were involved in extremism. Now I knew for certain it was me they were after.
Five months later, on 27 March 2011, an American missile targeted a Jirga, where local Maliks – all friends and associates of mine – were working to resolve a local dispute and bring peace. Some 40 civilians died that day, all innocent, and some of them fellow members of the NWPC. I was early to the scene of this horror.
Note: This is an edited first section of a long article. It concludes like this:
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. 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.