Pakistan deploys first home-made drones
The new drones are called the Burraq and Shahpar and will be used
by the Pakistani army and air force, the military said in a
statement on Monday, although they did not specify if the drones
will be armed or unarmed.
The statement from the military comes as the police prevented
protesters trying to block trucks carrying NATO supplies to and
from troops stationed in neighboring Afghanistan.
The protests began on Saturday when the Pakistani cricket star
turned politician Imran Khan led thousands of demonstrators to
block a road used to ship goods to and from Afghanistan in the
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province in northwestern Pakistan.
Khan’s political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, has said it
will block NATO trucks until the US ends drone strikes. His group
has been a vocal critic of US drone strikes but only began direct
action last Saturday.
And on Sunday members of his party stopped trucks and roughed up drivers at a toll on the outskirts of Peshawar, the provincial capital of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. Police were present at the scene but did not attempt to stop the protesters.
But police officer Behram Khan said as of Monday police would
only permit peaceful protests by the side of the road and would
not allow people to stop trucks as happened Sunday. He added that
they had opened an investigation into the activist’s actions on
Sunday that could lead to criminal charges.
The CIA began targeting Islamic militants in drone strikes in
Pakistan’s tribal North West regions in 2004. They have been a
highly controversial because of their violation of Pakistani
sovereignty and the number of civilian casualties. Estimates of
the number of civilians killed because of US drone strikes vary
widely between 290 and almost 900.
But the issue is complicated because the Pakistani government is known to have sanctioned some drone attacks but not others.
Instead of carrying out the attacks themselves, Pakistan has
asked the US to provide it with armed drones, saying that they
would be more effective in carrying out attacks on militants.
However, Washington has refused because of the sensitive nature
of the technology used in drones and doubts whether Pakistan can
reliably target US enemies.
For its own part Pakistan has been trying to develop its own drones but has struggled with the advanced technology required for their manufacture.
Pakistani military officials speaking on condition of anonymity
told AP that they have been struggling with the precision
munitions required in drones and of developing a done large
enough to carry accurate missiles and with a long enough range.