Drone hunt: Pakistani man on secretive US ‘kill list’ sidestepped by UK govt

© U.S. Air Force
Downing Street has refused to respond to a Pakistani peace worker who is demanding to know whether he is on a secret US ‘kill list’ after he was targeted in four separate drone strikes, narrowly escaping each time.

Malik Jalal, who hails from the border district of Waziristan, Pakistan, believes he is being targeted by US authorities as a result of his work with the North Waziristan Peace Committee (NWPC).

A tribal elder and peacebuilder in his local community, Jalal mediates between government bodies, rural tribes and the Taliban on behalf of the organization. He says his efforts to cultivate peace in his homeland have placed him in danger, exposing him to US missile attacks.

Human rights group Reprieve, which is representing Jalal, suggests Downing Street may be covertly involved in these drone strikes. The charity also says Western intelligence agencies believe the NWPC has given the Taliban refuge in Waziristan. NWPC denies this, however, insisting it wants peace for the local community and is negotiating with the Taliban to diffuse conflict in the region. 

Hunted by drones 

Jalal was invited to Britain last month by the UK’s ex-Director of Public Prosecutions (DPP), Lord Ken MacDonald. He made the journey from Waziristan to ask Downing Street and British parliamentarians to exert influence over Washington and have him removed from the kill list he believes he has been placed on.

Having arrived in Britain, he sent a letter to Home Secretary Theresa May, Foreign Secretary Phillip Hammond and US Ambassador Matthew Barzun, requesting official meetings so he could clear his name. May oversees Britain’s National Crime Agency (NCA) and domestic security agency MI5, while Hammond is responsible for Britain’s spy base GCHQ and its global security agency MI6.

The letter, seen by Reprieve, told of multiple attempts on Jalal’s life, and the traumatic impact these have had on him, his family and his co-workers at the NWPC.

Jalal had left his home for Britain, having seen relatives and friends die in the face of brutal drone attacks. The tribal elder maintains the strikes against him began in 2010, with the first leaving his car in flames at a garage, the second blowing up a vehicle located just behind him and his nephew, and a further two targeting the homes of his friends while he was nearby.

He told the Independent his biggest fear is for the safety of those closest to him.

“I came with the hope that I can clear the misunderstanding in my case because my role has always been as a negotiator and peacemaker,” he said.

A number of MPs, who spoke with Jalal during his stay in London, wrote to Hammond requesting he approach US authorities about the peace worker’s case. Key points of inquiry included whether Jalal was on a kill list, what the targeting procedures are for such lists, and confirmation of whether civilian casualties arising from related drone strikes are deemed unlawful by Westminster and Capitol Hill.

The British government refused to meet with Jalal or answer his queries.

Tom Brake, one of the letter’s signatories, said the government's refusal to sit down with Jalal or shed light on his questions is disappointing.

“The US is clearly our main ally in that part of the world and I would have thought it was perfectly appropriate to make the request,” he told the Independent.

“I’m worried that the reason the government won’t take it up is simply some sort of tacit understanding between governments that they are allowed to get on with this type of covert activity without being held to account, and that’s a mistake.”

‘My children are terrified’ 

Jalal’s first name, Malik, is a respectful term attributed to tribal chiefs in Pakistan. His visit to the UK in April followed the release of a hard-hitting report by Reprieve called ‘Britain’s Kill List’.

The study examined the first kill list linked to the so-called ‘War on Terror’, where UK authorities worked with the US to target terror suspects and drugs mules in Waziristan.

Reprieve’s report reveals UK officials asked to include those they thought were involved in drug trafficking between Pakistan and Afghanistan on the list. The US National Security Agency (NSA) was initially reluctant to comply, the report suggests, but the policy was later adopted with support from the US Drug Enforcement Agency (DEA).

Reprieve’s study was published soon after a Vice investigation revealed that British military staff play a vital role in Washington’s drone kill list program in Yemen. British involvement is believed to cover “hits,” prepping “target packages” and intelligence gathering.

Reprieve and Vice’s investigations have heightened concerns that Prime Minister David Cameron deceived parliament last September when he vowed the assassination of two British nationals marked a “new departure” for Downing Street. Contrary to Cameron’s claims, Vice and Reprieve’s probes suggest Britain has played a role in kill lists since 2002.

Commenting on his predicament last month, Jalal said US drone strikes are exacerbating existing tensions in Pakistan.

“All I want is for the West to stop trying to kill me, my family and my colleagues with the North Waziristan Peace Committee,” he said.

“They have tried to kill me four times, and my children are terrified.”

RT asked the Home Office and Foreign Office why May and Hammond had refused to respond to Jalal’s plea for information.

A spokesman for the Home Office declined to comment. 

A spokeswoman for the Foreign Office said the government department does not comment on intelligence matters.