UN chief Ban Ki-moon waded into the controversysurrounding US drone strikes during a visit to Pakistan Tuesday,insisting they must operate within international law.
UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon (right) stands with Pakistan’sarmy chief General Ashfaq Kayani during a ceremony in Islamabad, onAugust 13, 2013.
The CIA has carried out hundreds of missile strikes on suspectedmilitants in northwest Pakistan since 2004 and the campaign is a majorthorn in relations with the US.
Washington views the strikes as an important tool in the fightagainst Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants, but Islamabad condemns them as aviolation of sovereignty and international law.
Ban addressed the controversial weapons in a speech at the NationalUniversity of Science and Technology in Islamabad, where he opened a newbuilding.
“As I have often and consistently said, the use of armed drones likeany other weapon should be subject to long-standing international law,including international humanitarian law,” he said to applause from anaudience mostly made up of soldiers.
“This is a very clear position of the United Nations. Every effort should be made to avoid mistakes and civilian casualties.”
The United States insists the drone strikes are legal and in MayPresident Barack Obama laid out strict guidelines for their use.
Britain’s Bureau of Investigative Journalism says the US has carriedout nearly 400 drone strikes in Pakistan since 2004, killing up to 3,500people, including hundreds of civilians.
Ban arrived in Islamabad for a two-day visit amid high tensionsbetween Pakistan and India over the disputed territory of Kashmir.
He will meet Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari and Prime MinisterNawaz Sharif for talks as Pakistan and India trade accusations overclashes along the Line of Control, the de facto border monitored by UNobservers that divides the disputed Himalayan territory.
Islamabad on Monday summoned India’s deputy ambassador to protestagainst what it called “unprovoked shelling” which killed one civilian.
India’s army accused Pakistan on Tuesday of firing across the border in Kashmir overnight, but did not report any casualties.
Sharif attempted to lower the temperature in remarks published Tuesday, calling for a “new beginning” in relations with India.
Despite the Kashmir tensions, the UN said Ban’s visit would focus oneducation efforts and he is due to meet students later on Tuesday.
“In line with Malala Day last month he will meet with students inIslamabad to discuss efforts to promote and expand quality education forall,” a UN statement said.
The day was declared in honour of Malala Yousafzai, a Pakistaniteenager campaigning for girls’ education who survived a gunshot to thehead from Taliban extremists in October 2012.
The 16-year-old gave a moving speech at the UN in New York last monthin which she vowed to continue to work for gender equality ineducation.
Nearly half of all children in Pakistan and almost three quarters ofyoung girls are not enrolled in primary school, according to UN andgovernment statistics.
During Ban’s visit officials of Pakistan’s National DisasterManagement Authority will brief him about the floods in the country,where annual monsoon rains from July to September bring misery tothousands and inundate towns and villages.
Monsoon rains triggering floods have killed 84 people across Pakistanand affected more than 80,000 others this month, and officials havewarned of further downpours.