DERA ISMAIL KHAN: The last thing Malik Din remembered before he passed out was the mutilated bodies after the blast, followed by dust and smoke that covered everything.
“I gained consciousness after four days in the Miranshah District Hospital,” Malik Din told News Lens Pakistan, recalling the day when a US drone strike at a funeral prayer in South Waziristan killed 100 people.
Malik Din, 25, survived the June 24, 2009, drone strike that killed five children and 35 tribesmen, among others (said to be militants from Tehrik e Taliban Pakistan). He had gone to village Chenakai in Ladha sub-division of South Waziristan to offer condolences at the death of local tribesman Khwaz Wali when the drone hit.
Malak Din, now lives as a displaced person in Dera Ismail Khan, a town bordering South Waziristan Agency (SWA). He is one of the 62,000 families that, according to the FATA Disaster Management Authority, were displaced by the Pakistani military operation in 2009. The unofficial figure given by the tribesmen is 80,000.
Before he was injured in the drone strike, Malik Din used to study at the Government High School in Razmak, a mountain resort in the neighbouring North Waziristan Agency. ”I was a student of class ten, studying science. I had secured 332 marks out of 525 in class 9th. The exam results had been announced just ten days before the drone strike.”
The drone strike shattered his arm, leg and hip on one side. He was left with a fractured chin and head injuries.
He said, “I was brought to Miranshah Hospital. After initial treatment I was referred to the Bannu District Hospital where I went through eight different surgeries.”
It took Malik Din three years to recover. In 2012, he decided to seek employment in the Gulf countries like most tribesmen, where they go to work as drivers, labour and machine operators in industries.
When the results of the blood test, mandatory for all workers going to the Gulf countries, came in, he was shocked.
“The doctor said I was infected with HIV/AIDS”, Din told News Lens. “Since that day I have lost all hope. I am like a dead man.”
He says he contracted HIV/AIDS when he received contaminated blood for drone injuries. The hospital at Miranshah is a small facility with not enough resources. To respond to the emergency, the doctor sought blood from those accompanying the injured. That is when he must have contracted the virus, he says.
Din is married and has a daughter, two-year-old Zainab. After they found out that Malik Din was infected with the virus, the family tested his daughter and wife.
“Luckily both are sound and have no infection of HIV-AIDS”, said Ahmed Din, father of Malik Din.
According to the London-based Bureau of Investigative Journalism that has documented cases of drone strikes since 2004, the estimated total of people killed is between 2,396 and 3,882, including 416 to 959 civilians killed. They estimate that the number of children killed is between 168 to 204.
However, the number of drone strikes has been reduced by about half in the years since 2012, according to Bureau estimates. The number of civilian casualties has also dropped from dozens per year to five or less, their numbers show.
A London and New York based human rights organization, Reprieve, said in an analysis released on 25 Nov that “in Pakistan, 24 men were reportedly killed or targeted multiple times; missed strikes on these men killed 847 people including 142 children”.
The U.S. government defends the strikes as a precise way to take out terrorists, and administration officials have said that the decision for each attack is subjected to rigorous standards. The program has been successful in eliminating key Taliban and Al Qaeda militants, with minimal civilian casualties, the Obama administration says.