On CNN’s website, Peter Bergen and Jennifer Rowland recently wrote an article including a graph in which they claim that of the 153 people killed in Pakistan by US drones [this year], none were civilians. These are highly dubious statistics, as I have pointed out elsewhere.
[…] Muhammad Idrees Ahmad, a sociologist and journalist, is scathing in his criticism of the report.
“[New America Foundation] plays fast and loose with its statistics, and in some cases it deliberately misreports,” he told IPS. “Two particularly egregious cases where civilian casualties were actually reported even in the U.S. press were either omitted or misreported in the database.”
For example, as reported by Ahmed for Al-Jazeera, 82 children were killed at a seminary in Bajaur on Oct. 30, 2006. The NAF database continues to list the number as “80 militants”.
In another incident on Aug. 14, 2010, the AP reported seven civilian deaths, which are still listed as seven “militant” deaths in the database.
Likening Bergen’s report to propaganda, Ahmed argues that there are no “reliable press accounts” when it comes to Pakistan’s Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA). He says that the redefinition of the term “militant” – which now encompasses any male citizen over the age of 18 in a combat zone – has not only skewed reporting figures, but given license to more indiscriminate targeting.
Not one to cut the Pakistani government any slack, Ahmed says that it is in the interest of the United States as well as Pakistani authorities to lowball the figures. Pakistani officials would want to minimise public anger and outrage, and reporting militant deaths plays well to this particular stance.
“The Pakistani government doesn’t even make an effort to confirm the identity or category of the victims. I’ve asked people in FATA. They confirm that no one from the Pakistani government/military ever visits after an attack to confirm who the actual victims were. It’s convenient to declare them all ‘militant’,” said Ahmed.