Angry Pakistanis fight to end U.S. drone strikes

Shazad Ackbar is a human rights lawyer.
CBS News

(CBS News) ISLAMABAD - More deaths from U.S. drone strikes are happening in Pakistan than in any other country. The figures can't be reliable, but it is estimated that since 2004, as many as 2,700 militants have died in drone strikes. Estimates of civilian deaths range from 250 to 800.

Shazad Ackbar is a human rights lawyer.
Shazad Ackbar is a human rights lawyer. CBS News

A vast majority of Pakistanis resent American drone strikes, which they believe have killed hundreds of innocent citizens since the program began in 2004.

Shazad Ackbar, a former prosecutor who now works on human rights cases, has collected hard evidence of civilian casualties from drone strikes.

This month, Ackbar won a landmark legal victory. Pakistan's high court ruled that drone strikes are illegal and issued a clear order to Pakistan's government.

"You have to give a stern warning to the United States, to shut down the drones, and if you don't, you are within your rights under international law to shoot the drones down."

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Pakistan shooting them down is unlikely. The new prime minister, Nawaz Sharif, has said he wants to improve relations with the U.S.

But he does have to answer to angry voters and judges who, if he doesn't act, could hold Sharif in contempt of court.

A picture of a Pakistani child Ackbar claims was killed in a drone strike.
A picture of a Pakistani child Ackbar claims was killed in a drone strike. CBS News

Ackbar told CBS News the drone strikes have killed thousands of civilians -- a figure the U.S. disputes.

"This is a Pakistani child," Ackbar said, showing a picture (left). "He was sleeping in the courtyard. Shrapnel hit him, so he died."

At a funeral for two of Ackbar's clients, a policeman and a pharmacist killed in a strike near the Afghan border, the crowd chanted, "Any friend of America is a traitor."

Critics have long argued that drones make more enemies for the U.S. than they kill. The recent court ruling, they hope, will put an end to it.


President Obama's speech on the country's national defense strategy on May 23, 2013.

  • Elizabeth Palmer

    Elizabeth Palmer has been a CBS News correspondent since August 2000. She has been based in London since late 2003, after having been based in Moscow (2000-03). Palmer reports primarily for the "CBS Evening News."