ISLAMABAD — The United Nations secretary-general is speaking out about the use of armed drones during his visit to Pakistan. Ban Ki-moon also says that economic development is crucial to any country’s long-term security.
In Islamabad Tuesday, Ban was critical of the use of armed drones - a key but controversial component of the U.S. war against terrorism, including against targets in northwestern Pakistan.
Speaking to an audience of mainly Pakistani military and political leaders, Ban Ki-moon said the use of unmanned aerial vehicles must be controlled by international law.
“As I have often said, the use of armed drones, like any other weapon, should be subject to long-standing rules of international law, including international humanitarian law," he said. "This is the very clear position of the United Nations. Every effort should be made to avoid mistakes and civilian casualties.”
The CIA drone program targeting militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas has long been accused of causing civilian casualties, stoking opposition in Pakistan and humanitarian concern abroad.
While the U.N. leader criticized the drone program, he also reminded the audience that the solution for lasting stability in any region involves both security and development.
Critics say Pakistan has spent too much of its budget on defense, and not enough on its health and education sectors.
"Budget priorities should reflect people’s priorities: education and energy, empowerment and good jobs. Human rights and human dignity," said Ban. "Reaching out and building bridges with one’s neighbors. We must strive to overcome short-term crises of security by putting in place the long-term foundations of peace through sustainable development.”
Ban Ki-moon's speech marked the inauguration of the Center for International Peace and Stability of the National University of Science and Technology in Islamabad.
Flanked by Pakistani Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani and the advisor to the Prime Minister on Foreign Affairs, Sartaj Aziz, Ban Ki-moon thanked Pakistan for its efforts in international peace and security.
Pakistan is one of the top contributors of peacekeeping troops and police to the United Nations. Some 8,000 Pakistanis serve under the UN flag around the world, and 136 have died doing so.
The U.N. leader is scheduled to meet both outgoing President Asif Ali Zardari and the country’s newly elected Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif.