Drone strikes linked to "unprecedented" psychological trauma in Pakistan

"They are always apprehensive about the drones, about their lives," said Pehshawar psychiatrist

By Natasha Lennard

Published April 9, 2013 12:10PM (EDT)

A report from the AFP this week finds that the psychological trauma suffered by Pakistanis living under the threat of U.S. drone strikes and Taliban fighting is "unprecedented." An extensive, on the ground study carried out last year by the International Human Rights and Conflict Resolution Clinic of Stanford Law School and the Global Justice Clinic at the New York University School of Law described the environment of "constant fear" under which Pakistanis in drone-struck regions, such as Waziristan, live. Monday's AFP report notes a "growing number of Pakistanis living in the tribal areas on the Afghan border who ha[ve] suffered from conditions related to depression, anxiety and other mental health problems because of war":

U.S. drone strikes, fighting between Pakistani Taliban and the army, mass displacement, chronic unemployment and disillusionment are all causing mental suffering on an unprecedented scale in northwest Pakistan, say psychiatrists.

..."Depression is really high in Waziristan," said doctor Muktar ul-Haq, head of the psychiatry department at the government-run Lady Reading Hospital in Peshawar, the largest city in the northwest.

"There is uncertainty generally in Pakistan but particularly in this area. They are always apprehensive about the drones, about their lives," he said.

While drone attacks do bring patients "episodically" for treatment, he says, residents in Waziristan complain of living in constant fear of drones that patrol in the skies above and the buzzing sound they say they emit.

"The sound alone gives us psychological grief," said Kaleemullah Mehsud, a man in his 30s from Waziristan, who spoke to AFP in Peshawar.

...There is a growing demand for locally made tranquilizers and anti-depressants - cheap copies of expensive drugs manufactured in the West.


Natasha Lennard

Natasha Lennard is an assistant news editor at Salon, covering non-electoral politics, general news and rabble-rousing. Follow her on Twitter @natashalennard, email nlennard@salon.com.

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Related Topics ------------------------------------------

Cia Depression Drones Pakistan Psychology Waziristan