Khaliq Dad was among three civilians reportedly killed when a drone attacked the home of Kareem Khan on the last day of 2009, who was in Islamabad at the time of the attack. Khan’s son Zahinullah and his brother, Asif Iqbal, were also killed in the attack.
The drone strike came the day after a suicide bombing by a triple agent killed seven CIA agents in a forward operating base in Khost, Afghanistan, near to the border with Pakistan’s tribal regions. The bombing was reportedly jointly organised by the Pakistan Taliban and al Qaeda, and triggered a rapid series of drone strikes, of which the strike that killed Khaliq Dad was the first.
Reports suggested that Haji Omar Khan, described as the Taliban commander of North Waziristan, was among up to seven people killed in the strike, but Kareem Khan insists that only Zahinullah, Asif Iqbal and Khaliq Dad were killed. Although Khan has since given interviews describing his brother and son, little has yet been reported of Khaliq Dad, aside from the fact that he was a stonemason who was building the village mosque.
In this respect, Khaliq Dad is like many of the civilians killed in drone strikes: even where their names and occupations are known, almost no details of their lives or personalities are reported. Our knowledge of them is usually dominated by the circumstances of their deaths.
In February 2014, Khan visited London as part of a trip organised by legal charity Reprieve in which he met with politicians in Berlin, The Hague and London. He also met the Bureau and shared his memories of his son, his brother, and Khaliq Dad, who he said he had known for more than 25 years, providing a rare insight into one man’s story.
At the time of his death, Khaliq Dad was aged between 50 and 55. He was ‘very well built’, Khan said, and his services as a builder were much in demand in Pakistan’s tribal regions.
‘He was a very famous mason: he constructed mosques, and he was well-known in the area,’ Khan told the Bureau. He was from the village of Lata Kumari, and lived with his family in Lakki Marwat, a district in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, outside the tribal areas.
Khan said Khaliq Dad built numerous mosques, as well as schools, government buildings and several of the ‘biggest madrassas [religious schools]’. ‘He was so good with his work that whenever an architect would come and examine the building, he would just say, “There’s no requirement for improvement”,’ Khan added.
‘One thing I remember is that he was quite witty,’ Khan remembered. Khaliq Dad would play pranks on his fellow workers: ‘He would throw a piece of brick at someone and say the other person threw it, and you could have a good laugh.’
In December 2009, Khaliq Dad was staying in the hujra [guest house] of Khan’s family home as he worked on a mosque in a nearby village. He had been there a month when missiles fired by a CIA drone hit the hujra at 9pm one evening, killing him, Zahinullah and Asif Iqbal. Reports claimed up to four alleged militants were also killed in the strike including Haji Omar, a prominent commander. Khan denies that any alleged militants were in the building.
People continue to admire Khaliq Dad’s handiwork, Khan said. ‘People come and say, “Oh, this is a very well constructed mosque, who did it?”. And then I tell them that this guy died in a drone strike.’
Sources and Citations
Kareem Khan’s witness testimony presented by Shahzad Akhbar to the Human Rights Council as part of a complaint about US killing of innocent citizens (Reprieve); interview with Kareem Khan (Bureau)