Pakistan court order over missing activist Kareem Khan

In this photograph taken on June 6, 2013, Pakistani tribesman Kareem Khan (R), the victim of a US drone attack, speaks to media during a press conference in Islamabad. Kareem Khan has not been heard from for a week

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A court in Pakistan has ordered the government to produce an anti-drone activist who lawyers say was detained by the country's intelligence agencies.

Kareem Khan went missing days before he was due to testify before European parliamentarians about the impact of drone strikes on his country.

His lawyers say he was picked up from his residence in Rawalpindi last week and has not been heard from since.

Police deny any involvement. The high court set the hearing for 20 February.

Kareem Khan's brother and teenage son were killed in a drone attack in North Waziristan in 2009.

"The Rawalpindi bench of Lahore High Court has sought reply from the intelligence agencies through the government, ordering the intelligence agencies to produce Kareem Khan on 20 February or give the reason behind his arrest in writing to the court," his lawyer Shahzad Akbar told AFP news agency.

"The police in their report did mention that Khan was picked up by men wearing police uniform but they said it was not them," he said, adding that he was not hopeful that intelligence agencies would produce his client.

A US Air Force MQ-1 Predator unmanned aircraft (file photo) Civilian casualties in US drone strikes in Pakistan tribal areas have become a very sensitive issue

On Tuesday Amnesty International said: "We are concerned that prominent human rights activist Kareem Khan may have been disappeared to prevent him from giving testimony overseas about US drone strikes in Pakistan."

Quoting witnesses, the group said Mr Khan had been taken away by more than "a dozen men, some in police uniforms, others in plain clothes" early on 5 February.

Nearly a decade after they first took to the skies over Pakistan's unruly tribal areas along the border with Afghanistan, America's unmanned drone aircraft are causing fierce controversy in both the United States and Pakistan.

American officials argue the drone attacks are vital in the fight against Taliban and al-Qaeda militants based in the border area and that they take "extraordinary care" to ensure the strikes comply with international law.

Several thousand people have been killed in the attacks, many of them militants - but precise numbers and the identities of victims are in dispute.

United Nations rapporteur Ben Emmerson and other researchers have estimated at least 400 civilian deaths from drones since 2004.

Local claims of the numbers of civilian deaths are almost impossible to prove. One reason is the restricted media access in the region. The other is the militants' tendency to cordon off the targeted sites and conduct quick burials.

Pakistan's Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif has called for an end to drone attacks in his country, saying the attacks violate Pakistan's sovereignty.

But correspondents say Pakistan is widely thought to co-operate in the strikes.

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