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Pakistan

Antidrone Rally Stopped By Pakistani Army

Imran Khan Leads Pakistan Anti-Drone Marchi
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October 07, 2012
The Pakistani opposition politician Imran Khan is leading a procession into the South Waziristan tribal region to protest U.S. drone missile strikes near the Afghan border.

WATCH: Imran Khan leads Pakistan march against drones

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By RFE/RL's Radio Mashaal
Pakistani security forces have prevented a convoy protesting American drone strikes, headed by opposition politician Imran Khan, from entering a lawless tribal region along the border with Afghanistan. 
 
The convoy of at least 10,000, which also included American members of the U.S.-based Code Pink antiwar group, was stopped by hundreds of security personnel just miles from the border of South Waziristan. The region is a hotbed for Pakistani Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants. 
 
After an hour of fruitless negotiations, Khan announced that the rally would return to the city of Tank, about 15 kilometers away, where he was expected to make a speech to the crowd. 
 
Speaking earlier to a crowd in Tank, Khan said the rally would not force its way into South Waziristan. 

"We want to reach Kotkai but we don’t want to fight with the administration because it is a peace march. We have already succeeded in our mission," Khan said.

"The whole world has heard your voice. Most of the international media organizations have condemned drone attacks. Our rulers could not send the message over the drones but the world has heard from us." 
 
Pakistani officials have warned that Islamist militants, who have questioned Khan’s motives, may attack the procession.
 
The main faction of the Pakistani Taliban, which is based in South Waziristan, issued a statement on October 5 calling Khan a "slave of the West" and saying that the militants "don't need any sympathy" from such "a secular and liberal person." 

Concerns Of Attacks

There were concerns the presence of foreigners in the tribal region could cause the march to be targeted by Islamist militants, although Khan has dismissed such speculation.

Pakistanis welcome the convoy of cricket star turned politician Imran Khan on his rally toward the tribal areas in Mianwali on October 6.
Pakistanis welcome the convoy of cricket star turned politician Imran Khan on his rally toward the tribal areas in Mianwali on October 6.


Khan, head of the Pakistan Tehreek-e Insaf (Movement for Justice), is among Pakistanis who allege that U.S. drone strikes have killed large numbers of innocent civilians and that the campaign should be halted.

A report released in the West last month estimates that between 474 and 881 civilians have been killed by drone strikes in Pakistan in the past eight years.

U.S. officials maintain that the drone strikes are a valuable tool in the battle against extremists in the Pakistani-Afghan border zone. American officials say the strikes are very precise and that the majority of those killed by the missiles are Pakistani Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants.

'Illegal And Immoral'

The head of the British rights organization Reprieve and antidrone campaigners from the U.S. group Code Pink are among the foreigners participating in the rally.

A day earlier, dozens of American and British protesters staged an antidrone demonstration in Islamabad, calling the strikes illegal and immoral.

The Pakistani government has said it supports the U.S. goal of countering militants in the border zone, but disagrees with the drone strikes, calling them illegal and a violation of Pakistani sovereignty.

Still, a number of officials expressed skepticism that Khan's high-profile rally would help reduce the number of drone attacks.

Akhunzada Chattan, a lawmaker from the Bajaur Agency in the far north of the Federally Administered Tribal Areas, called on Khan to show restraint and concentrate on issues like education that could improve the lives of ordinary residents.

"I request that Imran Khan and the country’s other politicians should come to our tribal areas with a message of peace and message of education," Chattan said. "They should not ignite the flames and encourage people further towards war. They can come with a jirga (assembly of elders) and ask those who are destroying our schools and stopping girls from attending school to stop these activities, so that tribal people can stand in line with the progressive nations of the world."

Others have criticized Khan, who is seeking Pakistan's presidency in 2013, of using the protest as a campaign stunt.

'Political Gimmickry'

Bushra Gaohar, a lawmaker with the Awami National Party, accused Khan of colluding with the Taliban to boost his political standing at the expense of ordinary residents in the tribal areas.

"Imran Khan is a Taliban supporter and he does all these activities with the Taliban’s help," Gaohar said. "[His rally] will benefit the Taliban, terrorists, and those who have destroyed the tribal people’s lives by hijacking them. I look at [the rally] as political gimmickry, and this will not benefit tribal people in any way, shape, or form."

In South Waziristan, residents like Badam Gul were likewise doubtful the much-publicized rally would bring much good.

"In the current situation, we do not care who is coming, whether it is Imran Khan or someone else. It is nonsense," Gul said. "We need a cure for our wounds. We do not have any hope. There is no one who has listened to us or will really hear our problems."

Haji Muhammad Maehsud, an elder with South Waziristan's Mehsud tribe, echoed the sentiment.

"Imran Khan's rally will bring no benefit to the people of Waziristan," Maehsud said. "He can benefit from this rally politically, but it does not bring anything good for our people in the Mehsud tribe."

With agency reports
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Comment Sorting
Comments
     
by: Jawed Akthar from: Pakistan
October 06, 2012 12:25
There is no need to fear the Taliban.

The real threat to the rally are the silent killer drones in the sky, who will certainly be watching the rally from above with Hellfire missles lock and loaded for Code Pink lady Americans who dare threaten US policy in Pakistan
In Response

by: William from: Aragon
October 08, 2012 03:00
My fear, Jawed, is that a drone might target Khan and its masters claim no knowledge of it. I am not concerned about the "lawless tribal region", it is the lawless skies above Pakistan at the moment that is a worry.

by: kk
October 06, 2012 14:10
First time ever any politician is doing such a heroic move... May Allah be with him if it is really a honest work...

by: Sultan Habib from: Lahore
October 06, 2012 15:04
Imran Khan's initiative is brilliant and brave. He may take political mileage of the march as claimed by many including Saleem Safi but how many others including the PPP Government have ventured into Waziristan?


by: Mansoor Ahmad from: Karachi
October 07, 2012 18:49
Great work by Khan Sahib..
Atleast he awake the world about drone's strike in Pakistan.
May be or may be not its work but world know the issue very well.
Lucky Khan.

by: omer
October 07, 2012 21:28
peoples who are critisizing imran khan sitting on tv channals drawing huge salaries sitting in their luxurious offices dont have guts like imran have they just want to make their names to remain in the business bull shit if a person is doing somthing good let him if u cant

by: Alex from: LA
October 08, 2012 07:14
There is no such a state as Pakistan. (sarcasm). Guess why? it's very laughable if you find the answer.
In Response

by: Sam from: London
October 09, 2012 08:27
Americans have made an enough joke of this Nation in their Media. Its Enoygh Now. Pak did not do 9/11 Why we are paying in American war.
Pak is 5th Biggest Nuke State Its a nor a Joke.
I belive Imran is doing great work.

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