Imran Khan's Pakistan anti-drone drive halts for night

 

The BBC's Orla Guerin: "Campaigners here say drones are killing innocent civilians as well as alleged militants"

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A motorcade protest against US drone strikes in Pakistan, led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, has halted for the night in the north-west.

The action by thousands of protesters has reached Dera Ismail Khan, beyond which police say they are at risk of attack by Taliban militants.

Mr Khan wants to visit the tribal region where drone attacks have long targeted militants.

But militants dismiss the former cricket star as a tool of the West.

Mr Khan set off with a few hundred people from the Pakistani capital Islamabad, gathering support along the way.

Like many Pakistanis, he argues that attacks from unmanned aircraft kill large numbers of civilians and foster support for militants.

US officials insist strikes by the unmanned aircraft rarely claim civilian casualties and are an effective weapon against the Taliban and al-Qaeda.

About 80 Western peace activists are in the motorcade.

'Out of the question'

Footage broadcast on Pakistani TV showed people showering rose petals on the motorcade of some 150 vehicles.

Tweeting from Dera Ismail Khan, Mr Khan wrote: "Charged and emotional welcome in DI Khan. Peace march has become a catalyst for people's anger against drone attacks."

Speaking to the private TV channel Dunya, he said he would consult his political allies on the situation before attempting to reach the South Waziristan region on Sunday.

"We have come here for peace," he said. "I don't want to put the life of my guests in danger but I would like to know the level of the threat."

Drones in Pakistan

map
  • Recent US report highlighted "terror" felt by civilians in north-west Pakistan, where drones target areas such North and South Waziristan
  • Hundreds of low-level militant commanders and substantial minority of civilians killed
  • Exact figures difficult to compile because independent media and researchers denied access to area by authorities
  • Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates 2,570-3,337 people killed in drone strikes, of which 474-884 were civilians
  • Living Under Drones report says top commanders account for estimated 2% of victims

Kifayetullah, the commissioner of Dera Ismail Khan who uses one name, told AFP news agency it was "out of the question" that the protesters would enter Waziristan.

"Security will be provided to the rally but roads beyond Dera Ismail Khan will be blocked because there are threats of IED, sniper and bomb attacks," he said.

"We have to protect the lives of everyone."

Earlier, the Taliban distributed leaflets in Dera Ismail Khan saying they would "welcome" the motorcade with bombs.

'Tight leash'

Before setting off from Islamabad, Mr Khan said: "No-one should be allowed to be judge, jury [and] executioner.

"It's totally counter-productive. All it does is it helps the militants to recruit poor people. Clearly if they were succeeding, these drone attacks, we would be winning the war. But there's a stalemate."

He had earlier told the BBC that he would authorise the shooting down of US drones over his country if he became its head of government because they violated Pakistan's sovereignty.

Critics accuse him of trying to boost his party's popularity but supporters say the action shows he is in touch with the concerns of Pakistani people.

Mohammad Ansar Adnan, a student in Islamabad, told Reuters news agency that drone attacks were "an escalating problem".

"If Imran Khan is taking a step to resolve this issue, I think we should all go along with him, and once we are there, we should offer prayers for peace."

The government of Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari says drone strikes are counterproductive and a violation of its sovereignty.

However, it has done nothing to stop them and many Pakistanis - including Imran Khan - believe this amounts to tacit consent.

In September, a report by Stanford and New York Universities in the US said Pakistani civilians were being "terrorised" 24 hours a day by CIA drone attacks.

It said rescuers treating casualties were also being killed and wounded by follow-up strikes.

The scale of civilian deaths has been difficult to assess because independent media and researchers are denied access to the tribal areas.

US President Barack Obama has insisted that the drone strategy is "kept on a very tight leash" and that without the attacks, the US would have had to resort to "more intrusive military action".

 

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  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 22.

    It is disappointing to see Imran Khan engaged in an appeal to the extreme right in Pakistan. The Tribal Areas are a seething cauldron of tribal barbarity and an affront to the civilised nation, Pakistan claims to be. Khan is rabble rousing to protect himself from intelligence service led assassination. Unpalatable drones are the only answer to terrorists in this wild land.

  • rate this
    +10

    Comment number 21.

    It seems that when the US carry out this sort of terrorism, they are considered blameless, but if anyone ever retaliates, or even voices any objection, then they are labeled as the terrorists. This end-of-empire arrogance, doublespeak and propaganda would be more at home in some Orwellian nightmare, our supine media seem incapable of criticising the aggressors.

  • rate this
    +5

    Comment number 20.

    Bin Laden, Saddam, Noriega, the Taliban - all American-sponsored.

    How many of the people who think they are working for al Qaeda have actually been recruited by the US to provide a pretext for their foreign policy?

    Try reading 1984 or Machievelli's 'The Prince'.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 19.

    @ 12. I'm too busy thinking about terrorists knowing that they're not safe in their beds, and I'm GLAD for that.

    "iinocents" get slaughtered over blood feuds. Afghans will tell the US that "he's a terrorist" so that they will blow him up. This is not the fault of America, its the dishonesty of these people feuding with each other. Dont hijack their dishonesty and put it down to the Americans.

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 18.

    Despite all the Hippocrates in pak government, how can any one justify use of a weapon which kills 1 suspected terrorist for every 9 civilians. Has the use of this technology, or indeed any other tactic in Afghanistan made either Afghanistan/pakistan or the world safer then it was 10 years ago?

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 17.

    Pakistan is being referred to here as if it were a state like we are. My understanding of some southern tribes, whose 'lands', straddle the Pakistan/Afghanistan border, do not see themselves as part of either nation.

    Pakistan cannot dictate to them.

    It seems inhuman and unnecessary to be slaughtering rather primitive people with our 21st century robots.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 16.

    When Pakistan stops being the safe haven for the Taliban and Al Qaeda then they will not suffer drone strikes. Pretending to be part of the civilised community is not enough, they must themselves destroy the evil they harbour within their borders. It is not the USA that has no regard for Pakistani lives, it is the government of Pakistan that calls down retribution on it's own innocents.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 15.

    These drone strikes are just plain wicked. The people in these villages have a hard enough life without being considered "acceptable collateral damage".
    re: 4. Steve - Imran is standing up for the villagers; not for Pakistani city elites, who do not care less whether these people live or die, so long as they continue to get the billion-dollar American bribes!

  • rate this
    +8

    Comment number 14.

    @Matthew, the Arab nations attacked Israel first, Israel defended itself against all its neighbours. That is a different place to comment.

    Outside the Israeli conflicts fewer than 100,000 arabs have been killed by westerners since WWII. 10m plus you refer to is arab on arab violence. They would kill each other if all they had was sticks and stones. We just sold them guns and bought oil.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 13.

    They will not be able to enter that place otherwise it will show how bad the US drone strikes has killed thousands of innocent people they will end up either being battered by the police with sticks then gassed then being shot with either rubber bullets or birdshot.
    If any did get through i hope they record everything in that area to show the truth to the World, but you won't see or hear it in MSM

  • rate this
    -3

    Comment number 12.

    Before jumping to conclusion just think for a second how it would be like, living in an area where drones fly above all day and night. Fear of them bombing your house while you are asleep? How it would feel if one of your loved ones who you know is not a terrorist is killed by drones. If you cannot think this, i am sorry for you. If you can, you should support any action for peace.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 11.

    The root of the problem is Pakistan not taking control of its own security, since they will not do it someone else has to. The solution is simple although the implementation may be less so.

  • rate this
    -15

    Comment number 10.

    @2

    I am British, white enough to join the KKK, but I am NO racist. Since the creation of Israel, well over 250,000 Palestinian’s have been slaughtered, 500,000+ Arabs, it has unregulated nuclear weapons, the UK is the 4th biggest arms dealer in the world, the U.S is 1st. 10+ Million have been killed by the weapons we and the yanks have sold in the past 50 years, who’s the terrorists again?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 9.

    Presumably when Mr President says "more intrusive military action" he means a full-scale invasion under some flimsy pretext. It isn't realistic to insist Pakistan's government to be able to control all of the country, no more than the US could control all of Iraq or Afghanistan. Drones might be brilliant for reconnaisance, but arming them violates Pakistan's sovereignty.

  • rate this
    +23

    Comment number 8.

    The only reason drone strikes are necessary in Pakistan is because the Pakistani authorities appear to be a willing party in the harboring of terrorists. This is common knowledge and was consummately demonstrated when Osama Bin Laden was found living next to the Pakistani equivalent of Sandhurst. Protest by all means, but direct it at the Pakistani authorities who make drone strikes necessary.

  • rate this
    -7

    Comment number 7.

    The US Government's flippant disregard for the life of the Pakistanis they do harm to in their drone strikes is disgusting. Any claims by the US as a beacon of human rights is mooted by the countless deaths at the hands of their drones; targeting known civilian areas, attacking funerals of victims, and killing more children than suspected terrorists -- the US must be held accountable for this.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 6.

    If Pakistan want to shoot down American drones, then i think they should. If America then chooses to retaliate and escalate from there (as they will) then the Pakistani government has to be ready for that.

    For some reason this reminds me of the pakistani man trying to shoot down the US drone in 4 lions. I wonder if they will be more successful in reality.

  • Comment number 5.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +2

    Comment number 4.

    -

    Yes, drones are bad. Just imagine Hitler would have had some of those. He had the V2 though.

    But at the same time Pakistan should just get some control over those extremists and terror sympathisers there.
    If they don't tidy up, they shouldn't be surprised.

    -

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 3.

    Drone strike if they hit terrorists no problem. Drone strike when they hit innocent civilians...then who is the terrorist?

 

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