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

  • 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

    Comment number 402.

    Khan is a prat for getting involved for 2 reasons.

    1. It shows he has no consideration for the western forces and the lives the drones have saved from the allies avoiding sending men into hostile situations.
    2. It makes his country look weak on terror & 2 faced when they are pretending they are keen to find insurgents and cross boarder Taliban, but lived knowingly with OBL in their back yard...

  • rate this

    Comment number 401.

    It is funny that when the Taliban complain about the wepons we use against we give their comments an ounce of consideration.
    Do you think they have any thought for the death and destruction, and perminent injuries they are responsible for on civilian and NATO forces.
    Grow up this is war and they deserve all the get, keep the drones in the air, what if it was your son getting blown up by an IED?

  • Comment number 400.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 399.

    Imran Khan is Brave! Absolutely agree with his stance!

  • rate this

    Comment number 398.

    If they think they can sort the problem out on their own, leave them to it and see what a mess the rest of the world will be left with.
    Look forward to seeing the stats

  • rate this

    Comment number 397.

    Any innocent life lost in the drone attack is unpardonable and cannot be compensated with greenbacks. Imran Khan is right in his protest against the US for using this unreliable technology that has cost the lives of thousands of innocent souls in Pakistan and Afghanistan. The megalomaniac Taliban threat to Imran labeling him as a US & Israel agent is paradoxically despicable and demeaning.

  • rate this

    Comment number 396.

    People who object to the drones ignore why they are there in the first place: attacks from Pakistan's tribal regions into Afghanistan. the alternative to the drones is cross border raids from Afghanistan into Pakistan if the Afghanis are to exercise their moral right of self defense.As such the drones keep the Afghan War from evolving into a war involving all of South Asia. Cold comfort, but true.

  • rate this

    Comment number 395.

    Drones are terror weapons. Far from inflicting any meaningful damage on enemy they far more often kill innocent bystanders that the Pentagon writes off with the euphimism 'collateral damage' that can't be avoided. I doubt that this is consolation to families whose members have been killed this way and who often get paid by US a few hundred $'s for their loss an insult. It is calculated murder.

  • rate this

    Comment number 394.

    Just get the heck OUT of their countries and then you won't have to pay out trillions of $'s to kill!
    Oooops! Sorry I clean forgot about the rich folk getting fatter by the hour the longer this 'conflict' goes on!

  • rate this

    Comment number 393.

    Keep them is the skies and keep the people they are targeting afraid of what might happen to THEM.

    It is good to see the boot is on the other foot!

  • rate this

    Comment number 392.

    One worrying factor is that the British Government makes very sure we can't defend ourselves against whatever they choose to do. The police kill when they feel like it. They deport ugly people to the USA. They try to deport sick people for minor offences on the Internet (looking for little green men). Try protesting against them. (Kettling). Even the USA trusts their CITIZENS with guns.

  • rate this

    Comment number 391.

    He's a good batsman, why doesn't hit a few sixes towards the drones and take out a few :-)

  • rate this

    Comment number 390.

    @Jeff If NATO does bracket the Taliban with Al Qaeda,why they are negotiating with Taliban?? As a Pakistani I Dislike Taliban's or whoever the potential or serious threat would be for me my family and my countryman.But Killing innocent people in the name of GOD or WOT never be acceptable !

  • rate this

    Comment number 389.

    Aggreed. I argue the premise though. Who brought war to those door steps? The drone? Or the combatant that waged war and then rests his head in a home with a family in a community? I blame the combatant for bringing war to the doorstep of his community. Want to wage war? Stay where the war is so innocents don't get hurt. Waging war against the USA is a dangerous business to bring home with you.

  • rate this

    Comment number 388.

    He has a valid point that remote bombing is hardly a way to win friends and influence people. Sadly I expect the Taliban will still kill him given a chance.

  • Comment number 387.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 386.

    @ Jeff How would you feel if the Police in California start blowing up alleged criminals' homes killing their wives and kids as well?

  • rate this

    Comment number 385.

    It's quite ironic that there is a motorcade against US drone strikes which target Taliban militants and the motorcade is halted because police can't guarantee the safety of people beyond a certain point in the country because of those same Taliban militants.

    One has to ask the question if the motorcade has it's priorities right, I guess the taliban don't think so or they would join the motorcade.

  • rate this

    Comment number 384.

    I would rather a machine do a targeted attack than the alternative of our boys putting their lives at risk by marching an army in to do the same job.
    The fastest way to end the drone strikes is to have the Pakistani Army begin a real campaign to secure their own border so attacks on Afghans, Afghan forces and NATO forces will drop.

  • rate this

    Comment number 383.

    Jemimah needs her rest.


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