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 422.

    Mr. Khan is a unwitting tool for the jihadists. Whether he or Aziz Merchant like it or not, the only civilians killed in these attacks are those living with our enemies.

    And the only reason they and the Taliban are so keen for them to be stop is the fact that they are highly effective. Khan & Merchant etc. should concentrate on the real problem - the cesspit of terror that is their country.

  • rate this

    Comment number 421.

    Obviously, if the Taliban were to retaliate in kind with drone attacks on the US blowing up American civilians like this, such attacks would be terrorist attacks perpetrated by a terrorist organisation.

  • rate this

    Comment number 420.

    How about an "Anti Al Quaida Terrorist" protest in Pakistan ?

    No ? Didn't think so somehow !

  • rate this

    Comment number 419.

    Funny isn't it?

    Nazi V1 drone bad, American MQ1 drone good!

    Both cowardly?

  • rate this

    Comment number 418.

    416. Wake up call
    >>>im guessing u must be thinking they were in the wrong place at the wrong time.

    I'm thinking that a few of the civilians were tolerating or helping those who were being targeted, but that many were not, they were coerced. Also a fair few were completely innocent. ANY violent death is a tragedy for someone however it is caused. It's also a failure of mankind as a whole.

  • rate this

    Comment number 417.

    Dont you think because of drone attacks taliban are getting more support this war on terror will never come to an end..look at afghanistan n iraq they both are displaced countries now theres more violence happening now more than ever. Till this day we still have not seen clear proof of who carried out the 9/11 attacks..but your gonna say another conspiracy theorist.. you carry on singin n dancing

  • rate this

    Comment number 416.

    These drone attacks have been used all over the world many thousands have been killed and many thousands have also been civillians rescuers, familys, mourners, innocent human guessing u must be thinking they were in the wrong place at the wrong time. Have u forgotten they are also human beings...If these drones were to hit your home would u change your mind then?!

  • Comment number 415.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 414.

    Why would we stop using drones to attack supporters of AK, the taliban and insurgents in a country which harboured their leader next to a military base, I am sure Karns intentions are noble but he cant quite see how elements in his country are implicit in support for these groups.
    Delighted they dont like drones, if they did we would need a better weapons system!


  • rate this

    Comment number 413.

    I love the fact we are having this debate because it shows this technology is hurting for an enemy.
    It makes me very happy that the pilot cant be attacked by IED's and the like, and when he finishes his shift he pops home to the wife and kids, NICE!
    A pilot cant see any more from a plane than a drone so it is irrelevant if it is manned, it is a cheap way to hurt an enemy.


  • rate this

    Comment number 412.

    8. Matt Marshall
    >>The Pakistani authorities appear to be a willing party in the harboring of terrorists.. Osama Bin Laden was found living next to the Pakistani equivalent of Sandhurst.

    Again, we make a big mistake if we expect Pakistan (and others) to behave as nation states, as we understand the term in the west They are not and are unable to behave in that way (see my @410)

  • Comment number 411.

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

  • rate this

    Comment number 410.

    406. Shaz
    >>>westerners ... broke and becoming more insignificant by the day as the world passes you by

    You are right in that the west will not be so predominant: But history teaches that only true nation states, where citizens voluntarily give greater loyalty to the state than to a religion, tribe or race can ever predominate. Presently, very few countries outside the west meet that criteria.

  • rate this

    Comment number 409.

    The western lifestyle utterly depends on raw materials from the most politically unstable regions of the world. US & UK govts have long believed this mandates meddling (covertly & overtly) in those regions, leading to backlash from covert fighters who hide among civilians in places like Pakistan & Afghanistan. I'm afraid Drones are an inevitable development in fighting such enemies.

  • rate this

    Comment number 408.

    Perhaps Mr Khan would put his energies to better use by focusing on why his country is being targetted? I doubt very much if its on a whim that drone attacks are happening, perhaps its because the drug dealing taliban are parked up on his borders? Instead of whining Mr Khan do something about those that train in your county and spread their hatred far and wide, patience is running low...

  • rate this

    Comment number 407.

    ISI support put the Taliban into power in Afghanistan. The Pakistani approval rating for the US was 17% (before the film ridiculing Mohamed). The US can supply via Pakistan only because of the vast amount of money they pay. There is no love lost between these countries. When US money runs out Pakistan will not tolerate these attacks, just like the US would not tolerate Pakistani drone attacks.

  • rate this

    Comment number 406.

    back to the morally bankrupt you should take a look at the news headlines in the uk at the moment and it should give you an idea of what high moraled people you are what gives you the right to dictate what others should think unless of course you are like most westerners with your delusions of relevance , broke and becoming more insignificant by the day as the world passes you by

  • rate this

    Comment number 405.

    Yes, no one should be judge, jury and executioner. Except the Taliban of course. Its ok for them to be, right Imram?

  • rate this

    Comment number 404.

    Why drones are a 'failure' in US?.It will work only in foreign countries ??

  • rate this

    Comment number 403.

    People seem to forget that we invaded them. No Afghani or Pakistani bombed the twin towers. Why didnt USA invade Egypt or Saudi Arabia? As usual, the poor man suffers. Saudi government is responsible for most fanaticism in the world by muslims.


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