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
    -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
    -13

    Comment number 146.

    Every time a human kills another human, then an evil alien, ET, demon, jinn, watcher, fallen angel, celebrates !! Every time a crime is done or human misery is caused or their is war these evil demons throw another party. When we pollute and destroy our planet, demons rejoice. Demons knew that by creating or twisting religions that it could lead to world wars which make jinns/demons very happy.

  • rate this
    -11

    Comment number 162.

    USA use of drones is cowardly and barbaric. What else can be expected of a nation that still imposes the death penalty - judicial legalised murder.

  • rate this
    -10

    Comment number 158.

    Since persons here present in this HYS have brought it up, Americas biggest nightmare is for a USA southern, or a united federation of South America, oil rich, filled with natural resources that are easy to tap into, a massive population, well over 1.3 billion, and loads of hiding places for weapon research, that’s why the US has screwed with democracy in South America.

  • rate this
    -8

    Comment number 144.

    Its insulting to label this news about Imran Khan as "Cricketer turned politician". Afterall you don't use similar connotations regarding other world leaders, such as "businessman turned politician", "attorney turned politician" etc.

 

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