Imran Khan Protest Convoy Against US Drones Heads toward Waziristan, Pakistan

Charismatic Pakistani opposition politician, Imran Khan, set out Saturday from Islamabad in a motorized convoy for a mobile protest by his Justice Party against continued US drone strikes on the tribal belt in northern Pakistan. His convoy, made up of all sorts of vehicles, was also joined by activists from Lahore and other cities. A group of semi-official bodyguards, the “Janissaries of Imran,” intended to provide security.

Imran Khan is a Panjab-born former cricketer and Pakistani nationalist of a relatively secular bent. His ex-wife is Jemima Goldsmith, a Briton of Jewish heritage. Imran Khan is wildly popular with the urban Pakistani middle classes, but he represents an urban, cosmopolitan, non-fundamentalist sensibility the opposite of what prevails in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (FATA), which have become bastions of the Pakistani Taliban. That his family has roots in the North-West is thus discounted up there.

Fundamentalist leaders from the Northwest, such as Maulana Fazlur Rahman of the Jamiat Ulama-e Islam (F), deeply dislike Imran Khan and see him not as defending Pakistanis from US drones but as a secular Lahori carpetbagger coming into religious Pushtun territory. Some Pakistani Taliban leaders have threatened to attack the Justice Party convoy. Imran Khan says that Maulana Fazlur Rahman has spread smears such that Imran Khan was bring a contingent of Jews and Christians into the tribal belt (presumably using against him his ex-in-laws).

The Pakistani Taliban have warned against the convoy, denouncing Imran Khan as an ‘agent of Israel, the United States and Europe.’ They are powerful in Waziristan and don’t want competition from a famous and popular former sports figure.

The governor of the Khyber Pukhtunkhwa Province that abuts Waziristan, Masood Kousar, castigated Imran Khan for the planned convoy. He said that government troops had restored order to Waziristan with great difficulty, and that taking thousands of protesters there might destabilize it again. Moreover, he said, there was not way for the government to provide them security. South Waziristan is a stronghold of the Mahsoud tribe of Pushtuns, many of whom had supported the Pakistani Taliban Movement. The Pakistani army attacked South Waziristan in 2009 and put down the Mahsoud. North Waziristan is the stronghold of the Haqqani Network, old-time Mujahidin who are fighting both the US troops and the Karzai government in Afghanistan, and which appears to be backed by Pakistan’s military and its Inter-Services Intelligence.

Wikileaks demonstrated that high officials of the government of President Asaf Ali Zardari have behind the scenes authorized the US to hit suspected militants with drones on Pakistani territory, though the government now denies this charge.

Imran Khan, as a Pakistani nationalist, is outraged at this infringement of Pakistani sovereignty. He has begun being able to get 150,000 people out to his rallies, and is hoping to much expand his power base in next year’s elections. So the convoy to Waziristan is in part a campaign tactic.

Imran Khan says he is not worried about security.

It remains to be seen whether Pakistan’s powerful military, and the civil provincial governors, will allow the convoy to go all the way to Waziristan.

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism in the UK has found that US drone strikes often hit innocent non-combatants, and that some missions, where a second drone hits soon after the first, kill rescue workers and could be considered a war crime.

13 Responses

  1. you even read Urdu ?
    For news on Pakistan, I stick to the Nation or Dawn, being American/ monolingual.

  2. Punjabis make up half the population of Pakistan, and dominate the government, don’t they ? They are the wealthiest, best educated and most secular of the Pakistanis.
    Khan could have done more to make this protest about Punjabi-Pashtun solidarity, it seems.

  3. From a Punjabi of Pakistan:
    Its not the matter of solidarity between Punjabi-Pashtun. Its simply the protest of Pakistanis against an invader, against a brutal killer Country(USA. Karachi is the business hub of Pakistan and most wealthy city. Everybody in Pakistan is as secular as Punjabis. Khan is doing the best he can do as a non militant political party. We all Pakistan is with him.

    • Ali, I just don’t think the Pakistani Taliban agree with you about all that, which is why they are threatening to kill Imran Khan if he comes into their territory and are accusing him of bringing in Jews and Christians.

  4. Some American Code Pink members are planning to go on this protest trip. The State Department warned them not to go. These Americans could include some Jews and Christians. But, if the Westerners stayed home, the self-interested Fundamentalist leaders would still have other complaints.

    • “Some American Code Pink members are planning to go on this protest trip.”

      Oh great! That’s just what we need, Code Pink members tramping around the FATA. I’ve seen this type many times, parachuting into a situation and an area they know nothing about, in order to protest U.S. Government policy and express solidarity with the “locals.” Mark my word, should these Code Pink “do-gooders” get in trouble through their own inept sense of self-absorbed, self-righteous “protest,” their protest against the U.S. Government will very quickly turn into a plea for the U.S. Government (and its Embassy in Islamabad) to rescue them.

      • Going by history and results, one might wonder if that critique of those, c’mon, Bill, say it out loud, “dilletantes who should leave all this stuff to the Experts,” couldn’t also be accurately applied to various US “initiatives” under color of “policy.” I guess the boots on the ground, not speaking the language, on hair-trigger alert all the time, lecturing village elders on how they are supposed to be following the current US doctrine, whatever it is (like repopulating market villages where the GIs would “protect them,” and then reminding the GIs that “with all their technology and weapons, they can’t even protect themselves”,) GIs who can (sometimes) rely on air strikes and artillery and medevac to pull their butts out of situations where almost all of what they do is futile, as in FUTILE, regarding implementation of the stated policy goals of our forces and home front chicken hawk leaders, GIs who have developed that same wary, violent scariness from having been forced into a stupid game of imperial invasion and war for the profit of it, and have taken to killing “wogs” for fun ‘n stuff, are what? Worse than those “self-righteous protestors” you excoriate? People who are stupid enough to hope that maybe person-to-person contact, maybe even martyrdom of a sort, might work better than shooting-them-up and Hellfiring them?

        And it’s not like our “policy wonks” have done anything other than make things worse — generating more angry “wogs” to fill the ranks of “those who hate us” for reasons like we kill their families and friends, even though they are no freakin’ threat to the US (excepting the GIs who are plopped down in those nice “impregnable” forward bases and stuff, like how the losing invaders in most every nationalist asymmetric conflict in history have pinned themselves down as targets for opportunistic, justifiably pissed-off locals. Mark my word.

        But I am sure there’s a measured, if wrong, response to those observations. Can’t seem to find the 3×5 card it should be on…

      • anyone under the illusion our folks in Islamabad would dare venture from behind plexiglass to assist Amcits in need, should anything occur??? Independent groups like Code Pink just don’t get that level of support from us. It’s kinda ironic referring to Code Pink as “this type” and infer they are without a clue – there are plenty of people associated in official capacities who somehow managed to secure a US government job yet havent got but the foggiest understanding about that region of the world. For example, some quarters of our government offices refer to Afghanistan as the Middle East. It isn’t. Never was. Not likely to be except possibly via plate tectonics some day

  5. Looking back at the period before presidential elections, I see that some changes are made by the President in order to increase his changes of re-election. We have a great many people who are against using drones. Do you think President Obama may be forced to at least reduce the use of drones?

  6. My hat is off to anyone who has enough courage to protest against the vile evil US imperial drone attacks in Pakistan and elsewhere. As a some-what progressive American, I have protesting US imperialism and war-crimes, beginning back in 1965 against the US war on Vietnam. So far to no avail…

    • Wow, I could have written the same statement! I too have been struggling against US imperialism since 1965, and had hoped to see more progress by this point. I will continue until it stops.

    • Bill laughs at you. I cheer you. Let’s keep it up, even if the act may be totally futile. It’s the correct and honorable thing to do.

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