Imran Khan Leads Anti-NATO Drone Protest

Imran Khan, the former cricketer-turned-politician and Chairman of Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf, is leading anti-NATO protests in response to US drone strikes in Pakistan.

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ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Former cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan has set a stage sit-in in northwest Pakistan and blocked the main supply route for NATO troops in Afghanistan as protest against US drone strikes.

The right-wing religious party, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), a coalition partner in the provincial government, also joined the protest on Peshawar Ring Road. Located in the capital of Khyber Pukhtunkhwa province, Ring Road is used by hundreds of NATO containers that enter Afghanistan daily.

Imran Khan’s political party, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI), which rules the province, started the closure as part of its anti-drone protest strategy. They said under President Barack Obama there has been a six-fold increase in drone attacks. Almost 300 strikes have been carried out since he took office in 2009.

Thousands of political workers from different parties, including PTI, Awami Muslim League and JI, have gathered across Pakistan in Peshawar’s Ring Road. Imran Khan is leading the protest and previously stated that the blockade would not end until the US stops drone strikes.

Addressing hundreds of emotionally charged youths and tribal elders in the provincial capital of the troubled Khyber province, Khan said, “Drone attacks kill innocent people including women and children and are carried out with the government’s complicity.” PTI activists were seen carrying placards and raising slogans against the government and the US with equal force.

A parliamentary resolution against drone strikes, Khan stated, had recommended remedial measures in case the CIA continued predator strikes in tribal areas. Instead of implementing the resolution, he added, “Our politicians condemn drone strikes in public statements but seek their (US) support to remain in power in private meetings with American officials.” Khan said the government did not want to stop drone strikes fearing a suspension of monetary aid. “Government officials do not hesitate to mortgage the country’s sovereignty and integrity for the sake of dollars.”

The PTI chairman demanded an end to drones in Pakistan as it was counterproductive and had failed to eliminate terrorists. “Innocent people have also been killed in drone strikes.” Issues can be resolved through negotiations, he added. Khan stated that the current Pakistani civilian government was loyal to his American masters since he came to power through the National Reconciliation Ordinance, which had been brokered by the US.

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Addressing a protest rally in Peshawar, Khan insisted drone strikes must end

“Before the elections, we promised to bring peace to the country. But without drones being stopped, peace cannot be attained.” He added. “For the first time in the history of Pakistan, a democratic government along with all other parties had agreed that the time for war has ended, and it is time for dialogue,” said Khan.

Khan also accused the US of sabotaging peace talks with the Taliban by killing terrorist chief Hakimullah Mehsud, wanted by the FBI with a 5 million bounty. The lives of the people of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa are at stake, Khan said, adding that his PTI party would issue the names and photographs of the deceased killed in Thursday’s drone attack in Hangu, which killed six students and teachers in a religious school.

He further said that despite Wednesday’s statement from Sartaj Aziz, the premier’s adviser on national security and foreign affairs, Washington would not carry out any drone strikes inside Pakistan during its talks with the Taliban. However the attacks were still happening and therefore diminishing the already bleak chances of arriving at a peaceful resolution with the militants.

Imran Khan’s PTI-led Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KP) government ordered the call for a sit-in. The provincial Khyber Pukhtunkhwa cabinet on Friday also expressed concern over Thursday’s drone strike in Hangu and decided to hold demonstrations and rallies outside UN offices, the US Consulate and the Parliament House buildings.

Protest rallies outside the US Embassy and UN mission in Islamabad have also been planned in the coming days, noted Shah Farman, spokesman for the provincial government.

Kiyya Baloch reported live from Peshawar.

Kiyya Qadir Baloch is a freelance Baloch journalist associated with the Daily Times based in Islamabad. He reports on foreign affairs, Baloch insurgency, militancy and sectarian violence in Balochistan. Read other articles by Kiyya.

  • Abu Al-Nahyan

    Raining drones on innocents is a civil and human crime US government must review its policies. We want to know the views of people from that province. Can Sharnoff share an article about public stance on drones.

  • Humaid Khan

    Imran is himself is a US spy, taking dollars from them. we’re well award about this man.