‘Stop the drones!’ Pakistanis and Western activists march against US strikes
Dozens of US and British anti-war protesters are joining a two-day march in Pakistan against US drone strikes on the country. The unmanned attacks result in only 2 per cent of top militants’ deaths, but lead to large number of civilian casualties.
Organized by politician and former cricket superstar Imran Khan, the rally starts in Islamabad and is to end in the tribal region of South Waziristan.
A group of US and British anti-war activists have already marched through the Pakistani capital, Islamabad, on Friday in protest against US drone strikes in the northwest territory.
They chanted “Stop, stop drone attacks!” and sang “We are marching to Waziristan.” One placard read “Drones fly, Children die.”
The Western activists, including the US-based peace and social justice movement CODEPINK and Clive Stafford Smith, founder of the London-based legal advocacy organization Reprieve, have also met with relatives of people said to have been killed in drone attacks.
“We have learned here from victims’ families how innocent people, children and women, are being killed. Enough is enough. We should stop these attacks,” AP quotes CODEPINK activist Linda Wenning as saying.
The two-day rally has been organized by Imran Khan, the sportsman-cum-politician who has become a top critic of American drone strikes in Pakistan, saying they have killed many innocent civilians.
“Drone strikes are a crime against humanity. The whole world will be told how drones are destructive and counterproductive through this march,” he said.
There were reports that the demonstration could be targeted by militants. Local newspapers published an Interior Ministry warning that several suicide bombers planned to attack the march.
“People are sincerely and emphatically advised to stay away from the public meeting, and anyone suffering any loss of life will himself be responsible in this world and in the world afterward,” said the warning.
Ahsanullah Ahsan, spokesman for the main Pakistani Taliban faction, made a statement on Friday calling Khan a “slave of the West” and saying that the militants “don’t need any sympathy” from such “a secular and liberal person.”
“Imran Khan’s so-called Peace March is not in sympathy for drone-hit Muslims. Instead, it’s an attempt by him to increase his political stature,” Ahsan stated.
Peace activists from the U.S. and supporters of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) march as they protest against the drone attacks in the Pakistani tribal region at Islamabad October 5, 2012. (Reuters/Mian Khursheed)
Tensions are running high between Pakistan and the US over the latter’s drone attacks on the majority-Islamic nation. Washington insists that its airstrikes, part of the US “War on Terror” campaign seeking to defeat Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants crossing the Afghanistan border, are very precise.
However the recent study at Stanford and New York University titled ‘Living Under Drones’ proves US drone strikes do little to make the US safer. The study claimed that only 2 per cent of drone strike casualties in Pakistan are top militants, and that the large number of resultant civilian deaths turn ordinary Pakistanis against the US.
The study also revealed that number of casualties among Pakistani civilians was far higher than the US acknowledged.
According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, from June 2004 till mid-September 2012, between 2,562 and 3,325 people were killed in drone strikes Pakistan, mostly in the North Waziristan region. Some 474 to 881 of those killed were civilians, including 176 children. Another 1,300 were wounded.