Anti-Drone Rally Held Despite Military Blockade
Thousands of anti-drone protesters rallied in Pakistan Sunday, calling for an end to the deadly US strikes that have plagued the country with civilian causalities. As a large caravan and march lead by Pakistani politician Imran Khan headed for South Waziristan, site of countless drone attacks, Pakistan's military blocked roadways and access to the region, forcing the protesters to hold an impromptu rally outside of the tribal belt.
The large group of protesters from the United States, Pakistan and around the world had set off from Pakistan's Islamabad on Saturday heading for Kotkai in South Waziristan where the anti-drone rally was originally planned. Hundreds of vehicles formed the caravan that stretched up to nine miles.
On Sunday, however, the caravan was met outside of the region by the Pakistani military, who blocked the road with steel shipping containers and hundreds of police in riot gear.
After failed negotiations with government officials, Khan lead the group back to the city of Tank, about 15 kilometers (nine miles) away, where he delivered a speech to a crowd of 10,000.
"We want to give a message to America that the more you carry out drone attacks, the more people will hate you," Khan told the crowd.
"Are these people not humans? These humans have names. Drone attacks are a violation of human rights," he said.
Khan said the march was a success despite the Pakistan army's blockade, as it drew international attention to the plight of civilians around the world who suffer from the constant terror of drone strikes.
"We have taken the voice of the people of Waziristan to the world," he stated.
Over thirty American peace delegates representing the U.S. peace group CODEPINK accompanied Khan over the course of the week and the thousands of Pakistanis on the march and rally.
CODEPINK cofounder Medea Benjamin, delivered an apology for the "death and suffering caused by the drones," stating:
"We want you to know that these Americans you see here have been fighting for years against this drone policy, and will continue to do so until we put an end into to these barbaric attacks. We want to live in peace and harmony with our brothers and sisters in this region," she said to the crowd that chanted, "You are welcome! We want peace!"
According to CODEPINK, on the journey from Islamabad the caravan received "overwhelming support from Pakistanis who held processions along the route."
* * *
* * *
# # #