US anti-drone activists arrived in Islamabad on Wednesday, joining fellow human rights campaigners who plan to take part in a mass protest against US drone strikes in the region this weekend. The delegation met with victims of drone strikes and delivered petitions to the US embassy in Islamabad to demand an end to the indiscriminate killings.
Members of US activist group CODEPINK, among others, arrived ahead of the full delegation earlier this week to meet with anti-drone activists in Pakistan, think tanks, human rights organizations, and others ahead of the march. The group will march into the heart of the tribal areas of South Waziristan -- one of the main targets of US drone strikes in the country.
The mass protest has been organized by Imran Khan, head of Pakistan political party Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), who has estimated that hundreds of thousands of people will join the march and rally, taking place on October 6 and 7th.
"The response from Pakistanis has been overwhelmingly positive and welcoming, and many plan to join the CODEPINK contingent as it marches to South Waziristan to protest US drone strikes on October 7th," CODEPINK stated today.
"We are already receiving an outpouring of support from Pakistani people who are heartened to learn that there are Americans with a conscience who are willing to come all the way to Pakistan to show solidarity and apologize for the drone strikes that have brought so much death and destruction to the impoverished people of north Pakistan," said CODEPINK cofounder and delegation leader Medea Benjamin.
The full delegation of US activists met today with two of the victims of the first drone strike to be conducted by the Obama administration on January 23, 2009, a strike that killed nine civilians.
The delegation then delivered a petition, signed by tens of thousands of Americans opposing US drones, to US Embassy officials.
Additionally, the activists delivered a letter, organized by the group Just Foreign Policy, to the US embassy, signed by twenty-six leading US authors and activists including Alice Walker, Noam Chomsky, Glenn Greenwald, and Danny Glover, calling upon US authorities to end US drone strikes in Pakistan.
In meetings with US Ambassador to Pakistan Richard Hoagland, Robert Naiman of Just Foreign Policy challenged Hoagland "to respond to reports that CIA drone strikes in Pakistan have targeted civilian rescuers, and assertions by international law experts that such targeting is clearly a war crime under international humanitarian law."
The Ambassador denied such allegations and refused to commit to an end to the strikes in the region.