In an interview with BBC News this week, Pakistani politician Imran Khan stated that if he were elected as Prime Minister in elections next year, he would opt to shoot down US drones that invade Pakistan, should the US and the international community continue to ignore pleas to stop the fatal strikes in the region.
Khan told BBC that US drone strikes are counterproductive because they have resulted in thousands of civilian deaths, cause great hardship in the country and drive up anti-US sentiment and militant recruitment.
The "vast majority of people killed are civilians or very low level militants," Khan continued.
Khan went on to criticize the "duplicity" of the Pakistani government, who publicly condemns drone attacks, but covertly gives the US approval for the strikes.
Khan emphasized that military action would not be the first step. First, he said, his government would engage in dialogue with the US to attempt to convince them to end the attacks. Second he would protest the attacks at the UN. Should those actions fail, he would then strike down US drones that enter the country thereafter.
Imran Khan, the former Pakistani national cricket captain and now head of the political party Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), known as a leading critic of US policies in the country, has organized a mass anti-drone march to take place this weekend. Khan has said he expects up to 100,000 to join the march, which will be led into South Waziristan, an area heavily bombarded with US drones.
Ignoring a travel warning issued by the U.S. State Department for Pakistan, a delegation of US activists and parents of U.S. Army soldiers traveled to Islamabad this week, where they plan to join the October 6 and 7th march and rally.
"People are taking great risks to come here," said Medea Benjamin, co-director of CODEPINK, the anti-war group that has lead the US delegation to the protests. Speaking to the importance of US citizens taking part in the march, Benjamin stated, "It shows the depth of conviction that we have to say that 'I don't want my government killing innocent people in my name and I'm going to put my body on the line to try to stop it.'"
"A lot of anti-Americanism is actually created due to the drone war," fellow activist Chelsea Faria told NBC News. "It's making us a lot less safe."
San Francisco-based Dianne Budd said, since talking to people on the ground in Pakistan, the group has learned that people were being forced to spend "24/7 under the threat at any moment of death by drones." She added: "It's almost trivial what we're doing, compared to how they're living."
On Wednesday and Thursday the delegation met with drone victims and have planned more meetings for Friday, ahead of the weekend's actions.
* * *
* * *
CODEPINK met with members of PTI at their headquarters for a press conference this week. Medea Benjamin and Fauzia Kasuri say, "We will not raise our children to kill other people's children!" in an act of peace and solidarity with women from Pakistan and the United States:
# # #