Collateral damage: PTI supporters stage rally against drone strikes

Street politics, with the single objective of a change in government, is gaining currency which the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) capitalised on along with anti-US sentiments by making drone strikes in tribal areas the focal point of its anti-government rally in the capital on Friday.

Addressing several hundreds of emotionally charged youths and tribal elders in front of parliament house, PTI Chairman Imran Khan said, “Drone attacks kill innocent people including women and children and are carried out with the government’s complicity.” The rally started from China Chowk and culminated in front of parliament house which has become a speakers’ corner for protesters. PTI activists were seen carrying placards and raising slogans against the government and the US with equal force.

A parliamentary resolution against drone strikes, Imran Khan stated, had recommended remedial measures in case the CIA continued predator strikes in tribal areas. Instead of implementing the resolution, he said, “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 aid.”

The PTI chairman demanded an end to military operation in FATA as it was counterproductive and had failed to eliminate terrorists. “Innocent people have also been killed in military operations.” Issues can be resolved through negotiations, he added. He said President Asif Ali Zardari was loyal to his American masters since he came to power through the National Reconciliation Ordinance which had been brokered by the US.

Earlier, a Waziristan grand jirga passed a resolution against drone strikes and called upon Chief Justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry to conduct an independent inquiry to investigate facts and provide justice to victims’ families. The resolution said the state and its institutions have failed to enforce fundamental rights of citizens guaranteed in the constitution. Terming drone attacks a violation of Pakistani and international laws, the resolution requested UN secretary general and special rapporteur for extrajudicial, summary or arbitrary executions to intervene and stop murder of civilians in violation of the state’s sovereignty.

Imran Khan, Clive Smith, director Reprieve, a UK-based legal action NGO, former ambassador Ayaz Wazir, MNA Kamran Khan, tribal elders and members of victims’ families attended the jirga. The PTI is scheduled to hold a grand rally in Lahore on October 30.

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