Imran Khan leads protest against US drone strikes in Pakistan
Opposition politician Imran Khan led a protest Saturday against US drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal territory bordering Afghanistan.
Khan's party supporters and several Western anti-war activists plan to lead a procession into the South Waziristan tribal district nearly 325 kilometres from Islamabad.
"A huge welcome is awaiting us," the former cricket star said before a vehicle caravan began its two-day journey. "The government is making efforts to sabotage the march because it fears the support we will get from the people."
Khan said authorities had barred them from entering South Waziristan, and he pledged to stop if ordered to.
"We are not going for a fight, it's a peace march," he said.
But he urged the government to support the rally, describing it as an opportunity to let the world know of the collateral damage by the US drone war.
More than 200 local and foreign journalists were travelling with the demonstrators, who planned to camp in the north-western town of Dera Ismail Khan before attempting to cross into the Waziristan region Sunday morning.
The opposition leader also dismissed reported threats of suicide bombings and Taliban attacks, saying the local tribes had assured support for the peace march.
But Taliban spokesman Ihsanullah Ihsan issued a statement Friday condemning the rally plans.
"Imran Khan's so-called Peace March is not in sympathy of drone-hit Muslims, instead it is a try by him to increase his political stature."
The US routinely carries out missile strikes using pilotless aircraft against militant sanctuaries in the lawless tribal region, claiming they are bases for attacks on its troops in Afghanistan.
Pakistan officially condemns the drone attacks, describing them as a violation of sovereignty and main cause of growing anti-American sentiment in the country, which undermines the government.Author: Yasir Ali Mansuri