A primary stated objective of the peace march that Imran Khan led from Islamabad to the border regions of South Waziristan over the last two days was global media attention to the harm that the CIA’s drone program is doing in Pakistan’s tribal areas. Drones are not only illegal and contrary to principles of fundamental human rights, they have caused hundreds of civilian deaths and are the source of daily terror for the populations of the tribal areas as they hover overhead, twenty four hours a day, seven days a week, for the last several years.
While there can be many criticisms of the march and many aspersions can be, and have been, cast on Imran Khan’s motivations for embarking upon this remarkable journey, one thing is certain: global media sat up and paid attention.
Here are extracts from some of the coverage that major newspapers and other news outlets from across the world gave to the event:
UK & Europe
The Telegraph, UK – Imran Khan’s anti-drone protest falls short of destination
Clive Stafford Smith, of the death penalty campaign group Reprieve, said the obstructions illustrated the opposition of Pakistan’s government to peace efforts. “I am 100% happy to go into Waziristan,” he said. “I don’t really appreciate Big Brother telling me I can’t do it.”
Channel 4, UK – Imran Khan’s drone convoy blocked by Pakistan – [VIDEO]
Party activist Bashir Ahmad said: “Imran Khan’s vehicle was leading a motorcade of peace march towards his last destination, Kotkai in South Waziristan, after crossing over several barricades set up by the government to stop them from proceeding towards Waziristan. The security forces took him into custody and later freed and returned all participants of the peace march to Tank.”
BBC News, UK – Imran Khan’s Pakistan drone march stops at tribal belt – [VIDEO]
Before his convoy left Dera Ismail Khan, he told supporters they had already achieved their aim. “The whole world has heard your voice,” he said. “A majority of people in the world as well as international newspapers have condemned the drone attacks. The message that our government and our rulers could not get to the world, has now been spread worldwide.”
Deutsche Welle, Germany – Anti-drone protest stopped outside Pakistani tribal belt
Army troops posted at the border eventually told the protesters that they could not enter South Waziristan due to safety concerns. “Police delayed us for four hours so it was getting late and dark,” Shafqat Mehmood, a spokesman for Khan’s Movement for Justice Party (PTI), told Agence France-Presse. “The army told us not to go into Waziristan because lives could be in danger. We had already made our point to the international media,” Mehmood added. “Globally, our message was conveyed, so we should not go ahead and put lives at risk.”
The Washington Post, USA – Imran Khan and Codepink are blocked from Pakistan’s tribal area
It was remarkable that Khan, a candidate for prime minister, even got past Tank, the last major town before the border of South Waziristan. Since 2009, when the army launched major operations against the Pakistani Taliban and other factions, access to the semiautonomous tribal areas has been strictly controlled by the military. By late Saturday, when the Codepink delegates finally reached a large farm belonging to a regional party official, they were mobbed by an admiring Pakistani media and given a hero’s welcome by hundreds of the candidate’s fans.
The New York Times, USA – Drone Protest Takes Detour for Safety
Mr. Khan’s rally in Tank was notable in that no other political party has managed to hold such a large event so close to the restive tribal region. When Mr. Khan introduced the American activists, the crowd responded by chanting “Welcome, welcome.” Medea Benjamin, a co-founder of Codepink, said, “We are here to say from the bottoms of our hearts that we are sorry for the actions of our government.” Other American activists at the rally condemned the drone strikes as inhumane and illegal.
ABC News, USA – Khan hails success of anti-drone protest march
The Pakistan military’s move to stop the protest prompted allegations the government was ambivalent about US actions. Pakistan’s military and the civilian government publicly complain that the strikes – aimed at remnants of Al Qaeda and the Taliban – infringe the country’s sovereignty and cause civilian casualties. Yet the government has taken little concrete action against the strikes. Human Rights groups say the drones kill large numbers of civilians as well as militants. The United States says the strikes have killed top Taliban and Al Qaida commanders and civilian casualties are minimal. But it refuses to say how targets are selected or how the military determines whether the dead were fighters or civilians.
CNN International, USA – Anti-drone peace march halted in Pakistan
The U.S.-based anti-war group Code Pink was part of the procession. Throughout the journey the pink-clad peace activists regularly chanted anti-drone slogans in Pakistan’s native language of Urdu. “Stop them! Stop them! Stop the drone attacks,” the protesters shouted in Urdu.
The Star, Malaysia – Pakistan halts drone protest led by ex-cricketer Imran Khan
“The drones are inhumane,” Khan said, donning a white turban as he stood on a vehicle in the town of Tank, surrounded by thousands of protesters. “Are these people not humans? These humans have names. Drone attacks are a violation of human rights,” he said.
The Sydney Morning Herald, Australia – Imran Khan’s anti-drone march faces blockade
Pakistanis in small towns and villages along the roughly 400-kilometre route warmly welcomed the 150-plus vehicle convoy. Footage broadcast on Pakistani TV showed people showering rose petals on the motorcade.
The Australian, Australia – Imran Khan praises anti-drone protest
Imran Khan has declared his much-publicised peace march against US drone strikes a triumph despite authorities foiling his attempt to lead a convoy of more than 100 cars into Pakistan’s South Waziristan tribal belt.
Bangkok Post, Thailand – Imran Khan leads US drone protest in Pakistan
Khan, a vocal critic of the US-led war on terror who is campaigning ahead of a general election next year, says he wants to show the world the damage inflicted on innocent people by the drone campaign. “The collateral damage — people’s women and children getting killed have created militants and multiplied militants,” he said. He plans to travel with 30 American anti-drone campaigners from the group Code Pink and the British head of legal lobby organisation Reprieve, Clive Stafford Smith.
South Asia & the Middle East
The Hindu, India – Imran’s anti-drone march cut short
From the morning, as they set off from D. I. Khan, PTI leaders had been accusing the government of delaying their movement with roadblocks so that it would be impossible to get into the tribal agency well in time to leave before nightfall. In a tweet, Mr. Khan said: “Police hurdles delayed us for three hours but still made it to the border of Waziristan in a 15 mile long convoy of vehicles.”
IBN Live, India – Pakistan halts Imran Khan’s anti-drone rally
A huge anti-drone rally led by former cricketer Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party was on Sunday barred from entering South Waziristan, where it was to culminate in a large public meeting. They were stopped at Manzai, close to the tribal area by the local administration, as their cars did not have proper documents required to enter the region. The rally reached Manzai after removing freight containers placed by the authorities at various places on the route to stop them from reaching South Waziristan.
Gulf News – Mission has been successful, Imran says
Imran asked the Pakistan government to give up its policy of saying one thing to the Americans behind closed doors and another to its own countrymen — a reference to US media reports that the drone strikes had tacit approval of Islamabad, a claim strongly denied by government leaders.
Khaleej Times – Rally fails to reach tribal area
Khan lauded the courage and determination of the participants in the march despite warnings and threats. He said President Asif and opposition leader Nawaz Sharif dared not come to the tribal belt. “They can appear on Google only and not Waziristan,” he remarked.