U.S. diplomats have reportedly shown a U.S. anti-war group, who are intending to attend a rally in South Waziristan, that there is a threat assessment which claims that they are in danger if they attend the event.
The Americans, many of them members of the anti-war group Code Pink, will be part of a march from Islamabad into South Waziristan from the capital Islamabad. The Tehreek-e Taliban have disavowed any endorsement of the march. The same group also announced that they opposed the rally seeing it as simply an attempt by Imran Khan, the main organizer of the march, to advance his own political agenda. That statement did not contain any threats against the event. However, other sources do report threats and these were no doubt picked up by U.S. officials. A group of Americans had met earlier with Acting Ambassador Hoagland to present him a petition against drone attacks as reported in Digital Journal.
Imran Khan's political party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf organized the rally. The march hopes to hold a large protest inside South Waziristan. Khan has been a consistent critic of U.S. policy in Afghanistan, especially drone attacks, and he has also advocated negotiations with the Pakistan Taliban, but this does not seem to have dampened criticism of him by militants.
Virtually no westerners go into South Waziristan, especially women. Much of the tribal area is beyond the control of the Pakistani government, although Kolkai, the town where the march intends to end, is under government control. The march organizers are not certain that the army, which controls the area, will let them through to Kolkai.
The Code Pink members held a small demonstration in Islamabad. Paki Wieland, 69, of Northampton, Mass, explained why she would ignore the U.S. warning and continue on the march:“The people of Waziristan are threatened every day by drones. They live in a constant state of anxiety and terror." Ali McCracken, 23, a full time activist with Code Pink, said:
"We are here to expose the false narrative that there are no civilian casualties from the drones. We believe that people are innocent until proven guilty.”
Reportedly, the Pakistani Interior Ministry warned of a possible terrorist attack against the rally. The Ministry also said that it would not allow the rally to enter South Waziristan even though elders in the region promised to provide protection. Imran Khan has said that he expects that up to 100,000 people could join the march and rally. No doubt the rally may face some danger not just from militants, but from other political opponents of Khan, as well as those who simply want to vent their anger against Americans, in spite of the fact that both these Americans and Pakistanis oppose the drone attacks and U.S. policy.
UPDATE: The Pakistan Taliban have now reversed their position. A spokesperson said:"We are ready to provide them security if they need. We endorses Imran Khan's plea that drone strikes are against our sovereignty... The anti-drone rallies should have been taken out by the religious leaders long ago but Imran had taken the lead and we wouldn't harm him or his followers."
However the government refuses to let the group enter Waziristan.
This opinion article was written by an independent writer. The opinions and views expressed herein are those of the author and are not necessarily intended to reflect those of DigitalJournal.com