Imran Khan’s article in The News
Thursday, October 04, 2012

When I first floated the idea of the Peace March to Waziristan, there were many sceptics who were apprehensive as to its impact. But, within a very short span of time, I have been amazed at the increase in support that the idea has generated.

There are now tens of thousands of ardent supporters who want to be part of this peace odyssey to protest against a kind of barbarity that has no parallel in the international domain encompassing moral, legal and human benchmarks.

The drone strikes reflect an arrogant mindset that does not distinguish between the guilty and the innocent, between the perpetrator and the afflicted, and between the criminal and the aggrieved. Banishing all trappings of justice, this mindset is criminally oblivious to the sufferings of the peace-loving civilians of the tribal areas.

The strikes leave behind a trail of dead women, dead children and dead old people with no one held accountable. The remote-controlled flying machines are programmed to decimate them all brutally and indiscriminately.

What a shame that a country that was known for its pioneering values and its unparalleled commitment to human freedoms should stoop low to annihilate all symbols of civilised coexistence and, in the process, violate the inherent need for establishing a paradigm whereby one could go after the guilty without making the innocent suffer.

Instead of winning over the hearts and minds of the inhabitants, the US is out to drive fear in every soul that walks the earth and to make people live in awe of the mammoth killing machines that it commands. The strategy is totally counter-productive and, being a warrior race, the people of the tribal areas only end up joining the militants.

A recently-released report by the researchers at the New York University School of Law and Stanford University Law School, titled “Living under Drones: Death, Injury and Trauma to Civilians from US Drone Practices in Pakistan,” states that “the people in the areas targeted by the drone campaign are being systematically terrorised.

It is a campaign of terror-highly effective terror.” The report goes on to say that “the drone campaign terrorises men, women and children” and that “even funerals of drone victims have been targeted.” Forty Maliks holding a jirga were burned in an indiscriminate attack.

Old people and young children have been equally traumatised as a consequence of the inhuman drone campaign which has “discouraged average civilians from coming to one another’s rescue and even inhibited the provision of emergency medical assistance from humanitarian workers.” Along with so many other luminaries around the world, former US president Jimmy Carter has condemned Obama’s drone policy.

Another reprehensible factor is the complicity of the government of Pakistan in these barbaric attacks, of which there are cognisable indications. According to Wikileaks, former prime minister Gilani approved the US drone strikes saying: “I don’t care if they do it as long as they get the right people. We’ll protest in the National Assembly and then ignore it.”

President Zardari went even further by saying that he did not care about the “collateral damage.” Admiral Mullen, while testifying before a Senate hearing committee headed by Sen Levin, confirmed that the government of Pakistan was on board regarding the drone attacks. The government has failed in its principal responsibility to safeguard the lives and properties of its citizens as enshrined in Article 4 of the Constitution, as well as Pakistan’s security and sovereignty.

Over forty thousand citizens have been sacrificed because the government sold its soul to forces that facilitated its advent into power in Pakistan. Thanks to the ongoing military operation, most of the schools in Waziristan remain closed, depriving a generation of children of the avenues of education.

The road to peace in this part of the world goes through restive Waziristan. In spite of rendering countless sacrifices in the face of indiscriminate and barbaric drone strikes, their resolve remains paramount. While they continue to seek peace, they are not willing to compromise their honour and self-respect, no matter how daunting the challenges that they may have to confront.

The PTI’s Peace March to Waziristan is an effort to recognise the resolve of the people of the area and initiate an international drive to make the dream of peace possible.

Alongside hundreds of thousands of other people, we are joined in this endeavour by the leading human rights activists of the US, including Clive Stafford Smith from Reprieve, former US envoy Mary Ann Wright from Code Pink and Leah Bolger from Veterans for Peace.

They’ll all meet the affectees of the drone campaign and the tribal leaders of Waziristan and see first-hand the kind of trauma and terror that this inhuman campaign has unleashed. This Peace March will also reiterate the resolve that there is no submitting before the barrel of the gun.

At a different level, the PTI’s Peace March is also an effort to end the alienation of the people of Waziristan who have been unjustly bracketed with the bands of extremists.

The true face of their inheritance and the proud traditions that they are the custodians of should be brought forth to the notice of the people of the world so that they could together pursue the dream of peace with honour. This will happen once we disengage from this so-called “war on terror.”

That’s when Pakistan will no longer be perceived as fighting the US war and the local militants will stop thinking of the conflict as a jihad against foreign intervention. Peace will come when the tribal people, in the hundreds and thousands, move over to our side and then proceed to take care of a few thousand militants.

The drone strikes constitute a flawed policy which has only increased anti-US feelings and extremism in Pakistan. The US has tried to subjugate the proud people of the area by using all its killer machines, but has failed. That’s why it is now contemplating withdrawal from Afghanistan by 2014.

I believe that the date should be advanced substantially so that the US is able to avoid leaving behind an unmistakable trail of animosity that may continue to haunt it for generations.

The PTI Peace March will provide the US a chance to change course that will not only benefit the people of the area, but also the US in nullifying considerably the hate-filled legacy that it has nurtured for over a decade of inhuman presence here.

Together, let’s all give peace a chance – a genuine chance!