In Pakistan, Drone Protest Takes Detour for Safety

Imran Khan speaking in the Pakistani town of Tank on Sunday during a rally against American drone strikes.The demonstration was originally intended for the tribal town of Kotkai.   A Majeed/Agence France-Presse — Getty Images

By SALMAN MASOOD, New York Times,  October 7, 2012
TANK, Pakistan — Imran Khan, a cricket star turned opposition politician, abandoned plans to hold a much-heralded rally against American drone strikes at a village deep inside Pakistan’s tribal belt on Sunday after the Pakistani military warned him of “imminent danger” if he went ahead with the event.

Instead, Mr. Khan led a motorcade that included thousands of supporters and a contingent of American peace activists to the edge of the South Waziristan tribal agency, then returned to the town of Tank, 11 miles away, where he held his rally.

Mr. Khan’s supporters said their “peace march” offered a new focus for Pakistani anger over the Obama administration’s controversial drone campaign in Pakistan’s border areas, which has killed up to 3,300 people, including as many as 880 civilians, since 2004, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism in London, which tracks drone strikes. Critics derided the event as little more than a political stunt that capitalized on widespread anti-Americanism in Pakistan and was intended to lift Mr. Khan’s wavering political fortunes.

Mr. Khan declared the rally a success despite the fact that it could not be held in South Waziristan, saying it highlighted the deaths of innocent civilians. “The response has been overwhelming,” he said in an interview. Continue reading