Deadly drone raid sparks Pakistan protest

Hundreds gather in Peshawar to stage sit-in after drone attack kills at least 25 people in Hasan Khel.

    US drone attacks are increasingly becoming a source of anger among Pakistanis [EPA]

    Protesters angry over a US drone attack that left at least 25 people dead in Pakistan's tribal region of North Waziristan have begun a two-day sit-in near the city of Peshawar.

    Friday's attack by the unmanned fighter jet hit a compound in Hasan Khel and was the latest in a series of drone attacks to have targeted the region.

    The sit-in is being organised by opposition politician Imran Khan's Tehreek-e-Insaaf party, said Al Jazeera's correspondent in Peshawar, Kamal Hyder.

    According to the Pakistani media, the border region has been targeted by at least 20 US drone attacks this year. And since August 2008, there have been over 250 drone attacks that have reportedly killed more than 1,500 people in north and south Waziristan.

    Our correspondent said "hundreds of suppporters have already turned up early" for the protest.

    "Most of them are using the shade of any tree they can find, sitting there, waiting for Imran Khan who is said to be travelling in a convoy of several hundred vehicles ...," Hyder said.

    "Imran has invited all the opposition parties but not invited the ruling coalition - the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP), the Muttahia Quami Movement (MQM) and Awami National Party (ANP).

    "It is expected that thousands of supporters will gather here in Peshawar [and] by the time the sun goes down there will be a much larger crowd."

    The opposition, said our correspondent, have started a new strategy.

    "They're going to start blocking these roads to make sure that no NATO supplies get through - until the Americans categorically state that they will not violate Pakistan's sovereignty. That, of course, is the demand from the opposition and a large number of people in Pakistan."

    Army claims victory

    Meanwhile, Pakistan said on Saturday it had broken the back of anti-government fighters linked to al-Qaeda and the Taliban, according to the head of the military.

    In a speech on Saturday, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said the army had attained major gains in its campaign against the fighters.

    "In the war against terrorism, our officers and soldiers have made great sacrifices and have achieved tremendous success," he said in a speech to army cadets at Kakul military academy, north of Islamabad, broadcast by state television.

    "The terrorists' backbone has been broken and Inshallah [God willing] we will soon prevail."

    The Associated Press said it was unclear on what basis Kayani made his comments as Pakistan is routinely rocked by attacks by al-Qaeda and the Taliban, who hold sway in many tribal regions.

    Parvez's comments followed criticism from the United States that Pakistan was not doing enough to fight militancy. But in his speech Parvez did not allude to Washington, which said Islamabad lacked a robust plan to defeat the fighters.

    The US, struggling to put down a 10-year insurgency in Afghanistan, also said Pakistani intelligence agents were maintaining links with Afghan Taliban fighters.

    Admiral Mike Mullen, the chairman of the US military's joint chiefs of staff, told Pakistani media during a visit this week that continuing ties between agents of Pakistan's Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency and the Haqqani faction, one of the most brutal Afghan Taliban groups, was "at the core" of problems between the two countries.

    Despite the rising level of rhetoric, both sides have sought to mend their ties as both need each other for their own reasons.

    Relations between the two countries have been recently strained following the fatal shooting of two Pakistanis by Raymond Davis, a CIA contractor, in the city of Lahore in January. 


    SOURCE: Al Jazeera and agencies


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