Imran Khan to lead anti-drone protest

Cricketer-turned politician joins two-day march to protest against US drone strikes in Pakistan's tribal regions.

    US has launched more than 300 drone strikes in Pakistan in the last eight years [GALLO/GETTY]
    US has launched more than 300 drone strikes in Pakistan in the last eight years [GALLO/GETTY]

    Imran Khan, former Pakistan cricket star-turned politician, is set to lead a two-day march with a group of American anti-war activists to protest against US drone strikes in the country’s tribal region bordering Afghanistan.

    The demonstration will commence on Saturday in the capital, Islamabad, and end in a town in South Waziristan province.

    The country's tribal belt has been under attack by US forces in their fight to root out the Taliban, as well as the scene of a Pakistani army offensive against armed groups.

    Khan has been a voiciferous critic of American drone strikes in Pakistan and has alleged that large numbers of innocent civilians and tribes living along the border have been killed.

    Around three dozen representatives of the US-based activist group CODEPINK, along with Clive Stafford Smith, founder of the London-based legal advocacy organisation, Reprieve, intend to march with Khan and publicise the plight of communities affected by the drone strikes.

    According to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, the US has launched more than 300 drone strikes in Pakistan in the last eight years, killing more than 2,500 people in North Waziristan alone.

    Some estimates say a quarter of those were civilians, including children.

    The American presence has buoyed organisers behind the protest but also added to concerns that Islamist militants will target the weekend event.

    Ahead of the march, local media carried reports of alleged suicide bombings planned against the demonstrations, and a pamphlet distributed in a town along the march route warned participants they would face danger.

    The main Pakistani Taliban faction has issued a statement criticising the event.

    The US rarely discusses the top-secret drone programme, but American officials have said the majority of those killed are Pakistani Taliban and al-Qaida fighters, and that the missiles used in the strikes are very precise.


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