I wouldn’t shed a tear.
ISLAMABAD (AP) — A group of American anti-war activists are in Pakistan to join a march into the country’s tribal belt to protest U.S. drone strikes in the rugged northwest territory. Their presence has energized organizers behind the protest but also added to concerns that Islamist militants will target the weekend event.
The two-day march — in reality a long convoy — is to be led by Imran Khan, the former cricket star-turned-politician who has become a top critic of the American drone strikes in Pakistan.
It is to start Saturday in Islamabad and end in a town in South Waziristan, a tribal region that has been a major focus of drone strikes as well as the scene of a Pakistani army offensive against militants.
The American activists — around three dozen representatives of the U.S.-based activist group CODEPINK — along with Clive Stafford Smith, founder of the London-based legal advocacy organization Reprieve, want to march with Khan and publicize the plight of communities affected by the U.S. drones.
Ahead of the march, local media carried reports Friday of alleged suicide bombings planned against the demonstration and a pamphlet distributed in a town along the march route warned participants they would face danger. The main Pakistani Taliban faction issued a statement criticizing the event.
The foreign activists, meanwhile, met with relatives of people said to have been killed in drone attacks. The group also marched in the capital’s Jinnah Supermarket, chanting “Stop, stop drone attacks!” and singing “We are marching to Waziristan.”
Ahsanullah Ahsan, the spokesman for the main Pakistani Taliban faction, issued a statement Friday calling Khan, the ex-cricket star, a “slave of the West” and saying that the militants “don’t need any sympathy” from such “a secular and liberal person.”
Ahsan refused to reveal anything about the militants’ plans regarding the march, but added: “Imran Khan’s so-called Peace March is not in sympathy for drone-hit Muslims. Instead, it’s an attempt by him to increase his political stature.”
The local newspapers carried short items referring to an Interior Ministry warning that several suicide bombers planned to attack the march. Separately, pamphlets signed by a group calling itself the Army of the Caliphate were distributed in Tank, a town just outside South Waziristan. The fliers criticized Khan as an “agent of America, Israel and Jews.”