Imran Khan hails commitment of youth at Tank rally
TANK: Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf’s Chief Imran Khan addressed crowds gathered in Tank on Sunday after being disallowed by authorities from entering South Waziristan.
The PTI leadership decided to hold a public meeting in “Jahaz Ground” in Tank instead of KotKai, Dawn.com reporter, Sajjad Haider, who is travelling with the convoy quoted the PTI official sources as stating.
Critcising the US policy to carry drone attacks in different areas of Pakistan, Khan said that the US administration “tells American people one thing and Pakistanis the other.”
Adding that, he asked “Are these people (civilian drone victims) not humans?”
“Who are these ‘nameless’ people who are killed in the name of collateral damage,” he further inquired.
He said that the present government and President Asif Ali Zardari had shown no resistance to the US pertaining to the drone attacks. He said “America is not God, Allah is God.”
Imran Khan said that he could see the commitment of the youngsters of this country. They came all the way to Tank and were ready to go to Waziristan, he added.
The PTI chief said that people, including Sindhis, Punjabis, Muslims, Hindus and also foreigners, had gathered here together. He said that his party was a national party.
“When these youngsters can go to Waziristan, wait until they march to Islamabad,” Khan stated.
Speaking over the development of the tribal areas, Khan said “if PTI comes to power it would abolish the Frontier Crimes Regulation (FCR) system from the tribal areas and would allocate budgets for education, health care and transform this place.”
He said that he wanted to end the speech here but a ‘Maulana’ (Maulana Fazlur Rehman) was stuck in his head. Some people in the crowd shouted ‘diesel… diesel”. Referring to Fazlur Rehman’s constituency in D.I. Khan, the PTI Chairman said “when we were young there were some people who neither played nor let anyone else played… If you don’t want to serve the people at least let us serve them.”
The PTI’s convoy left D.I.Khan Sunday morning and was expected to reach Kotkai area of South Waziristan after travelling through Tank.
Thousands of supporters had turned out along the route to cheer on the convoy, which stretches about 15 kilometers including accompanying media.
Some of those packed into the vehicles waved flags for Khan’s political group and chanted: “We want peace.”
A large number of local and international media persons were accompanying the convoy. Musician and PTI member Salman Ahmed was also present in the convoy.
President of the PTI youth wing, philanthropist and pop singer Abrar-ul-Haq was also present at the occasion and while talking to the media, said that the people of Waziristan had suffered a lot at the hands of the drone attacks and that his party was showing solidarity with the victims.
The convoy entered Tank and was en route but was stopped near Manjhikhel checkpost on Tank Road. The participants of the march removed the containers on their own as the convoy proceeded ahead towards its destination.
Earlier, the administration had stopped the convoy near the Mehram Sultan area as well but then later allowed the convoy to march ahead.
The administration had taken stringent security measures and imposed curfew deploying a large number of policemen and Frontier Corps (FC) personnel in the area.
Earlier on Saturday, Tank district’s PTI chief Ayoub Bittini told Dawn that the administration was pressing his party to terminate the march at Manjhikhel.
The government had decided to provide security to the march until its stay in Tank. The administration has already placed containers there to block the marchers from proceeding ahead on the pretext of inability to provide security any further.
But PTI Chief Imran Khan was adamant that the march would reach its destination at for Kotkai, South Waziristan.
The political administration of South Waziristan banned all political activity in the agency whereas the PTI chief had also said that confrontation would be avoided.
Earlier on Saturday, when the convoy reached D.I. Khan, for an overnight stay, which lies on the border of the province with the tribal region of South Waziristan, several hundred locals gathered to cheer on the cricketer-turned-politician.
The PTI chairman earlier on Sunday urged activists to remain peaceful and to eschew confrontation with the authorities.
“We are already successful in our mission,” he told the crowd. “Your voice has reached the world over.”
Medea Benjamin, leader of a delegation from the US peace group CodePink, apologised for the drone attacks, saying: “We are so grateful that you understand there are Americans in solidarity with you and against our government policy.”
However, the US peace campaigners left the convoy before it reached Tank with their spokeswoman saying they felt they had achieved their goals.
There were some 15,000 people in the streets of Tank to greet Khan.
Clive Stafford Smith, the British head of the legal lobby group Reprieve, said that whether or not the group reached its intended destination was irrelevant.
“It’s already a wonderful success,” he told reporters. “It doesn’t matter what happens from here on. We’ve generated a huge amount of publicity not just in Pakistan but across the world.”
Militants have killed thousands of people in Pakistan since 2007, and US officials say the drone strikes are a key weapon in the war on terror.
Dawn.com’s Sajjad Haider, who is travelling with the march, contributed to reporting.