Despite warnings from the Taliban against a proposed public rally into North Waziristan to protest against drone strikes, the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf chief has vowed that it remains undeterred, and will follow through with its plan.
Responding to allegations, Khan said that no threats would stop his planned rally, before announcing they would be staging their protests in Waziristan on September 23.
The PTI announcement came even as the Taliban leaders clarified that they will hold a meeting to decide if they will allow PTI chairman Imran Khan to lead a protest against drone attacks in their tribal stronghold, an email to the The Express Tribune said on Thursday.
Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) spokesperson Ahsanullah Ahsan has denied reports that they will kill Khan if he arrives. However, Ahsan said that the Taliban see Khan as an “infidel” because he describes himself as a liberal.
"The TTP shura will decide what to do a week before his arrival and will announce it,” Ahsan said, adding that “it’s sure and clear that we don’t have any sympathy with Imran Khan, neither do we need his sympathy, as he himself claims to be a liberal, and we see liberals as infidels.”
Earlier, according to a report by Associate Press (AP), the Taliban had threatened to kill Khan if he holds the planned protest. Ahsan, however, said that the AP reporter had misquoted him.
“The reporter added the death threat himself, bypassing the norms of journalism; he tried to break a news story for his publicity and it shows his immorality,” the spokesperson stated, adding that the Taliban condemn such behaviour by media persons.
Khan has maintained that he is a liberal and a practicing Muslim. Some of his critics have nicknamed him “Taliban Khan” because of his views and ties with conservative religious parties, who could help him attract right-wing voters in the upcoming general elections.
Earlier in July, Khan had announced that he was planning to lead thousands of people in a march to Waziristan in September to protest against the strikes.
'Not afraid of threats'
The PTI vowed to travel to North Waziristan despite the threats from Taliban.
Dismissing the threats, PTI Secretary Information Shafqat Mehmood said that the PTI march to North Waziristan would take place in September “come what may”.
In a press statement, Mehmood said:, “Whatever the authenticity of the threat, the PTI is determined to go ahead with its planned peace rally to Miram Shah on September 23.”
When told of the alleged threat by the TTP, the PTI chairman said, “A man of faith does not fear death.”
On him being a liberal, Khan said that only God understands what’s in a person’s heart and such labels are meaningless. “It would be an honour to give the ultimate sacrifice of one’s life to protest American lack of care for the innocent men, women and children of Waziristan who have died in thousands by American drone attacks.”
Khan, in the statement, further said that this is a march that will project to the world the hardships of the ordinary people of the region who have been a caught in “a brutal and senseless conflict”.
“No real or imagined threats would therefore diminish the resolve of the party to lead a peace rally to Waziristan,” the statement said.
Imran to be protected if asked: Malik
Talking about the threats to Imran Khan for his intended public march into Waziristan later this year, Malik said that the had Taliban first threatened the PTI chief and then denied it.
He said Imran Khan will be provided security if asked. He also invited the Taliban to surrender and join the mainstream.