Former US ambassador and peace activist Ann Wright – who has arrived in Islamabad to participate in Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s peace march to Waziristan – urged Pakistanis to stand up against the government, maintaining that Americans do the same for themselves.
“The US president has a hit-list on his desk and he looks at it every day to know who will be killed in Pakistan. This is criminal,” said the outspoken former diplomat, who resigned from the US foreign office in 2003 following the Iraq invasion, during a press conference on Sunday.
“Our government tells us the US president is not killing Pakistanis, which is wrong. But we go to the places our government doesn’t want us to go to and see the things they don’t want us to see,” she said.
Wright is visiting the country along with a nine-member delegation called ‘Women for Peace’ despite a US State department travel advisory, warning US citizens against visiting Pakistan. “We as Americans stand up against our government and you [have to] stand up against yours.”
With PTI chief Imran Khan by their side, Wright and her peers sported banners announcing, ‘Americans against drones’. She added that “60 more peace loving Americans would join the South Waziristan rally.”
Calling for an immediate end to drone strikes, Wright said: “We are going to South Waziristan to witness the destruction and apologise for the killings. The US is violating the sovereignty of your country.”
She revealed that her group was carrying a petition signed by thousands of US citizens condemning drone strikes which would be presented to Charge d’affaires Ambassador Richard Hoagland at the US Embassy.
Also speaking on the occasion, Imran said, “These campaigners against the war on terror are here to raise their voice against atrocities. Anti-Americanism will reduce when people like them visit Pakistan.”
He criticised the government for employing “double standards” over drone strikes. “On the one hand, it condemns drones, while at the same time it did not issue visas to foreign journalists who wanted to cover PTI’s peace march.”
Khan stressed the march is symbolic and that they do not want to put their guests’ lives in danger by visiting North Waziristan, which is known as the bastion of the Taliban.
“Several tribes in North Waziristan welcomed our initiative and ensured their support, but they could not guarantee security due to some unidentified miscreants. Tribesmen of South Waziristan, however, have ensured us of security.”
He lashed out at the country’s leaders saying “not a single one has ever shown the courage to visit Waziristan and ours would be the first step towards peace.”
The PTI plans to march towards South Waziristan on October 6 with an estimated crowd of 100,000 people in a bid to sympathise with locals and hear their suggestions on how to deal with the militant insurgency.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 1st, 2012.