After a long and arduous journey from Islamabad, defying threats and naysayers, a visibly exhausted Imran Khan mustered up the strength to address a gathering on the outskirts of Dera Ismail Khan, on Tank Road, on Saturday night.
Marking the end of the first phase of Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI)’s peace march, meant to be a protest rally against drone strikes, the party chairman stressed that drones kill innocents, and create militants.
He said the time had come to find a new path – a new way to win the battle against militancy.
Addressing quarters that were vehemently questioning the purpose of the march, he said the rally was being held to express solidarity with the tribal people who have suffered for so long because of a war that Imran said was not Pakistan’s.
He congratulated his party, participants and residents of the tribal areas - and buoyantly added that the entire country congratulated them, too, on getting this far in such large numbers.
He said that PTI wanted the media, both local and international, to meet the innocent people who had suffered because of the war on terror and drone strikes. He announced that Clive Smith had accompanied him on the march, introducing him as an international campaigner against the US drone campaign. He said he and Smith both believed that drones were a violation of human rights.
Imran reiterated his oft-repeated mantra that military operations and drones are not the solution; instead, he said, the authorities need to engage in talks and work towards settlements.
He said things cannot get better until Pakistan leaves the “United States’ war”; when this is done, he said, the war will automatically be won along with the help of the tribal people. On the journey ahead, he struck a cautious note – unlike his impromptu speech earlier at Mianwali, where he said that no one could stop the convoy from going to South Waziristan – Imran said they would try to make it to Kotkai and avoid any blockade.
However, he kept Sunday’s schedule open-ended, hinting that the convoy could turn back before its final destination. He stressed that this was a peace march, and no one should object to it – referring to the seeming unwillingness of authorities to let the rally all the way through to South Waziristan.
Imran then switched to English to address the foreign media, which was gathered around him – but conspicuously the microphones went off at this juncture, and the crowd could not hear what the PTI chairman was saying.
The site of the gathering where the PTI chairman spoke was marred by mass confusion, and the crowd was sparse, consisting mainly of party officials and media persons. There was nearly a stampede at the entrance, with participants of the convoy attempting to rush into the venue.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 7th, 2012.