The anti-drone rally failed in all its verticals when Imran Khan took a sudden U-turn before his destination and about 15,000 (an estimated count by a group of journalists) in the rally followed suit. There were rumours of a ‘blast’ near the border of Kotkai and ‘serious threats made by the army’ to the top PTI leadership warning of serious repercussions, at which the convoy was successfully confused and disbursed. Only the leftover caravan blindfolded its way back into Tank to listen to a speech Mr Khan was originally supposed to make in Waziristan. After all that build-up and wrangling, the disappointment was hard-hitting. For the foreign journalists, who came especially to get an insight into Waziristan, it was annoying to be this close to Waziristan and not be able to cover news that otherwise won’t receive coverage.
The foreign activist group, Code Pink, which came all the way from the US and made waves in the press for ‘going to Waziristan’ in their anti-drone campaign, also went cold feet amid rumoured threats and separated from the rally much earlier, due to security concerns.
It was frustrating to lead thousands of supporters, American activists and foreign media with a promise of peace and then become scared by threats. I wonder if peace can ever be accomplished if it is intimidated by supposed violence. The abrupt change of plans occurred as if threats made earlier weren’t serious enough, when statements by groups like the TTP and the Jaishul Khilafa were made, way before the march started, or when the government warned of the dangers.
The warnings and the standard well-baked pretext of “we have already made it to Waziristan” largely indicates the disgusting and dangerous potential of the party to make such abortions in the future as well and get away with them. But that is not more important than the fact that peace was compromised for political agendas.
“We are here to be with Imran Khan” being the standard statement from these party members indicates the criticism of this being an opportunistic rally. It acutely depicts the fact that for most PTI supporters, the rally was not indeed about the ‘cause’ of drones, but to ‘support Imran’ in his goodwill. Quite thoroughly, it was as if Imran Khan is greater than the cause for peace in Waziristan, as if going to Waziristan for them is about winning a bet and not to highlight the obscenities of the drone war. As if it was not about calling for peace.
The motive of the rally seemed far from standing with drone victims and seeking global support for them and their rights and exposing their truth to the world. The speeches that Imran Khan gave during the rally largely orbited around the evils of US policies, the failures of a corrupt government and the lunacies of Fazlur Rahman.
While throwing garb on the government for not doing its job, the fact of the matter is that Mr Khan himself failed to deliver, without sufficient explanation or reasonable evidence.
The symbolism of standing with the victims of drones and to rally purely against drone strikes was utterly flushed by Imran Khan and popular activists, who promised to march for peace. On all its standing, this anti-drone rally lacked both devotion and delivery, while deep in the quarry, the victims still stand alone.
Considering a huge success of this rally was to make it amid threats, had this been successful, it would have lead the way to a new array of valid and potential discussions, including a compensation for drone victims, protection from drone victimisation and possible alternatives to deal with the war, beyond a single-pronged strategy. Quite ostensibly, the failure of this peace march will continue confident drone strikes uninterrupted and no one will get to see the real truth of the reality of the lives of the drone victims and locals who live there.
Published in The Express Tribune, October 9th, 2012.
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