Days after leading hundreds of peace activists to the door steps of drone afflicted South Waziristan, Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf (PTI) chairman said that shooting down drones attacking Pakistani areas would be an option of last resort, and that the key to peace in FATA lay with its armed tribal residents.
Speaking with Talat Hussain on Express News show “Live with Talat” on Tuesday evening, Khan said that the only way to bring peace to the troubled badlands of Pakistan was to visibly pull out of America’s war, call for an end to drone strikes and entrust the armed tribals to police their own areas.
Detailing that the objective of his march was to create peace by taking tribals on board. He stressed that true peace could only be achieved once the war of hearts and minds are won.
“War on terror was a war against extremism, but it has only served to intensify extremism,” he said.
The second objective of the march, Khan said, was to talk with tribals of agencies afflicted by drones and militancy. He said that there is a need to combat the perception that Pakistan is fighting America’s war which breeds hatred against the government. "You need to get out of Amercia's war, to remove the perception we are getting money from US, or take their orders, tell the tribals that the jihad has ended. Only then the local people will stand up against militants."
Offering a solution to militancy, he said “the only way is to give tribals the responsibility to deal with the militants, and then gradually withdraw our forces and exit US' war.”
Stopping drones critical
Khan had lead hundreds of people in a march to South Waziristan over the weekend. While the peaceful protesters were stopped from entering the troubled valley, Khan reiterated that drones presented the greatest obstacle in achieving peace.
“If drone attacks stop, we can say we are out of US war. Also when we say we have stopped taking US' money, we can tell local tribals to reclaim their land, and tell them that the Jihad has ended and the armed tribals numbering 0.8 -0.9 million can then slowly reclaim their land,” Khan argued.
However, when the host Talat Hussain argued that the US, nor the UN security council have listened to Pakistan government’s appeals and arguments of the drones being counterproductive, and in all likelihood are to continue the attacks despite what Islamabad says, Khan said they would exhaust all forums to argue against the drones before opting for a last resort action.
“We are starting an international petition which says drones are inhuman and violate human rights. We will go to New York and have a ‘Tsunami’ outside the UN. We will have American Pakistanis and US peace activists protesting drones and hand over the petition to the UN saying UN laws are being violated,” Khan said of his immediate plans to tackle drones.
“We will also try to get Angelina Jolie there too,” he said, before adding that his party, the PTI has also taken a legal recourse against drones by filing a suit with NGO Reprieveat.
With elections only five months away, Khan was asked what would he do against drones if he is voted into power, the cricketer-turned-politician said that "the day PTI comes into power, we will tell them [US] to stop drones, we are a sovereign, democratic country. Article 4 of the Constitution places responsibitly of Pakistan government that you cannot do anything to Pakistani citizens. You are making our war difficult for us. We take responsibility that there will be no terrorism from Pakistan, but you cannot dictate to us, nor will we take your money, but we will fight in our own way."
When pressed for a contingency plan of action, Khan said that they would adopt a step by step approach at convincing the US and the world at large to stop drones. “If they [US] do not agree, we will go to the UN and the Security Council and highlight that this is a violation of our sovereignty ... We will try to convince them logically that the drones are not providing a solution, instead are causing the disease to spread apart from being a violation of human rights, our air space and sovereignty and that it is not having the desired results.”
When Hussain further pressed that if in the event the international community does not display sympathy for Pakistan, what would Khan do?
“If that does not stop them, then Imran Khan will do what Imran Khan needs to do, I will order the PAF to shoot down the drones.”
When asked that the PTI chief was ready to plunge Pakistan into a war with the US and NATO, Khan said that he is "ready for war" but that he "would defend the people, defend them till the end."
"Shooting down drones will be a last resort, because I cannot allow our people to be killed," he added.
Condemns Malala attack, but not Taliban
Khan, whose less than critical view of Taliban has earned him the moniker 'Taliban Khan,' condemned the day-time attack on the teenage peace activist Malala Yousufzai in Swat.
However, when he was asked why did he not condemn the Taliban who had claimed responsibility for the attack, Khan defended his decision not to be so candid.
“We have local affiliates and supporters. Sure I can give big statements against the Taliban, but that would make them [supporters] Taliban targets," said the PTI chief.