Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) now has additional fuel and anger for its looming protest following Thursday’s drone strike on a settled area of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa.
With the objective of taking a firm stand on choking Nato supplies – a move they believe will push the United States to halt drone strikes in the tribal areas of Pakistan – PTI Chairman Imran Khan called the people of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa to protest on Peshawar Ring Road tomorrow (Saturday).
“We have the legal right to halt Nato supplies now that a US drone has hit the settled district of Hangu,” Imran told a news conference. He added that this strike – the first outside the country’s volatile tribal regions since his party came into power – is a “decisive moment” for Pakistan.
“Nawaz should put his foot down on this issue by piling pressure on Washington to stop its notorious drone campaign against a friendly state,” he said.
Imran also questioned the prime minister’s stance on drones. “Nawaz Sharif must not play on both sides of the wicket,” he said, adding that the “dual policy of telling the US one thing and Pakistan another” must end.
He revealed that K-P Chief Minister Pervaiz Khattak has summoned an emergency meeting, where members will chalk out how to cope with US aggression in Pakistani territory. “I wish K-P had the power to order the shooting down of drones — if it [was] so, the Hangu strike would not have been conducted by US forces,” he said, adding that the federal government has the power to ask the army to target unmanned drones.
The K-P provincial cabinet will announce its strategy in response to this attack today (Friday), he revealed. Imran also promised to release names, video footage and pictures of those killed in the strike. “We will expose the lie that drones kill only ‘militants’,” he added.
He said that the K-P government plans to block Nato supplies until the US in writing assures that it will halt the drone campaign in Pakistan.
PTI to fly solo
The latest drone attack in Hangu may have lent much-needed impetus to PTI, but it cannot bring political parties on the same page.
The attack took place following Sartaj Aziz’s statement that America had assured Pakistan that drone strikes will not be carried out during peace talks.
“It [attack] has challenged Pakistan’s foreign policy,” said leader of the Opposition in the National Assembly Syed Khursheed Shah. “The Hangu attack has [actually] targeted Aziz,” Shah said in a sarcastic tone to refute the tall claims made by the advisor.
Imran’s announcement of blocking Nato supply routes is also being met with suspicion from political opponents.
“They are going to stage a sit-in as was done earlier but nothing is going to change,” said JUI-F spokesperson Jan Achakzai. Responding to a question of changing strategy and joining the PTI on November 23, he said it was not going to happen because, “They [PTI] are not going to block the Nato supply, had they been blocking it we might have joined them.”
ANP Senior Vice President Haji Adeel is skeptical of PTI’s attempts at a blockade. “I find it quite strange that the PTI is asking party workers to come for the protest demonstration instead of issuing an order to block the supply route,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, November 22nd, 2013.
Correction: An earlier version of this story mistakenly referred to Jan Achakzai as the JUI-F chief. The error is regretted.
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