In his latest attempt at drawing world attention to the drone attacks in Pakistan’s restive tribal areas, cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan started a peace march on Saturday for South Waziristan.
But the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan said that the march is a political gimmick and not a genuine protest against the drone attacks and that is why Khan and his marchers, who include peace activists from the UK and US, are not welcome.
By Saturday evening, the march had arrived at Deri Ismail Khan and supporters had swelled to thousands. Earlier at an impromptu speech in Mianwali, Khan’s ancestral hometown, he said that the government was trying to sabotage his rally.
This may be a challenge as the government has blocked the route of the rally at Tank, the border town through which one enters the tribal areas. Government officials said that the rally does not have permission to enter the tribal areas.
Earlier, as the vehicles started their journey from Islamabad towards Waziristan, most participants said that they did not expect the rally organised by Khan’s party, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf, to cross into Waziristan.
“It is a non-starter. There are is too much danger in this endeavour,” commented journalist Salim Saifi.
Khan has said he holds the government responsible for his safety. On Friday, he told a press conference that if anything happened to him or his party, “I will hold Asif Zardari personally responsible for this.”
Striking a firm note, he said: “I said I would hold a rally in Balochistan and I did. Now I will go to Waziristan.” And yet political opponents seem unanimous that Khan and his party are trying to hold the march “to keep themselves politically relevant.”
Rehman Khan of the Awami National Party said the PTI had compromised by announcing they would go to North Waziristan but changing it to South.