Sunday, November 6, 2011

US drone strikes fail to mobilise Pakistan masses: When is it time to stand up to America?

Campaigners condemn US drone strikes in Pakistan as extra-judicial assassinations that kill hundreds of civilians, but popular protests against them are conspicuous by their rarity.

Opinion polls suggest barely nine per cent of the Pakistani public support the strikes, and anti-Americanism is rife in the country of 180 million people, a key ally of Washington in the war on terror.

Even so, rallies protesting the CIA-run operation against Taliban and al Qaeda allies in Pakistan’s tribal areas on the Afghan border are few and thinly attended.

The government says 30,000 people have been killed in attacks across Pakistan in the last decade – 10 times the 3,000 people who perished in the September 11, 2001 suicide hijackings in the United States.

Cricket hero turned politician Imran Khan, a staunch critic of US policy in Pakistan and the “hypocrite” government in Islamabad, led an anti-drone demonstration on Friday but only around 2,000 people joined him.

Earlier in the week, Khan was among the speakers at a press conference in Islamabad where lawyer Shahzad Akbar held up a piece of twisted, rusting metal.

“These are the remains of a drone missile fired in August 2010 in Datta Khel, North Waziristan,” he said.

“It killed the wife and two children of a local tribesman, Bismillah Khan. This proves the US wrong when they say no civilians are killed by their drones.”

Akbar is backed by British-based charity Reprieve, whose founder and director Clive Stafford Smith said drone strikes were “in violation of the laws of war and Pakistan sovereignty”. more