Although Pakistan and the US appear to have chosen to largely ignore the damage and death being wrought by the pilotless drone, a uniquely 21st century weapon, on Saturday, a former cricket star turned activist will lead a march in protest of the killing strikes.
Pakistan is an Islamic state, with a modern government and a modern constitution. Its original constitution was adopted in 1956, and has undergone significant change, but since 1985 has been the basis for a government with a bicameral 100-member senate and a 342-member national assembly. The president of Pakistan is the head of state and commander-in-chief of the armed forces. The president, currently Asif Ali Zardari, is elected by an electoral college. The prime minister of Pakistan is usually the leader of the largest party in the national assembly. Pakistan, a member of several world bodies including the UN, is very much involved in the ongoing war on terrorism, much of which is focused on its neighbor, Afghanistan.
Pakistan has a long history of turbulence and warfare with India; the countries share a common border. In 1998, India tested five nuclear weapons; Pakistan, in spite of some attempts at regulation by the United States, detonated six nuclear weapons and is now a nuclear state.
This weekend may mark a turning point for the government of Pakistan. President Asif Ali Zardari has criticized the use of drones by the US. These drones have caused numerous civilian deaths. One agency, the London-based nonprofit Bureau of Investigative Journalism, has estimated that between 2500 and 3500 deaths have been caused by the pilotless aircraft; 500 to 900 of them civilians. Pakistani President Zardari calls the drone strikes “counterproductive —a violation of the national sovereignty.” But he has done nothing to stop them, and many Pakistanis now believe his do-nothing posture amounts to tacit consent.
On Saturday, hundreds of political activists, including a number of Americans, led by Imran Khan, a former cricket player, began a march to demand an end to the drone strikes. “These strikes kill the innocent; … they breed militancy.” The peace convoy is hoping to enter the South Waziristan town of Kotkai, home of Hakimullah Mehsud, leader of the Pakistani Taliban. Mehsud is believed to be hiding in North Waziristan. The group hopes to reach their destination by Sunday, noon, but it is feared that the 200-plus vehicles will be prevented from entering South Waziristan by civil and military authorities who cite security issues.
The Taliban considers Khan a secular politician; they have threatened the motorcade. They distributed pamphlets on Saturday, warning of raids, and possible suicide attacks.
Photo: UK Telegraph