PTI rallies to Waziristan amid 'threats and ban'
06 October, 2012
LAHORE/PESHAWAR: The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) is all set to begin its "peace march" to Waziristan today (Saturday) amid the shadow of threats by the Taliban and denial of permission for the march by the South Waziristan Agency, where it is to culminate.
The march will begin in Lahore from where two caravans of the PTI will leave for Waziristan. Around 300 workers affiliated with the party's youth and student wings have been assigned the task of providing protection to the participants of the peace march. According to the PTI media coordinator, party's head Imran Khan will join the convoy near Chakwal, at Balkaysar Motorway Interchange. He (Imran) will come there at the head of a separate caravan from Islamabad, which will include some foreign delegates.
From Lahore, the first caravan comprised of 100 vehicles, led by PTI Lahore President Mian Mehmoodur Rasheed, will leave for Waziristan at 8am from the party's Jail Road office, while the other (second) caravan will begin its journey from Model Town office at 8:30pm. It will be led by PTI Punjab President Ahsan Rasheed.
About the route of the "peace march", the PTI coordinator said that the caravan led by Imran Khan would travel through Miawali and Dera Ismail Khan and enter into Waziristan where the locals would provide security to the participants of the march. Imran Khan had announced in a recent press conference that all key tribes in South Waziristan appreciated the peace march and Mehsud and other key tribes have assured security to the participants.
He also said that the final destination of peace march was changed from North to South Waziristan due to security reasons. He had also claimed that the Taliban and the military had no objection over the march, only the government was worried and creating hurdles. He said President Zardari should be held responsible if any untoward incident occurs during the march. Meanwhile, Khyber Pakhtunkhwa's Senior Minister Bashir Bilour termed Imran Khan's planned visit to Waziristan a drama, and has claimed that was heading to the war-torn area on the direction of some secret force.
The local administration of the South Waziristan Agency, citing security reasons, has refused to permit the PTI lead the peace-march to Kotkai area of the conflict-hit region. The political administration argues that conditions in Waziristan are not favourable nor is the administration capable of providing security to about 100,000 participants of the rally in Kotkai.
However, a grand tribal jirga on Friday announced to provide security for the peace march. The jirga meeting took place at Tank Town Hall and was attended by elders of Mehsud and Barki tribes. Representatives of all tribal agencies were also present in the meeting.
The PTI chief plans to lead the rally from Islamabad to South Waziristan to protest against US drone strikes in the tribal regions. Imran has said if the authorities intervened, the rally would be held wherever it was stopped. Opposition to the drone campaign has become a central plank of PTI s policy as the country gears up for a general election, which are due within six months.
Meanwhile, while terming the march to South Waziristan "a mere drama", the Taliban has asked the PTI against going ahead with it and warned of consequences if it did. According to media reports, the Taliban distributed a pamphlet in Tank, the gateway to South Waziristan, and called Imran Khan an agent of the US, Britain and Israel and alleged that the cricketer-turned-politician was politicising the issue and had no sympathy for the poor tribesmen. Interestingly, the pamphlet has been issued by an unknown Taliban group, Jaish-ul-Mujahedeen-al-Khilafat.
The one-page pamphlet, written in Urdu, was distributed in Tank Bazaar on Thursday night. It read, "We inform all and sundry with humble way that Imran Khan/PTI is taking a rally into South Waziristan with a slogan of anti-drone. (He has no sympathy with the tribesmen), actually it is a drama and he is the agent of Israel, US and Britain. On the politics of drones he is promoting the Jewish and agendas of Christianity (in Pakistan)." The pamphlet further stated, "We humbly request the people not to participate in this rally otherwise Imran Khan would be responsible if something unpleasant happens."