Politics of Waziristan March

Bilal Khan is a Lahore, Pakistan based entrepreneur, business consultant and a freelance writer. He can be contacted at bk[at]easternwanderer.com.

Bilal Khan

Pakistani cricketer turned politician, Imran Khan, and his political party Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf plans to march towards South Waziristan from Islamabad tomorrow the October 6th, 2012. Many foreigners, including members of the American anti-war group Code Pink as well as Cherie Blair‘s converted Muslim half sister Lauren Booth, will accompany thousands of Pakistanis from Islamabad to Kot Kai in South Waziristan where an anti-Drones procession will be held. 

While I am a committed supporter of the cause against lethal drone strikes, I am very weary of what Imran Khan is actually aiming at.  As I have pointed this out earlier that Imran Khan had strangely displayed a growing a soft corner for the super power since he has attained contender-to-the-throne status. He has only sufficed with giving shallow statements against American hegemony and dictation to Pakistan. It was only when Cameron Munter, the outgoing American ambassador, called him a pro-American politician that Khan denounced this “allegation” as this could seriously damage his political standing. It was only then that he decided that he needed to display “anger” on American power in the region and he announced a cause that he planned in last year but abandoned due to rising political popularity.

Imran Khan, and his party, draws large following from Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province and adjacent tribal areas largely because of his stance on drone attacks, American presence in the region, and the so-called war on terror. Many people believe that Imran Khan rose to prominence after the mammoth rally in Lahore on October 31, 2012, however it was Imran Khan’s sit-in against drone attacks earlier that year that helped him gain national significance. He was all of a sudden popular in the two provinces of the country. In a country where anti-Americanismhas become second nature in the general masses, Imran Khan being called a pro-American could devastate his just-started-to-shine political career.

mran Khan in Peshawar, Khyber Pukhtunkhwa, 2007

It is worth asking why Imran Khan kept ignoring his anti-drone campaign for over a year. Sources also tell that Imran Khan has been seeking assurances from the American embassy that the procession will not be droned before announcing the final date of the rally. Sources also tell that these assurances have only been provided for the party’s leadership as well as the foreigners especially Americans in the procession not for the general public. Imran Khan actually wanted to go to North Waziristan as it is the hot target for drones these days and showing political power there could score a lot of runs for the all rounder however no such assurances were provided for North Waziristan. It was then that Kot Kai, which is in close proximity to the settled area, was chosen for the close of the rally.

Pakistanis are largely anti-American, conservative voters and this vote bank has been traditionally divided into religious parties or parties with outward respect for the religion. If this vote bank is combined, the so-called leftist parties like Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) stand no where in the country. Imran Khan has both eyes fixed on that vote bank. All his intent is bent upon it and he has contemplated it successfully that any major chunk of that vote bank will sky rocket his political success.

Drone attacks are a matter of grave concern for every Pakistani who is deeply aggrieved by extra-judicial killing of his fellow countrymen. However, it is arguable what Imran Khan actually wants to achieve by showcasing his political power in a day long procession in Waziristan. If he actually wanted to build pressure on the US and Pakistani governments to stop this invasion, the right place to do it was the NATO supply line, the corridors of power in Islamabad who are secretly accomplice in the war against their own people, and the American diplomatic presence in the country.

While the cause is appreciable, Imran Khan’s motives remain elusive, and his methods remain objectionable, Pakistanis must remain on guard as they must not emotionally be fooled.