Observers
 
Thousands of Pakistanis took part in a “peace march”  over the weekend to Waziristan, the mountainous region of northwest Pakistan where the United States regularly sends drones to kill terrorists. While the police made them turn back, they got close enough to meet many people affected by these strikes. One of the protesters told us what he learned.
 
The two-day “march” from Islamabad to the Waziristan border was led by Imran Khan, a former cricket star turned politician. Accompanying the Pakistani protesters were American citizens from the nonprofit Code Pink and British citizens from the nonprofit Reprieve. The procession of cars, which reportedly grew from hundreds to thousands along the way, was repeatedly delayed by roadblocks set up by the police and the army, until the authorities finally told Khan that they had to turn back due to fears for the protesters’ security. Many commentators in the Pakistani press viewed this “march” as much as a publicity opportunity for Khan as a protest against drone strikes. Khan's party, Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), is hoping to win big in the upcoming legislative elections. 
 
Protesters on the road to Waziristan.
 
The US drone program in Pakistan began in 2004, under former president George W. Bush, and was then ramped up under President Barack Obama. While the US government says it only targets high-level terrorists, Pakistani news organisations regularly report civilian deaths. Meanwhile, a recent report by scholars from Stanford and New York Universities claims that only 2% of those killed are high-level terrorists. The Bureau of Investigative Journalism estimates that between 474 and 884 civilians have been killed by drones since the start of the program, including more than 170 children. These estimates are based on news reports from both Pakistani and foreign media.

“One victim asked, ‘I have nothing to do with terrorism; can America explain why they chose me?’”

Oiwas Khan, 30, is an entrepreneur who lives in Islamabad. He took part in the peace march.
 
When we reached the city of Tank, near South Waziristan, we met quite a few people who had fled from this region due to violence there. They came from different tribes. They spent the evening with us, showing us pictures of loved ones they’ve lost and telling us their stories. One had lost his son, who was hit by a drone as he was walking home from school. He said 15 other people died in that attack. Another told us of children studying in school, when a drone hit the building and killed them. And they were not studying how to make bombs! One man I met, who was elderly, had lost his leg in a drone attack. He asked the Americans travelling with us, ‘I have nothing to do with terrorism; can America explain why they chose me?’ Yet the locals thanked the Americans, and those from the United Kingdom as well, for coming so far to meet them.
 
These people were quite friendly, but also very angry. I believe that drone attacks do nothing but incite hatred of the West in the hearts of Pakistanis.  When innocent peoples' families are killed, of course some of them will be tempted to get revenge against those responsible.
 
“Our country not longer has sovereignty”
 
Our government is letting the US attack its own people with drones, and that’s shameful. It means our country no longer has sovereignty. We need a brave new government to stop this madness. And we need citizens of the United States to ask their government to stop spending their taxes on the drone program, as I have no hope the US election will change anything – neither Barack Obama nor Mitt Romney have pledged to stop sending drones.
 
The solution is not to send troops to catch terrorists instead of drones – the United States knows that the tribal areas would fight back, and this would result in another Afghanistan. So the only solution left is to start a dialogue.
American activists from the organisation Code Pink address protesters at a road-side rally. They are holding photos of children allegedly killed in drone attacks.