Islamabad: A large number of tribesmen on Sunday
rallied in Pakistan`s volatile North Waziristan tribal region
demanding an immediate halt to the US drone strikes, the
second such protest in the region in three days.
Today`s rally in Mir Ali, a key town in the region,
coincided with two drone strikes in Datta Khel area of North
Waziristan that killed seven people.
Over 2,000 tribesmen had joined a rally in Miranshah, the
headquarters of North Waziristan tribal agency, on Friday.
The first drone strike today targeted a vehicle carrying
suspected militants at Doga Madakhel village, killing four
persons. Three more persons were killed in the second strike
that targeted a motorcycle, local media reported.
Local residents said tribesmen in Mir Ali closed all
markets and transport stayed off the roads to protest against
the drone strikes.
The tribesmen marched through the town and shouted
anti-US slogans as they demanded an immediate halt to the
attacks by unmanned spy planes.
Speakers, including clerics, tribal elders, traders and
students leaders, condemned the drone strikes, claiming that
innocent people were being killed.
Abdul Hakim, chief of the Traders Action Committee of Mir
Ali Bazar, told the rally that the drone strikes have made
people "physiologically sick as everyone is in a state of fear
when drones are seen flying over the area."
Students’ Council leader Abul Rauf said people could not
go to mosques and funerals due to the fear of drone strikes as
"the Americans do not spare public places."
Other speakers lashed out at the Pakistan government for
its perceived weaknesses and failure to adopt a firm stand on
The US has significantly stepped up drone strikes in the
region since last year. American officials say the region is a
launching pad for cross-border attacks into Afghanistan.
However, tribesmen claim that innocent people are being
targeted by US drones.
The US considers North Waziristan a safe haven for
Taliban and al Qaeda elements, including commanders Hafiz Gul
Bahadur and Mulla Nazir, who are fighting US and NATO in
The Haqqani network, which is also fighting US forces in
Afghanistan, is based in the region, US officials say. The
network is run by Sirajuddin Haqqani, the son of commander
Several high-profile militant leaders, including
Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan chief Baitullah Mehsud, have been
killed in drone attacks in the tribal belt.
Pakistan publicly criticises US drone attacks as a
violation of its sovereignty though analysts believe the two
countries have a tacit understanding on the issue and share
intelligence for the strikes.