Thousands protest drone strikes in Pakistan

Last Updated: Saturday, January 5, 2013 - 18:29

Islamabad: Thousands of Pakistani tribesmen Saturday joined a protest against US drone strikes in South Waziristan tribal region, two days after pro-government Taliban commander Mullah Nazir was killed by a CIA-operated spy plane.
The tribesmen took to the streets in South Waziristan Agency and shut all markets in Wana, the main town in the region.
The protestors condemned the drone strike that killed Mullah Nazir and a dozen of his fighters, tribesmen said on phone from Wana.

Nazir, a senior leader of the Ahmedzai Wazir tribe, had finalised a peace deal with Pakistani security forces in 2007.

He was considered to be among the "good" Taliban as he preferred attacking US and allied forces in Afghanistan instead of Pakistani troops.

The warlord was killed with his deputy in the drone strike in Angoor Adda area of South Waziristan, which borders Afghanistan, on Thursday.

A second drone strike in North Waziristan on the same day killed three more Taliban fighters.

Today`s protest was organised by the Ahmadzai Wazir tribe and the tribesmen shouted slogans like "Death to America".

They criticised the Pakistan government and claimed that some officials were creating law and order problems in South Waziristan.

The protestors demanded that the Pakistan government should take a tough stand against US drone strikes in Waziristan, journalists and local residents said.
The tribesmen claimed the CIA-operated spy planes were killing "innocent civilians".

A large number of people travelled from Wana to Azam Warsak, some eight kilometres away, in a motorcade of hundreds of vehicles and staged a demonstration there.

They waved black flags as a sign of protest against the US. Tribal elders and religious scholars paid tribute to Nazir and said he had established peace in areas under his influence.

The American act of killing Nazir was "cruel", tribal elders Shereen Jan and Malik Dost Muhammad said.

Commander Bahawal Khan alias Salahuddin Turabi, who once fought in Jammu and Kashmir, has been appointed the new commander of Nazir`s group.

Pakistan publicly opposes US drone strikes and describes them as counter-productive and a violation of the country`s sovereignty.

Foreign Office spokesman Moazzam Khan yesterday said, "We
strongly condemn these attacks. We find them totally unacceptable, unproductive and illegal. They are a violation of our territorial integrity."

He said that the issue has been a consistent topic of discussions between the two sides, adding that Pakistan has taken up this issue with the US authorities at every level.

"They (Americans) also understand our concerns, and we are quite hopeful that we will be able to resolve this issue bilaterally," he said.

Despite Pakistan`s protests, the US has continued its drone campaign in the tribal belt as it views these attacks as an effective tool to eliminate Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives.

Washington described the death of Nazir as a major development.

PTI



First Published: Saturday, January 5, 2013 - 18:29

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