Islamabad: Authorities in northwest Pakistan warned that cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan’s march against the US drone campaign could be targeted by suicide bombers even as a faction of the local Taliban expressed its opposition to the rally today.
Militant groups have reportedly sent nine suicide bombers to the area around Kotkai village in South Waziristan tribal region, where the march by the Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf party will conclude on October 7. These bombers could target those participating in the rally, government sources were quoted as saying by Geo News channel.
In a related development, an offshoot of the Pakistani Taliban today distributed a pamphlet in South Waziristan that warned Khan against organising the anti-drone rally in the region.
The Jaish-ul-Mujahideen al-Khilafat distributed the pamphlet in Urdu in the market of Tank town, which serves as the gateway to South Waziristan Agency, Newsweek Pakistan reported on its website. The pamphlet threatened those participating in the rally with “unpleasant” consequences. “We inform all and sundry that Imran Khan and the Pakistani Tehrik-e-Insaf is leading a protest rally into South Waziristan against drone strikes… He (Khan) has no sympathy with tribesmen and is merely staging a drama. He is an agent of Israel, the US and Britain,” the pamphlet said.
It further claimed Khan was promoting Jewish and Christian propaganda through “the politics of drones.” It said: “We humbly request people not to participate in this rally otherwise, if something unpleasant happens and property and human losses are inflicted, Imran Khan will be responsible both in this world and also in hereafter.” Khan told a news conference in Islamabad yesterday that the march to South Waziristan would begin on October 6 despite security fears and doubts over whether the authorities would allow him to travel to the tribal belt.
However, he did suggest that the main gathering would take place wherever authorities intervened and stopped the rally – even if that was before the slated destination: Kotkai in South Waziristan. Several commentators have questioned Khan’s decision to march to South Waziristan and not to North Waziristan, which has witnessed more US drone strikes and is described as a stronghold of Taliban and Al Qaeda elements.
South Waziristan has been relatively peaceful since the army conducted a major offensive against the Taliban in the region in 2009.