Last weekend saw Imran Khan’s much-publicised march into Waziristan to protest against US drone strikes in the area. As the rally got underway, I wrote a piece for the New Statesman explaining the key issues surrounding the event. As I explained, it was never a certainty that the final destination of Kotkai would be reached:
Pakistan’s federally administered border areas have always been a lawless, tribal region. For years, access to the area has been restricted because of the complex war being fought between the Pakistani military and the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan. While this means that Khan’s decision to march through the area at all is a bold one, it has also meant wrangling over security and access with the military and the Taliban. Khan is optimistic, saying that the people of Waziristan will provide security.
But there is always the risk that Khasadars (tribal policemen) could refuse access to villages at the last minute: forced entry would be a PR disaster, so there’s a question mark over how far the convoy will get. Stopping along the road yesterday, Khan said: “We are not going to fight anyone in Waziristan. The basic aim is to bring peace in that area. If we are asked to halt, we will stop.” This was notably more cautious than an earlier impromptu address at Mianwali, when he said that nothing would stop them from reaching South Waziristan.
The march turned back later that day.
On Monday 8th October, I spoke to Monocle 24’s Globalist show (podcast here) about Imran Khan’s rise in popularity, the implications of the peace march, and public perception of it here in Pakistan. I’m on from about an hour in.