As anticipated, cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan had to cut short his peace march to South Waziristan after the Army warned him of “serious danger ahead”. Instead, he addressed his following at Tank before wrapping up his two-day anti-drone mobilisation campaign that has drawn him brickbats and bouquets alike.
Given the situation in the tribal areas, there was always a question mark on whether Mr. Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) would be allowed to go all the way into South Waziristan. The federal government and the political agent of the tribal agency had already advised him against entering S. Waziristan. Mr. Khan had shrugged these advisories as an attempt by his opponents to sabotage his peace initiative.
As the anti-drone bandwagon approached the border of South Waziristan from Dera Ismail Khan — pushing back shipping containers placed by the local administration as road blocks — Mr. Khan got an advisory from the Army. Admitting as much in a tweet, he said: “were told by the Army that serious danger ahead. Did not want to risk lives and turned back”.
His decision to heed advisory given by the Army while ignoring the same from the civilian administration drew instant criticism for giving supremacy to the military and thereby empowering an institution that has a reputation of undermining democracy in Pakistan. As it is, he had drawn flak for placing the onus of security for the march in the tribal agency on the civilian administration when it is no secret that the entire area is completely under military control.
From the morning, as they set off from D. I. Khan, PTI leaders had been accusing the government of delaying their movement with roadblocks so that it would be impossible to get into the tribal agency well in time to leave before nightfall. In a tweet, Mr. Khan said: “Police hurdles delayed us for three hours but still made it to the border of Waziristan in a 15 mile long convoy of vehicles.”
Though the march was cut short ahead of the no-go tribal area, Mr. Khan claimed that his initiative was a success as it had drawn attention to the CIA’s “illegal” drone campaign inside Pakistan. As proof of its success, the PTI flagged the amount of media coverage the peace march received both at home and abroad. While the “event” was the most talked about subject over the past week, the coverage was also packed with criticism of the PTI’s insistence on viewing terrorism as purely a fall-out of the U.S. war on terror and the drone campaign.