Pakistan blocks anti-drone protest from entering South Waziristan


Pakistani tribesmen hold banners as they march during a protest rally against US drone attacks, in Miranshah, the main town in North Waziristan district on January 21, 2011. Hundreds of Pakistani tribesmen paraded in the streets to demand an end to US drone attacks which they said were killing innocent people in the tribal areas, witnesses said. In 2010 the campaign doubled missile attacks in the tribal area with around 100 drone strikes killing more than 650 people, according to an AFP tally.



Pakistani authorities today used barbed wire moved shipping containers onto a South Waziristan highway in order to prevent a major anti-drone demonstration being led by former cricketer Iman Khan from entering the dangerous province, reported Reuters

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Pakistani military officials told protesters the area was not secure enough for their planned rally there, repeating earlier warnings that the area was too unsafe for the event, according to The LA Times. Security concerns had grown after at least 30 Americans decided to join the demonstration against the US drone policy in Pakistan. 

Khan, who 17 years ago founded his own political party, held the rally instead at a city not far from the border.

The decision to block the region from the protest comes from an administration that has been quite vocal in its opposition to the US drone attacks, at one point cutting off a major NATO supply point in Afghanistan to illustrate their disapproval.

Pakistan sees the strikes as a violation of its sovereignty, while Khan denounces them as a violation of human rights. 

"The drones are inhumane," Khan told thousands of protesters in the border town of Tank today, reported Reuters. "Are these people not humans? These humans have names. Drone attacks are a violation of human rights." 

Khan's anti-drone campaign has attracted international support but has been criticized by some as a thinly-veiled attempt to garner support for his planned 2013 presidential bid, said The LA Times.

The United States says the strikes are necessary to curb insurgent activity along the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, but continues to withhold information about the nature of the attacks or the possible number of victims. 

The Bureau of Investigative Journalism reported that US drone strikes in Pakistan are believed to have killed well over 1,000 Pakistanis, of which somewhere between 500 and 900 are believed to have been civilians, among them 176 children.