PTI convoy reaches D.I. Khan; leaves for Waziristan Sunday morning | DAWN.COM
ISLAMABAD: A convoy of hundreds of vehicles carrying over 1,000 people who were participating in Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf’s (PTI) “peace march” to South Waziristan reached the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa town of Dera Ismail Khan late Saturday.
When the convoy reached the town, which lies on the border of the province with the tribal region of South Waziristan, several hundred locals gathered to cheer on the cricketer-turned-politician, DawnNews reported.
Following an overnight stay in D. I. Khan, the marchers will leave for the tribal region Sunday morning.
The convoy, which departed from Rawalpindi and Islamabad under Khan’s leadership, stopped at Mianwali for under an hour, where the PTI chief held a small address.
“PTI is not scared of anyone. The government tried to make this march unsuccessful but we are determined to bring peace to the country,” Khan said while addressing the convoy in Mianwali.
Khan reiterated his party’s stance against drone attacks, saying that drones kill the innocent and that he stands with the people of Waziristan.
“The people of the tribal regions have been facing difficulties for the last eight years,” he said.
Terming the march a “trailer for change,” Khan vowed to bring peace to the country.
Crowds lined the road to greet Khan, and scrums of media and well-wishers thronged his 4X4 as the convoy of more than 100 vehicles embarked on the 440-kilometre drive from Islamabad to South Waziristan.
But as Saturday wore on, it appeared increasingly unlikely the protesters would be allowed to reach their destination, considered a Taliban and Al-Qaeda stronghold, and often called the most dangerous place on earth.
The government says the Taliban plan to attack the rally, authorities told AFP it was not safe for Khan to enter the semi-autonomous tribal belt and television broadcast footage of shipping containers closing the road into South Waziristan.
“I condemn the hypocrisy of the government, who tried their best to make this march fail,” Khan told around 5,000 supporters at a brief halt.
“They are saying that Taliban have sent nine suicide attackers. If (President Asif Ali) Zardari sends even a 100 suicide attackers this march will not stop,” added Khan.
Former foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi, who defected from the main ruling party to PTI this year, insisted the march would not be a failure if the authorities stopped it from reaching Waziristan.
“The point is it’s symbolic,” he said.
“The government is saying we are against drones. The people are saying they are against drones. What are they afraid of? Why are they blocking us?”
Khan is accompanied by around 30 US campaigners from the group Code Pink and the British head of legal lobby organisation Reprieve, Clive Stafford Smith.