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Former Cricket Star Leads Pakistan Drone Protest


We spoke with Imran Khan, the leader of Pakistan's Justice Party yesterday. We contacted him at his home in Islamabad before he set off on his march to protest drone attacks. Mr. Khan, thank you very much for being with us.

IMRAN KHAN: My pleasure.

PHILIP REEVES, BYLINE: Why are you leading this march?

KHAN: Well, for two reasons. One, that this war has been going on for, in Pakistan for eight years. Across the border, it has been going on for 10 years. In other words, there is no result in sight. This could go on conceivably for another 10 years and the cost of this war is taking such a heavy toll economically for this poor country, but much more importantly, this war was supposed to be a war to end extremism.

There is more extremism and radicalization in Pakistan than ever in our history.

SIMON: Do you believe the drones are adding to that?

KHAN: Drones, along with the military operations by the Pakistan army. Number one, the drones cause anti-Americanism, which then feeds onto the militants. Secondly, the Pakistan army is perceived to be a collaborator of the Americans because the feeling is that these drone attacks they place with the complicity of the Pakistan government. What happens is that one, it stops the Pakistan army dealing with the militants because they're perceived to be collaborators. And secondly, the more anti-Americanism, the more it feeds into militants. So both ways, we Pakistani's suffer.

SIMON: Mr. Khan, what effect do you think drone strikes might be having on everyday life in South Waziristan?

KHAN: Imagine this has been going on day in, day out. The children are with the parents hearing these drones flying over. It's already been recorded the set of psychological problems children are having. Adults, too. When a drone explodes, sometimes you have these injured screaming and no one goes to rescue them because the rescuers are targeted.

SIMON: Mr. Khan, who is more to blame for the drone attacks, the U.S. government, which launches them on targets they are satisfied are legitimate militants and military targets, or the people in South Waziristan who are staging attacks on Afghanistan and elsewhere?

KHAN: Well, put it this way. Everyone is against terrorism. Surely, what the U.S. wants is that there should be no terrorism from Pakistani side. Now, the whole question is how do you stop this? The international media must meet the stakeholders, the local people of Waziristan and believe me, there are sick of this war. I mean, the people of Waziristan have suffered more than anyone. So what is the best way? They want peace. What is the best way to peace?

SIMON: Well, could you answer your own question? What would you do, sir?

KHAN: If I was - if our party came into power after the next elections, the first thing I would do is I would a cease-fire. I would speak to the U.S. and say that, look, this is a tried and failed strategy. You failed in Afghanistan. We have failed in Pakistan. We are not winning the war. All the Taliban have to do to win the war is not lose it. All they have to do is keep on going like this, which looks as if this will go on and on.

I would say, let me deal with it in our own way. We will try our best to insure that there is not terrorism from Pakistani soil. So therefore, I would stop the military operations, start negotiations. We know where most of our own tribal people who are only fighting either because of Pashtun nationalism, not because of collateral damage. And isolate the real terrorists. That's how I would win the war, by winning the people over to my side.

SIMON: Imran Khan, who's the founder of the PTI, Pakistan's Justice Party, speaking with us from Islamabad. Mr. Khan, thanks for all your time.

KHAN: Thank you. Transcript provided by NPR, Copyright NPR.