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US Delegation's Message of Peace Received Warmly in Pakistan

• www.commondreams.org
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - Many Americans have an image of Pakistan and its people as "teeming with anti-Americanism." Americans see images on TV of angry Pakistani demonstrators burning American flags. Indeed, polls say three of four Pakistanis view the United States as an enemy.

But in the last week, we and thirty other Americans have been blessed with an experience few Americans have shared, seeing a more hopeful side of the relationship of the people of Pakistan to Americans. For the last week in Pakistan's capital, Islamabad, and then in the nation’s tribal areas, our delegation that came to Pakistan to protest U.S. drones has been showered with tremendous hospitality, warmth and friendship.

The tribal area our peace delegation visited last weekend borders Waziristan, which since 2004 has been continuously hit with U.S. drone strikes. According to The Bureau of Investigative Journalism, between 2,500 and 3,200 people have been killed in these drone strikes. A recent report from Stanford and NYU law schools noted that only 2 percent of these deaths were "high-level" targets. The rest were civilians, including women and children, and low-level fighters.

Moreover, as the report highlighted, in addition to those who have been killed and injured, the entire population of Waziristan, especially children,have been terrorized by the drones that have been constantly circling overhead, 24 hours a day, because people don't know who is going to be targeted or when the drones might strike. “The drones have changed our way of life,” we were told by Karim Khan, a Waziri who lost his son and brother to a drone strike. “People are now afraid to attend community meetings, funerals or weddings; some are even afraid to send their children to school.”

Pakistanis we met in the tribal areas last weekend are largely people who haven’t seen Americans in 10 years, since the start of the "global war on terror." This is both because the Pakistan government doesn’t allow foreigners into the region and because of the fear Americans have of the "lawless" tribal areas. The State Department travel advisory says that due to security concerns, the U.S. government restricts travel by U.S. officials in the areas we visited this weekend.

 

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