Pakistani ex-cricket star challenges U.S. on drone strikes
ISLAMABAD — For years, American officials have tried to persuade Pakistan's military chiefs and prime ministers to cooperate with U.S.-led war plans in neighboring Afghanistan.
But now it is a politician in a far-flung province who is standing in the way.
Angered by U.S. drone strikes, Imran Khan has effectively halted NATO convoys through northwest Pakistan, a vital crossing point for trucks carrying supplies to and from landlocked Afghanistan.
Khan, an Oxford University-educated millionaire and former cricket star, has no real power in the national government. But his party controls the local government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, through which NATO convoys must pass to reach the northern border crossing.
After drone strikes in Pakistan this fall, the 61-year-old politician called on his supporters to block the transit routes in protest. Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's government has appeared powerless to stop him.
With Sharif and Pakistan's military vowing that the supply routes must remain open, Khan's campaign is a remarkable show of defiance in a country that has been under military rule for more than half of its 67-year history.
A self-described liberal pacifist who became more attuned to his Muslim faith after his globe-trotting cricket career ended, Khan shows no sign of backing down.
He says that although drone strikes may be aimed at violent militants, many wind up killing innocent civilians and fuel terrorism by angering the local population.
“The reason we are taking this stand is to tell the U.S., ‘OK, it's fine to protect American lives, but how can you sacrifice a whole country for it?' ” Khan said in a recent interview at his mountaintop estate on the outskirts of Islamabad.
The attacks violate Pakistan's sovereignty, Khan says, and he notes that the Pakistani army is bearing the brunt of the retaliatory strikes from Islamist militants.
But Khan is drawing fierce criticism from some Pakistanis who accuse him of using the issue for political gain. Khan, a member of Parliament, unsuccessfully sought the prime minister's job in elections last year.
Riffat Hussain, a defense and political analyst in Islamabad, said Khan has become a “one-man show” who “has yet to mature into a statesman.”
“Many of us had hoped, now that elections are over, he would have focused on local issues, corruption, law and order, terrorism, but instead he is trying to play to the peanut gallery,” Hussain said.
Khan ended his two-decade-long cricket career in 1992, after leading Pakistan's national team to its only World Cup victory. He then became a philanthropist and founded his party, Tehreek-e-Insaf, or Movement for Justice.
Show commenting policy
TribLive commenting policy
You are solely responsible for your comments and by using TribLive.com you agree to our Terms of Service.
We moderate comments. Our goal is to provide substantive commentary for a general readership. By screening submissions, we provide a space where readers can share intelligent and informed commentary that enhances the quality of our news and information.
While most comments will be posted if they are on-topic and not abusive, moderating decisions are subjective. We will make them as carefully and consistently as we can. Because of the volume of reader comments, we cannot review individual moderation decisions with readers.
We value thoughtful comments representing a range of views that make their point quickly and politely. We make an effort to protect discussions from repeated comments either by the same reader or different readers.
We follow the same standards for taste as the daily newspaper. A few things we won't tolerate: personal attacks, obscenity, vulgarity, profanity (including expletives and letters followed by dashes), commercial promotion, impersonations, incoherence, proselytizing and SHOUTING. Don't include URLs to Web sites.
We do not edit comments. They are either approved or deleted. We reserve the right to edit a comment that is quoted or excerpted in an article. In this case, we may fix spelling and punctuation.
We welcome strong opinions and criticism of our work, but we don't want comments to become bogged down with discussions of our policies and we will moderate accordingly.
We appreciate it when readers and people quoted in articles or blog posts point out errors of fact or emphasis and will investigate all assertions. But these suggestions should be sent via e-mail. To avoid distracting other readers, we won't publish comments that suggest a correction. Instead, corrections will be made in a blog post or in an article.
- Officer killed in Ukraine clash with nationalist protesters
- Fake Pakistani IDs card found to be ally for terrorists
- Hungary stands firm, keeps migrants from trains
- China plans display of might with parade
- Temple in ancient Syrian city of Palmyra bombed by ISIS terrorists
- Professors slam Modi’s record
- Hungary bars migrants from trains, raising fears they’ll turn to smugglers
- Putin ventures under the sea to ship sunken off Crimean coast
- Islamic State kills Iraqi soldiers in 2 ambushes in Anbar province
- 200 feared dead in latest migrant disaster off Libya’s coast
- European Union struggles for answers as migrant influx raises tensions