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Code Pink joins Pakistani political party in anti-drone protest

Some 30 men and women between the ages of 22 and 80 from the antiwar coalition Code Pink joined forces with Pakistani cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan and his party.

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With their coordinated colors, the delegation of Americans said they were ready to risk their lives for killings caused by their government, thousands of miles away from their homes in the United States.

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“I’m 71 years old [and] I’m ready to die for this cause," said Linda Welling, a member of Code Pink from Portland, Ore., leaning back in her seat in a bus plastered with pictures of children killed in American drone attacks.

“How is our government any better than the militants we battle?” asks Joan Nicholson, a 78-year-old member of Code Pink who was once arrested in Washington for shouting “We are a terrorist nation!”

No Entrance

The group stood out in the sea of red-and-green clad members of the PTI who moved in a pack of thousands along the 300-mile road from Islamabad to Dera Ismail Khan.

Many of the PTI members were young men, dancing the traditional attan from the rooftops of decorated trucks that joined the procession.

Pakistan’s liberal elite criticized the march as a publicity stunt put on by a political party prepared to compete for seats in the next parliamentary election in Pakistan. The local Express Tribune called the march “troubled.” Others criticized Khan for having a soft spot for the Taliban by opposing the drones. And some observers pointed out that Khan stayed clear of criticizing the Pakistan Army and the Taliban, both of whom have carried out numerous operations in the tribal agencies.

South Waziristan – the destination point that the march never reached – is known to be largely Army-controlled. But Khan stayed clear of criticizing the Pakistan Army or the Taliban, despite claims that the march was a call for peace. One local from South Waziristan who lives in neighboring Dera Ismail Khan as an internally displaced person says he was “not surprised” that the Army blocked their entrance. Another PTI activist says the Army was trying to cover up its own atrocities by stopping the rally from entering the area.

Though Code Pink could not join Khan at the final meeting, its spokesperson and coordinator Madea Benjamin felt that the members had “achieved their purpose.” And the rally was attended by other Westerners, like Lauren Booth, former British Prime Minister Tony Blair’s sister-in-law, and Clive Stafford Smith, an American-British lawyer and founder of Reprieve – an international legal aid agency supporting drone victims.

In the final hour of the two-day rally, Mr. Smith addressed thousands of Pakistanis. “I would like to apologize for what my government is doing to you,” he said to the cheering crowd.

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