GURGAON, India: Pakistani cricketer turned politician Imran Khan said Wednesday he hoped President Barack Obama would “give peace a chance” and stop US drone attacks now he had been re-elected.
Khan, leader of the Pakistan Movement for Justice party (PTI), has campaigned for an end to US drone strikes against suspected Taleban and Al-Qaeda militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas, saying they result in civilian casualties.
“What Pakistan would be hoping for is a de-escalation of violence now in Afghanistan and the drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas,” he told reporters where he was attending the India World Economic Forum.
Khan said that Obama’s first term in office had been “very tough on Pakistan — an increase in drone attacks and a surge in Afghanistan and increased militancy in Pakistan as a result.”
“Now he (Obama) is no longer under the pressure to be re-elected we hope that he will give peace a chance which we so desperately need,” he said.
Khan argues that drone strikes are illegal and counterproductive and last month led thousands of supporters — and some US peace activists — on a march to the edge of Pakistan’s restive tribal districts to protest against them.
The Pakistani politician said he wanted Obama to call a cease-fire in Afghanistan, saying that if Americans do not “get it right it is conceivable that they will leave it in a bigger mess than they found it.”
The White House has said that Washington will gradually hand over security responsibility to the Afghans and eventually withdraw US troops. The US-led NATO force plans to pull out its 100,000 troops by the end of 2014.
Islamist militants have killed thousands of people in Pakistan since 2007, and US officials say the drone strikes are a key weapon in the war on terror.
But peace campaigners condemn them as a breach of international law. Pakistanis call them a violation of sovereignty that breeds extremism, and politicians including Khan say the government is complicit in killing its own people.
Casualty figures are difficult to obtain, but a report commissioned by legal lobby group Reprieve estimated last month that 474 to 881 civilians were among 2,562 to 3,325 people killed by drones in Pakistan between June 2004 and September 2012.