ISLAMABAD, Aug 9: Brushing aside a reported threat by the Taliban to kill its chief Imran Khan, the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaaf announced on Thursday that it was determined to go ahead with its planned peace march to Miramshah in North Waziristan to protest against US drone attacks.
Regardless of the authenticity of the threat, the PTI would go ahead with its planned peace rally, said the cricketer-turned-politician in a statement while commenting on the reports which quoted a TTP spokesman that Mr Khan would be attacked by suicide bombers if he tried to enter the area.
“This rally will demonstrate solidarity with the people of Waziristan whose life has been turned into a living hell by repeated drone attacks,” he said.
Referring to the alleged TTP threat, he said: “A man of faith does not fear death.”
About the charge of his being a liberal, Mr Khan said: “Only God understands what is in a person’s heart and such labels are meaningless.
“It would be an honour to give the ultimate sacrifice of one’s life to protest American lack of care for the innocent men, women and children of Waziristan who have died in thousands by American drone attacks.”
He said this was a march that would project to the world the hardship of the ordinary people of the region who had been caught in a brutal and senseless conflict. “No real or imagined threats would, therefore, diminish the resolve of the party to lead a peace rally to Waziristan,” Mr Khan added.
Meanwhile, talking to reporters at an Iftar-dinner, Interior Minister Rehman Malik said on Thursday that the government would provide security to Imran Khan during his visit to Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
He urged the Taliban to join the mainstream and work for the welfare of the country.
In a related development, TTP spokesman Ahsanullah Ahsan has denied The Associated Press report that his organisation would kill Imran Khan if holds the demonstration he has planned for September. But he said the Pakistani Taliban considered Imran Khan to be an ‘infidel’ because he described himself as a ‘liberal’.
“Taliban leaders will hold a meeting to decide if they will allow Imran Khan to protest against drone attacks in their tribal stronghold,” he said. The TTP spokesman also condemned the AP reporter for ‘misquoting’ him.
The AP’s Wednesday report had quoted Ahsan as saying “If he (Imran Khan) comes our suicide bombers will target him” and “we will kill him”.
AP adds: The Pakistani Taliban leadership council “will decide what to do a week before his arrival and will announce it”, Ahsan told the AP by email. “It’s sure and clear that we don’t have any sympathy with Imran Khan, neither do we need his sympathy, as he himself claims to be a liberal, and we see liberals as infidels.”
Mr Khan has described himself as a liberal in various TV interviews, but he has also made clear that he is a practising Muslim – a distinction the Taliban seemed to ignore.
His detractors have criticised him for not being tough enough on the Pakistani Taliban, and have even nicknamed him ‘Taliban Khan’ because of his views and his cozy ties with conservative religious elements who could help him attract rightwing voters in the upcoming national elections.