Imran Khan, Pakistan’s beloved cricket champion and leading opponent of US drone intervention, led the May 11 balloting in Peshawar and the Kyber Pakhtunkwha Province in Pakistan’s northwest, a region heavily targeted by US drone attacks. Khan, badly injured in a fall during the election’s height, is attempting to form a provincial government, following his PTI party’s winning of thirty seats in Pakistan’s parliament.
Khan’s campaign surged toward the end of the violence and corruption-marked election in which Nawaz Sharif became president. Khan’s base was among young educated Pakistanis of the Internet generation, and was propelled by popular hatred of the US drone war. Khan is positioned to be the leader of a new political generation and a formidable opponent of the drone attacks, now with a popular electoral mandate.
US drone strikes dropped to 13 during Pakistan’s election cycle, down from 46 last year, 64 in 2011 and 117 in 2010. A spokesman for Sharif’s party said, “if Obama has had a rethink [on drones], I think that’s a welcome step.” (Los Angeles Times, May 25, 2013)
Pakistan is crucial to any US effort at a political settlement in Afghanistan, and in a protected withdrawal of American troops and equipment by the end of 2014. It is highly unlikely that the Afghan Taliban will consent to a ceasefire or peace talks without the end of drone strikes in the Northwest region and release of several detainees held in Guantanamo.
Khan’s voice and movement will be important factors in any peace scenario. Khan welcomed a delegation of American activists, organized by Code Pink, to the Northwest region last year, and is a proponent of “citizen diplomacy” as a strand of conflict resolution.
For more details, please see Imran Khan interviewed by Robert Greenwald’s Brave New Foundation.