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Pakistan’s anti-drone campaigner Imran Khan removed from US airline for interrogation

Published time: October 28, 2012 01:36
Edited time: October 28, 2012 23:50

Pakistani politician Imran Khan (AFP Photo / A Majeed)

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US immigration authorities have taken Pakistan’s former cricket superstar-turned-politician Imran Khan off a flight to New York and interrogated. Khan is known for his anti-drone campaigning.

Khan, who is now a popular political figure in Pakistan and ahead of the Pakistan Movement for Justice party (PTI), was removed from an American Airlines flight heading from Canada to New York and interrogated. Immigration officials asked him whether he was planning to protest in the US, as well as demanding to know his views on drone strikes and jihad.

Earlier this month, the former cricket star led thousands of Pakistani protesters, together with some US anti-war advocates, on a march from Islamabad to the tribal region of South Waziristan in opposition to US drone strikes. About 15,000 of his supporters joined him in the high-profile march, which focused attention on the strikes that have killed large numbers of civilians. Islamabad recently said that 80 percent of drone-related deaths were civilians.

“I was taken off the plane and interrogated by US Immigration in Canada on my views on drones. My stance is known. Drone attacks must stop,” Khan wrote in a tweet after being questioned on Friday. Khan had been on his way to the US to give a speech and attend a fundraiser organized by his political party, which the delay caused him to miss.

“Missed flight and sad to miss the fundraising lunch in NY but nothing will change my stance,” he tweeted.

Furthermore, Khan said the official who was questioning him did not seem to understand drone warfare himself. He also expressed confusion over why he was granted a visa to visit the US given if his stance on drones was a problem.

Khan heads a political party that was founded in 1996 and ignored for years. The PTI was called “Pakistan’s one-man party” by the US Department of State. Today, it is rapidly growing, with electable officials joining. The Pakistani leader believes the War on Terror “has been devastating for Pakistan,” he said in an interview with Julian Assange in June.

“Basically, our army was killing our own people,” he said.

He is an avid opponent to US presence on Pakistani soil – even when it came down to the killing of Osama Bin Laden in May 2011. The US mission to kill the former terrorist leader in Pakistan shows that “our ally did not trust us,” the politician said.

Rather than employ Pakistan as “a hired gun, being paid to kill America’s enemies,” Khan believes the US should trust that there will not be terrorism coming out of Pakistan.

Several Canadian commentators have suggested that groups protesting Khan’s entrance to the US may have influenced Immigration to pull him off the flight. The American Islamic Leadership Coalition last week requested that Hilary Clinton attempt to revoke his visa due to what they believe are sympathetic views towards the Taliban.

“The US Embassy made a significant error in granting this Islamist leader a visa,” the group said in a statement reported by the Sun. “Granting individuals like Khan access to the US to fundraise is against the interest of the people of Pakistan and the national security interests of the US.”

Ali Zaidi, a senior PTI party leader, demanded an apology from the US government for removing Khan from the plane. So far, no apologies have been made, and Immigration officials have only restated their policies.

“Our dual mission is to facilitate travel in the United States while we secure our borders, our people, and our visitors from those that would do us harm like terrorists and terrorist weapons, criminals, and contraband,” Customs and Border Protection spokesperson Joanne Ferreira told the Toronto Sun.