(First Published On Personal Blog 11/10/2012)
This week has been one of the most frustrating of recent times. I was denied a visa to travel to Pakistan to film footage of a peace march for a documentary on drones called “The Approximate Target” with my colleague French Algerian director Yacine Helali. My thoughts on drones and reasons for refusal are documented in the following article in the Lahore Times http://www.lhrtimes.com/2012/10/01/im-facing-visa-problems-for-pakistan-to-participate-pti-waziristan-march-against-us-drone-strikes-carol-grayson/
I had decided to research and develop a proposal for a film two years ago whilst helping set up a website called Asia Despatch writing on socio-political issues with my colleague Saleem Shahzad, an investigative journalist based in Pakistan. We had been reporting on the issue for a while. There was more and more evidence mounting that far from the precise target killing of “alleged insurgents” (which I find unacceptable anyway on legal/ethical grounds) more and more civilians were being obliterated by hellfire missiles in the Tribal Areas of Pakistan. My recent interview for Russia TV on target killing can be seen here…http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oHPBGIl5Wns&feature=related
The idea for a peace march to Waziristan, (an area hard hit by drone strikes and out of reach to many journalists due to fighting between insurgents and the Pakistan army) was initiated by politician Imran Khan and Clive Stafford Smith, a human rights lawyer acting for victims of drone strikes. The visa refusal hit hard as I had reported on Imran Khan’s previous dharnas (peaceful demonstrations) when there was a great dearth of international media interest and barely an activist in sight. I had worked continuously on cultivating good working relationships with tribal area journalists and civilians from the region for some time. They were expecting me to film and appeared as disappointed as I was that this wasn’t now going to happen and the visa denial was probably politically motivated.
However another opportunity arose. I was kindly invited by Asim Khan from Imran’s party Tehreek-e –Insaf (PTI) to attend a peaceful protest against drones outside the US Embassy in London. (Some of the latest videos of the peace march can be viewed on herehttp://www.insaf.pk/ ) I immediately felt among friends as I had campaigned online with many of those present whose families orginated from Pakistan and meeting some for the first time strengthened our common goal to expose the actions of the US and highlight the suffering of those in the Tribal areas. What I felt was the warmth of the Muslim community, a great passion for Pakistan and hope for a brighter country with an end to wars, corruption, human rights abuses and incompetent leadership. Imran, to many is the flame that lights that hope.
Campaigners covered the bushes in posters showing the horrors of drone strikes, banners read USA (Uncivilized Actions of America) and we waved the green and white flag of Pakistan, Imran’s face adorning the T shirt of one protestor. We took it in turn to give speeches. I was not sure at first what I should say but the evening before I recalled Imran’s earlier dharna against drones and the party’s Peshawar declaration… so it seemed appropriate to reflect on that… what if anything had been achieved…
April 24, 2011
Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf congratulates the people of Pakistan for their massive participation which is a reflection of the nation’s consensus that demands an end to the murderous drone attacks resulting in innocent loss of life characterized by the UN as extra judicial killings. The momentous Peshawar Dharna was the first public show of resolve on the road to regaining Pakistan’s lost sovereignty.
At the conclusion of the Dharna the people unanimously, by a show of hands, passed the Peshawar Declaration which demands of the Government of Pakistan the following:
- To immediately implement the joint resolution of Parliament on the “War on Terror.”
- To end the hippocratic double faced policy and bring before parliament all past and present agreements/understandings with the US government on the “war on terror.”
- The PTI demands of the Supreme Court to urgently hear the drone attacks petition filed by the PTI and hold a judicial inquiry under the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court to ascertain the legitimacy of the drone attacks under our Constitution and also determine the scale of human loss and establish scope of compensation to the victims and their families.
- To ensure immediate access of media and human rights organizations to FATA to independently assess the human and material losses suffered by the people due to the drone attacks.
- The Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf also demands of the Supreme Court to urgently hear the petition filed by the PTI regarding the drone attacks.
In case drone attacks continue and these demands are not met by the government, the Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf demands:
- The resignation of this government which has failed to protect the life and liberty of its citizens, and
- The PTI shall with the support of the people block all supply routes of NATO trucks to Afghanistan
(The video where I read the agreement and detail the cases of drone victims can be viewed here https://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=10151277945558453 and Pakistani friends declaring that they will not be silent on killer drones can also be seen on this cliphttps://www.facebook.com/photo.php?v=208261062639731
Since that time progress has been made, the NATO supply line was indeed blocked, legal action is ongoing for victims of drone strikes and public ressure is being put on to the government of Pakistan to take action and hold the US to account. A second declaration was made at Karachi strengthening resolve to stop drone strikes and this week-end we had the peace march which enabled at least some international media invited by PTI to meet drone victims and hear from their mouths of their loss and suffering. On a sunny Autumn afternoon in London I felt my own hope revived, in the last two days I had witnessed human beings caring for each other irrespective of race, nationality and religious background. I smiled as my friends shouted the words “Carol Anne Grayson zindabad” (live forever) I was declared an honorary citizen of Waziristan and feel very proud indeed to have that honour bestowed on me.
Carol Anne Grayson is an independent writer/researcher on global health/human rights and is Executive Producer of the Oscar nominated, Incident in New Baghdad. She is a Registered Mental Nurse with a Masters in Gender Culture and Development. Carol was awarded the ESRC, Michael Young Prize for Research 2009, and the COTT ‘Action = Life’ Human Rights Award’ for “upholding truth and justice”.