Imran offloaded from US flight, quizzed on drones

Imran offloaded from US flight, quizzed on drones

Pakistani cricketer turned politician Imran Khan has said he was pulled off a New York-bound plane by US immigration officials and interrogated about his view on American drone strikes in his country.

Khan, leader of the Pakistan Movement for Justice party (PTI), has campaigned vociferously for an end to the controversial US campaign of missile strikes against suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda militants in Pakistan's tribal areas.

He argues they are illegal and counterproductive and earlier this month he led thousands of supporters -- and a group of American peace activists -- on a march to the edge of the restive tribal districts to protest against drones.

Khan was headed to New York to attend a fund raiser organised by his party when he was stopped by United States  officials in Toronto on Friday, he said.

“I was taken off from plane and interrogated by US Immigration in Canada on my views on drones. My stance is known. Drone attacks must stop,” he wrote on Twitter. Khan led a two-day protest march earlier this month against US drone strike with some 15,000 of his supporters and dozens of Western peace activists to Tank, the last town before the semi-autonomous tribal belt.

It was an unprecedented gesture from a mainstream politician in one of the most dangerous parts of the country, a semi-autonomous zone that is a hotbed of activity by Taliban and Al-Qaeda militants.

Pakistani authorities did not allow the protesters to enter the tribal district of South Waziristan -- where missiles fired by United States drones routinely target militants -- for security reasons and blocked the road to Tank with shipping containers. Officials from Khan’s party said the delay meant he missed his flight and was late for the party fundraising event in New York, but he insisted “nothing will change my stance”.

“My stand on drones is very clear. I did not say sorry to them,” Khan said after arriving in New York, according to GEO news channel.

“I still couldn’t understand why they did this. The official was questioning me about drones but I think he himself didn’t understand what he was talking about,” he added.
The US ambassador to Pakistan “knew that I will always oppose the drone attack, then why (did) they issue me visa”, he later said at the fund raising event. Ali Zaidi, a senior party leader demanded “a prompt and thorough inquiry into this sordid episode” and sought “an unconditional apology from the US government”. US officials in Washington declined to comment.

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