Saturday, October 20, 2012

Day Two in Pakistan: October 4 Press Conference

Continued from Day 1 in Pakistan: Report from Code Pink Delegation - JoAnne Lingle reporting on her trip.

Day Two - Thursday, October 4, 2012

Morning meeting at Shahzad's office, Foundation for Fundamental Rights (FFR). We heard stories from Waziri survivors: Kareem Khan (a journalist for Al Jazeera and Pakistani newspapers), Mohammed Yusef, and Ejad Ahmed.

Kareen's house was totally destroyed when hit by a drone strike Dec. 31, 2009. Killed in the attack were Kareem's 16 year old son, Kareen's younger brother and a construction worker, both were government workers. The U.S. claimed that three militants were killed in the strike.

Kareem said, "We are not Taliban, Al Quaeda or terrorists. Our culture, education, everything is disturbed. Many have left for other cities. They should arrest the criminals, not kill seven civilians for every militant. When 40 elders were killed by drone strikes during a jirga (a decision making body) in Datta Khel, March 17, 2011, the fire lasted one week. To this day, U.S. officials insist that all those killed were militants."

"The U.S. Embassy will not allow us to talk with them. When one of us tried to go, the Pakistani army and police beat him in front of the Embassy."

Other testimony from the Waziris of those killed by drone attacks: a mother and her 10 month old baby killed when their home was struck; a father and his two sons, ages eight and ten; and, the headmaster of a school.

Kareem ended by thanking us for coming to listen to their stories. He said of the U.S., "The blood shed of Muslim people has no value."

At 3:30pm, we attended a Press Conference at the Marriott for Imran Khan and the Peace March scheduled for Sunday, October 7. Although there were hundreds in attendance, it appeared there were an equal number of journalists present as well.

Speakers included Shahzad Akbar, Code Pink's Medea Benjamin, Clive Stafford Smith of Reprieve, and finally, Imran Khan who ended his talk speaking to our delegation: "You've come to see their pain," and "You'll be surprised to see the welcome you'll get." He didn't tell us anything we didn't already know - we've seen their pain and the welcome we've received thus far has been beyond any and all expectations!

After the speakers finished, there were lots and lots of photo-ops, including groups photos of our delegation. After the photos, we cut loose and sang, inviting others to join in with "We shall not be moved" and other Civil Rights songs. When we began a line dance, even some of the WILFP and PTI women joined us!

A final meeting in the evening that was not on the day's schedule: (this, we discovered would become a regular occurrence during the coming week :-)

Justice Project Pakistan (JPP), a non-profit law firm providing support to those prisoners who are the most vulnerable in the criminal justice system, presented "Families of Bagram Detainees"

There are 50 Third Country Nationals at Bagram, 37 of which are Pakistani. We met with the family members of ten of them.

These prisoners have been held indefinitely without access to lawyers and without having been informed of the evidence against them. Some have been held for years, some abused, one arrested two years ago when he was fourteen. Another not permitted to speak to his family for six years and is believed to be in grievous physical and psychological condition.

As each family member told the story of their loved one, we were implored to contact the Obama administration which has attempted to legitimize Bagram Prison, claiming that in the last year conditions and procedures have been improved.

Finally, after a long day, heavy on our emotions but feeling grateful for the opportunity to listen to our brothers and sisters who willingly share their burdens and sorrows with us, we rest... looking forward to another day in Pakistan.

Blessings to all,
- writing from Istanbul

Continued at: Day Three in Pakistan: October 5, Preparing to March

Read the full story of JoAnne Lingle's participation in the Code Pink peace delegation to Pakistan.

For more photos see the Code Pink delegation photo site.

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