Sunday, October 28, 2012

Day Eight in Pakistan: Our Final Day - Farewell Islamabad!

Continued from Day Seven in Pakistan: October 9 - Day of Fasting to remember the Children killed by Drone Attacks - JoAnne Lingle reporting on her trip.

11:00am - Meeting with the Islamabad Bar Association

Our delegation was invited by Nisar Shah of the Democratic Lawyers Association (DLA) to discuss peace. Meanwhile, another group of "black coats" was waiting in the wings to disrupt us.

A discussion over drone attacks was cut short after speeches were disrupted by right-wing lawyers from the Namoos-e-Risalat Forum (NRF) who were not so friendly. When they began shouting, "Go, America!", we at first thought this was a rallying cry - something like "Go, team!" We quickly learned, however, that it was anything but that when we heard, “Down with America”, “We hate you”, “We hate Americans” being chanted by NRF members who entered the room in the middle of the speeches and tried to disrupt the program.

The DLA had expected the disruption; however, we delegates had not.

“We passed a resolution against the Americans and held several protests against them, how could we allow them to come to the court premises?’’ said NRF Chairman Rao Abdur Rahim. “Americans follow double standards; they kill innocent civilians through drone attacks while sending a peace delegation to Pakistan,” said Abdur Rahim.

On the other hand, DLA Chief Co-ordinator Nisar Shah said they had invited our delegation to the district court to have a discussion about the drone attacks with the lawyers.

"It was embarrassing when a few right-wing lawyers tried to disrupt the event as the delegation was invited by us, Shah said. “What message are we conveying to the world through this kind of act?” He added, “At least we should have the courage to listen to their point of view.’’

In spite of the disruption, we did receive some positive responses. One young man said, "Thank you for standing up for what you believe in and risking your lives to come to Pakistan to protest the drone attacks that are killing us."

Not only did we stay to the end, we interacted with several of the lawyers afterwards, including the women lawyers who extended an invitation to join them for tea. One delegate said she received a letter of apology later with the hope that the delegation would continue our mission of peace from one of the lawyers she spoke with as we were leaving.

1:00pm - invitation to lunch at CNN Studios

Our delegation was invited by Reza Sayah, CNN Correspondent, to their studios for a lovely lunch. We enjoyed meeting the staff and spending time talking with them. Reza was planning to leave that evening to visit his family in Pennsylvania. This was a very special treat!

5:00pm - A Rally for Malala at the Islamabad Press Cub

The delegation attended a Rally to support Malala Yousufzai who was shot in the head and neck when gunmen fired on her while in a school bus in the Swat valley two days ago. We heard she was in stable condition but could not be moved. CodePink had extended all help to her but were told the Pakistani government was taking the initiative for her care. Imran Khan conveyed thanks to CodePink for their offer to fly Malala to the U.S. for further medical care if needed.

7:00pm - Dinner and Bittersweet Good-byes

We enjoyed a lovely Farewell Dinner at an outdoor restaurant with an after dinner closing of our circle. Awards were given to every member of the delegation in zip lock bags that included candy and other treats. The awards had special significance for each recipient - all in good humor, of course.

This has been a delegation I will never forget - a humbling experience to be among so many committed and dedicated peace activists who are striving to make this a more peaceful, loving world. With the understanding that our work has just begun, we made a list of things we would do when we returned home.

How could we possibly forget the people we met who had lost so much - those who were putting themselves at risk by telling us their stories. And how could we forget this message one of our delegates received, "And thank you. Every Pashtun in Pakistan loves you for standing with us in solidarity. When we have been pretty much forsaken by our own government. I had relatives that saw your peace march through DI khan, and it brought us hope for the first time in many years of insanity."

And, finally, the big question: are we made safer by drone warfare?
“I will never forget what the American soldiers did to my country, my tribe and my family. They violated our national sovereignty and our Islamic laws. They killed my son and my younger brother. They destroyed my home. If I see the soldiers who are responsible for this – if I have the opportunity — I will kill them.” (translated from Pashtoun)
These are the chilling words of Kareem Khan, a Pakistani journalist from a tribe in Northern Waziristan, whose compound was destroyed by a Hellfire missile from an American drone on Dec. 24, 2009. They starkly illustrate the concept of “blowback.” What you sow today, you will reap tomorrow."

Although the U.S. announced shortly after the strike on Khan’s compound that a “militant target” named Al Juma had been killed, no one by that name was present. Several months later, yet another strike allegedly killed the same man. “I think probably he is still alive today,” Khan said with graveyard humor.

“Tell your president he must stop using drones to kill innocent people, and tell your fellow Americans they must join you in protesting,” pleaded Kareem Khan. “We are proud of our culture and our way of life, and you are destroying it.”

Without adequate words to express my gratitude for your support and love....

Blessings to each and every one,


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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