U.S. Detains, Harasses Top Pakistani Politician for Anti-Drone Stance

A vehement critic of American drone attacks, and Pakistan’s leading choice as the country’s next Prime Minister, Imran Khan, was detained by U.S. officials yesterday causing him to miss an important fundraiser in New York City.

Before his New York-bound flight could take off, Khan was detained by U.S. immigration authorities who detained him for two hours.

Polls have repeatedly shown Khan to be the most popular leader in Pakistan. The harassment of a state official vital to national security interests hardly bodes well for a future relationship between the two nations.

Khan documented his ordeal in a number of tweets.

The detention was acknowledged by the State Department, but would come under fire from many, including The Guardian’s Glenn Greenwald who attempts to employ the golden rule.

[Khan’s detention is] a breach of the most basic diplomatic protocol: just imagine the outrage if a US politician were removed from a plane by Pakistani officials in order to be questioned about their publicly expressed political views. And harassing prominent critics of US policy is hardly likely to dilute anti-US animosity; the exact opposite is far more likely to occur.

But the most disturbing part of Mr. Khan’s travail is that he’s not the first critic of U.S. national security to be denied entry to the country.

“This is at least the third time this year that the US has delayed or denied entry to the US for Pakistani drone critics,” notes Marcy Wheeler.

In April, the U.S. denied a visa to Shahzad Akbar, a Pakistani lawyer who defends victims of drone strikes against the U.S. The co-founder of the a human rights organization, the Foundation for Fundamental Rights, Akbar was invited to speak at a forum in Washington, D.C.

Only after an up-swell of criticism directed toward the Obama Administration, did the government grant Akbar his right to travel.

The following month, the U.S. Government denied visas to Pakistani student Muhammad Danish Qasim and his co-producers, whose short film, “The Other Side,” was chosen as the winner of the Audience Award for Best International Film at the 2012 National Film Festival For Talented Youth, held in Seattle.

Rather than receive an award, they’ve been barred from entering the country.

According to Qasim, his film, “revolves around the idea of assessing social, psychological and economical effects of drones on the people in tribal areas of Pakistan… the film takes the audience very close to the damage caused by drone attacks.”

The U.S. is clearly not afraid to go after those who challenge its policies. (American, or not as will be discussed in an upcoming piece). And moreover, the Obama Administration is hellbent on denying that the public be exposed to viewpoints from critics or those with specific knowledge of the impacts of drone policy.

The final word rests with Wheeler. Why is the government so afraid of Pakistanis explaining to Americans what the drone attacks look like from a Pakistani perspective?

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