Toby Blome, reports from the 2012 Pakistan delegation
The Women’s Wing of the PTI Party invited the CodePink Peace Delegation to Pakistan to the party’s Islamabad office grounds today for a “Tea Party”/social exchange. Upon arrival, delegation members were greeted at the entrance to the grounds, overwhelmed by the enthusiasm and glowing and friendly faces of many of the Women’s Wing members. As we walked deeper into the crowd of greeters, and onto the outdoor grounds, under the warm evening air, we soon discovered dozens more elegantly dressed Pakistani women, many with beautiful, colorful head cover, waiting patiently in their seats for our arrival. As we filed into the area and filled the empty seats in the front that faced out toward the crowd, we were overwhelmed with joy over the woman to woman connections being made tonight across these great oceans that divided us.
Fauzia Kazuri, head of PTI’s Women’s Wing, and the one who organized and invited us to this gathering, graciously hosted the evening’s exchange. Ms. Kazuri passionately declared, “We can never support the use of weapons and military force against our own people……which is against all international laws, and this must stop!” She then kindly introduced the delegation as “the real faces of the American people.” Former diplomat and activist Ann Wright, as the first speaker from the delegation, referred to President Obama’s kill list and his weekly role of deciding who is to live and who is to die in Pakistan and elsewhere, and she then exclaimed: “That is not his job!” This remark was met with loud and enthusiastic applause. Medea Benjamin spoke next, asking the crowd if they have children and more pointedly, if they have children of military age. She declared with bitter distaste, “Our government has decided your child is a militant,” and can be killed on pure suspicion. Medea soon had all participants, delegation and PTI women’s wing members alike, stand up and join hands and recite together the ‘CodePink Mother’s Day declaration’: “We will not raise our children to kill the children of other mothers.” This was then enthusiastically recited again in Urdu, with the help of Fauzia’s translation. This was a beautiful moment that united our common humanity, as mothers and protecters.
As 6 media cameras, including a BBC cameraman, recorded the meeting, several other delegation members shared heartfelt sentiments, continuing to be received with full hearted attention by the audience. As the last American speaker, Lorna closed with a sensitive and moving apology for our government’s wrongs against the Pakistani people. Women of the delegation were then graciously presented and adorned with simple, white head scarves, that we were told we would be wearing as we journey into the more conservative region of Waziristan, during our long caravan/march scheduled for Oct. 6-7 to protest U.S. drone killings in that region. As the days draw nearer, we are all getting very excited about soon joining the hundred thousand Pakistanis who are expected to participate.
PTI organizer, Neela, declared that these drones are referred to as “Belah” by the Pashtuns of Waziristan, which translates to “monster.” This seemed a fitting term for the lethal robots that terrorize these peoples’ lives, being seen and heard daily, and giving absolutely no warning when their lethal hellfire missiles strike. Many people of these areas are developing great psychological trauma, with little or no mental health resources available…..a rarely mentiond consequence of Obama’s drone war in U.S. corporate media.
A short question and answer period followed, allowing for a meaningful exchange of ideas. The gathering ended in Pakistani style, with a tea and refreshment break and a chance to intermingle in small groups in a more intimate fashion. Our guests went to extraordinary lengths throughout the evening to insure that we were all well cared for. They repeatedly praised us for our thoughtfulness and courage in making this journey in spite of our government and media’s negative portrayal of Pakistan. Their appreciation toward us for caring enough about their lives and predicament as subjects of the brutal U.S. drone program was repeatedly being expressed by many. Lifelong bonds of friendship were clearly being formed through this unique exchange. Lastly, several more Pakistani women signed their names onto a growing list of about 30 locals in Lahore and Islamabad combined who have expressed interest in founding the first CodePink chapters in Pakistan!