The policeman was there when I woke at dawn. He had slept outside my room, not in a chair or on the faux-leather sofa, but slumped against the door.

The reason was simple. This was Dera Ismail Khan, a Pakistani town on the road to the tribal areas and their assortment of al-Qaeda terrorists and thuggish Taliban gunmen.

Foreigners were not free to travel these roads. It was in part to hide the fact that swaths of the country were beyond government control, instead in the hands of militant movements, and in part for our own security.

That I was there at all was down to Imran Khan, the former Pakistani cricket captain turned politician, who had led a rag tag convoy of 4x4s and crowded buses right up to the border with South Waziristan in protest at American drone strikes.

That year there was strike on average almost every week, according to the Bureau of Investigative Journalism, which monitors the numbers.

The policeman spoke some English. He had not met many Britishers and was keen to offer his opinion on drones as we breakfasted on spicy omelettes and rich parathas.

“This place,” he said, swinging his arm to indicate the town beyond the little hotel, “used to be more dangerous.

“But it is safer since they killed Qari Hussain. No more suicide bombings.”