Anti-drone protesters block NATO supply routes
Cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan leads aggressive Pakistan protests
Imran Khan addresses anti-drone protesters in Peshawar
Hundreds of baton-wielding protesters on Sunday set up camps across Pakistan’s Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province to block trucks and other vehicles carrying supplies for coalition forces into neighboring Afghanistan.
The call for the protest was given by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan, a staunch opponent of US drone strikes.
Khan, who is chairman of the Pakistan-Tehreek-Insaf (PTI), which is ruling the province, says that drone attacks are fueling radicalization in the country and are the main obstacle to the government’s efforts to hold peace talks with the Taliban.
Addressing thousands of supporters in Peshawar on Saturday, he announced that NATO supply routes would remain blocked unless missile attacks end.
Angry protesters set up camps at five points in the province, stopped trucks, checked documents and searched vehicles headed for Afghanistan. Pakistan news channels aired footage of protesters shouting at the drivers and dragging them out of their vehicles.
“All the vehicles carrying NATO supplies will not be allowed to pass through five districts, Nowshehra, Peshawar, Charsadda, Dera Ismail Khan, and Bannu,” Ishtiaq Umar, Information Secretary of the PTI, told ucanews.com.
Khyber Pakhtunkhwa Chief Minister Perveez Khattak directed party workers not to take the law into their own hands during the protests.
“Our workers will continue to stage peaceful sit-ins to block NATO supplies. But we will not allow anyone to violate the law,” he told reporters in Hangu.
The Islamist Jamaat-e-Islami party yesterday staged a large protest rally in Pakistan’s port city of Karachi and called for an end to drone strikes.
Pakistan’s federal government however distanced itself from the protest and criticized Khan’s actions.
Information and Broadcasting Minister Pervaiz Rashid told reporters in Lahore that Khan’s demands regarding the blockade of NATO supplies were unrealistic and did not serve the cause of Pakistan.
“NATO containers transport food items, not arms, for our Afghan brethren and Pakistanis have close ties with the people of Afghanistan,” he said. Any step by the PTI to block supplies could affect Pakistan’s ties with the Western countries, he warned.
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