Islamists protest Nato supply line

2012-07-08 22:45
Thousands of supporters of the Defence Council of Pakistan sit on the top of vehicles with party flags as they take part in a rally. (KM Chaudary, AP)

Thousands of supporters of the Defence Council of Pakistan sit on the top of vehicles with party flags as they take part in a rally. (KM Chaudary, AP)

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Lahore - Thousands of hardline Islamists streamed toward Pakistan's capital in a massive convoy of vehicles on Sunday to protest the government's decision to allow the US and other Nato countries to resume shipping troop supplies through the country to Afghanistan.

The demonstration, which started in the eastern city of Lahore, was organised by the Difah-e-Pakistan Council - Defence of Pakistan Council - a group of politicians and religious leaders who have been the most vocal opponents of the supply line.

Pakistan closed the route in November in retaliation for American airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani troops.

Following months of negotiations, Islamabad finally agreed to reopen the route last week after US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton apologised for the deaths.

Clinton met the Pakistani Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar for the first time since the apology on the sidelines of an Afghan aid conference in Tokyo and expressed hope that resolution of the supply line conflict would lead to better relations between the troubled allies.

One of the reasons Pakistan waited so long to resolve the conflict is that the government was worried about domestic backlash in a country where anti-American sentiment is rampant despite billions of dollars in US aid over the last decade.

The protest started in the centre of Lahore, where several thousand people assembled with scores of buses, cars and motorbikes.

They linked up with thousands more supporters waiting on the city's edge and drove toward Islamabad in a so-called "long march" against the supply line.

The convoy included about 200 vehicles carrying about 8 000 people when it left Lahore.

After completing the 300km journey to Islamabad, they plan to hold a protest in front of the parliament building on Monday.

The crowd was dominated by members of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, widely believed to be a front group for Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is blamed for the attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008 that killed more than 160 people.

Jamaat-ud-Dawa is led by the group's founder, Saeed.



- AP

Read more on:    nato  |  pakistan  |  us  |  afghanistan
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