Protests across Pakistan over Davis release, drone strike

Last Updated: Friday, March 18, 2011 - 23:31

Islamabad/Lahore: Thousands of
students, members of political parties and radical groups like
JuD on Friday staged protests in cities across Pakistan against
the release of suspected CIA contractor Raymond Davis and a US
drone attack that killed 41 people in North Waziristan.

The largest protest took place in Lahore, where about
3,000 people gathered for a rally organised jointly by the
JuD, Jamaat-e-Islami and cricketer-turned politician Imran
Khan`s Tehrik-e-Insaf party.

Protests were also organised in Peshawar, Karachi,
Islamabad and Rawalpindi.

However, reports said the number of people who joined
the protests in most places was far lower than the turnout for
rallies in support of the controversial blasphemy law earlier
this year.

The protests were held after the Friday prayers and
clerics in mosques across the country criticised the move to
free Davis, a 36-year-old former Special Forces soldier, in
their sermons.

Davis, who was arrested in Lahore on January 27 after
he shot and killed two men, was pardoned and freed by a
Pakistani court after over two million dollars were paid as
"blood money" to the families of the dead men.

In Islamabad, about 500 supporters of the
Jamaat-e-Islami and Tehrik-e-Insaf marched from the radical
Lal Masjid to Aabpara Chowk.

Police used batons to disperse a group of protesters
who tried to head towards the nearby Diplomatic Enclave.

Imran Khan addressed the gathering and claimed that
the federal and Punjab governments were involved in Davis`
release.

More than 1,000 tribesmen called for an immediate end
to drone strikes and compensation to victims` families in
Miranshah in North Waziristan, local media reports said.

Pakistan`s civilian and military leaders, including
Army Chief Ashwaq Perwez Kayani have already condemned
yesterday`s drone strike against a militant hideout in North
Waziristan tribal region in which 41 people were killed.

Kayani had said that the spy planes had "carelessly
and callously targeted" a tribal jirga.

They demanded an apology and explanation from the
United States.

Members of JuD, Jamaat-e-Islami, Tehrik-e-Insaf, PML-N
and some students` groups gathered on the Mall Road, one of
the main thoroughfares of Lahore, and shouted slogans against
the US, President Asif Ali Zardari and Punjab Chief Minister
Shahbaz Sharif for their perceived role in releasing Davis.

Leaders who addressed the gathering claimed that the
government sold out "Pakistani blood and honour" by freeing
the man who had gunned down two Pakistanis.

Jamaat-e-Islami leader Amirul Azeem claimed the US had
pressured Pakistan`s rulers and army to free a "CIA spy" and
the "whole nation was ashamed of this act".

In rare public criticism of Pakistan`s spy agency,
Jamaat-e-Islami chief Munawar Hasan said the CIA, ISI and the
federal and Punjab governments had made a deal on Davis.

In Karachi, protests were organised outside mosques by
the Jamaat-e-Islami and other religious groups.

The protest in Rawalpindi was addressed by ex-ISI
chief Hamid Gul and former federal minister Sheikh Rashid
Ahmed.

Earlier, small protests erupted in some Pakistani
cities on Wednesday, hours after Davis was flown out of
Pakistan on a special US flight.

PTI



First Published: Friday, March 18, 2011 - 23:31

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