Rally in Pakistan against cooperation with NATO

Last Updated: Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - 00:26

Islamabad: Thousands of members of extremist
groups rallied near parliament on Tuesday as leaders of the
right-wing Defa-e-Pakistan Council, including Hafiz Mohammad
Saeed, warned the government against reopening routes for
transporting supplies to US and NATO forces in Afghanistan.

Saeed, the founder of the banned Lashkar-e-Taiba, told
a rally held at a ground a short distance from parliament that
the Pakistani people will never allow the resumption of NATO
supplies and there would be protests across the country. If
the supply routes are reopened, "American agents will again
sneak into Pakistan and start killing innocent citizens", he
claimed.

"Pakistani leaders, including army chief Gen Ashfaq
Parvez Kayani, should step down if they think they cannot
safeguard national interests," he said as protesters shouted
slogans in support of jihad.

Earlier in the day, thousands of supporters of the
Defa-e-Pakistan Council marched to the ground from Aabpara and
other parts of Islamabad.

Many of them carried the black-and-white flags of the
Jamaat-ud-Dawah, a front for the LeT.

The protesters shouted "Down with the America-India-
Israel nexus," "Death to America" and "American subjugation is
unacceptable".

Some of them carried banners and placards that denounced
the government`s ties with the US and featured slogans like
"Terrorists, the routes are closed for you".

Others who addressed the rally included Defa-e-Pakistan
Council chairman Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, described as the "father
of the Taliban", former Inter-Services Intelligence chief
Hamid Gul and Pakistan Muslim League-Zia leader Ejaz-ul-Haq.

"We want to take Pakistan out of the so-called war on
terror, which is directed against Muslims," said Sami-ul-Haq.

He warned the government of "serious consequences" if it
reopens the NATO supply routes to appease the US.

The protest was organised by the Defa-e-Pakistan
Council and the Jamaat-e-Islami to pressure the government not
to reopen the supply routes which were closed after a
cross-border NATO air strike killed 24 Pakistani soldiers in
November. A joint session of parliament is set to debate
recommendations for revamping Pakistan-US relations.

The parliamentary review is expected to pave the way for
Pakistan to reopen the NATO supply routes after imposing a tax
on container trucks and oil tankers.

Both Hafiz Saeed and Ahmed Ludhianvi, the head of the
Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat (ASWJ), participated in the rally
despite an order reportedly issued by the city administration
to bar them from entering Islamabad.

The ASWJ is considered a front for the banned
Sipah-e-Sahaba, which has been linked to several recent
sectarian attacks.

While Saeed was allowed to address the gathering,
police sought to prevent Ludhianvi from speaking.

He then left the venue.
Though police tried to stop him on a busy road linking
Islamabad and Rawalpindi, Ludhianvi kept moving with his
four-vehicle motorcade.

Pakistan had put Saeed under house arrest after the
2008 Mumbai attacks, which he was accused of masterminding.
He was freed after less than six months on the orders of
the Lahore High Court.

Saeed cobbled together the Defa-e-Pakistan Council,
which includes over 40 hardline and extremist groups.

The coalition has organised large rallies and protests
across Pakistan that were mainly directed against the US and
India.

PTI



First Published: Wednesday, March 28, 2012 - 00:26

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