Thousands in Pak chanting anti-America slogans
Islamabad: Chanting anti-America slogans,
thousands of supporters of hardline groups, including those
banned, staged a rally in the heart of Pakistan's capital here
though several leaders, including LeT founder Hafiz Mohammad
Saeed, stayed away due to restrictions imposed by authorities.
Groups like the Jamaat-ud-Dawah and Sipah-e-Sahaba joined
the protest held at Aabpara, a commercial district located a
short distance from the headquarters of the ISI.
The anti-America protest was organised by the
Defa-e-Pakistan Council, (DPC) a grouping over 40 extremist
and hardline groups put together by Saeed last year.
The protestors shouted slogans like "Death to America",
while banners put up at the venue of the rally read "Go
America Go", "No to NATO".
Some banners warned the government not to go ahead with a
move to give India the Most Favoured Nation-status while
speakers called for jihad or holy war.
After the local administration banned Saeed and
Ahl-e-Sunnat Wal Jamaat leaders Maulana Mohammad Ahmed
Ludhianvi and Maulana Khalid Dhillon from entering Islamabad,
they decided to stay away from the rally though they sneaked
into Rawalpindi yesterday.
JuD spokesman Yahya Mujahid told reporters that Saeed did
not come to Islamabad to avoid a "confrontation with the
Police officials and witnesses estimated that over 3,000
people attended the rally. The venue was guarded by scores of
Maulana Samiul Haq, a key leader of the DPC who is
considered to be close to the Taliban, said: "Today, we have
gathered to raise a voice of protest against US intervention
Jamaat-e-Islami chief Munawar Hassan blamed all of
Pakistan's problems on its participation in the campaign
against terrorism, which he described as "America's war".
He said, "The US wants to create anarchy in our country...
It wants to create fears about our nuclear programme falling
into the hands of extremists and then take it over".
Former ISI chief Hamid Gul too attended the rally, the
latest show of strength by the DPC.
"For 10 years our rulers, as allies of the US, spilled the
blood of our people. We insisted in the past and say it again
now - this is not our war," Gul said.
The DPC has organised a series of rallies across Pakistan
at which it has targeted the US and India.
Leaders like Saeed have called on Pakistan to pull out of
the war on terror and pledged to oppose all moves to normalise
trade relations with India.
Hafiz Saeed, who heads the JuD that has been declared a
front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba by the UN Security Council, was
briefly detained after the 2008 Mumbai attacks.