NATO supply route blocked as Imran Khan leads 2-day sit-in
ISLAMABAD: Thousands of people, led by Pakistani cricketer-turned politician Imran Khan, on Saturday blocked the main supply route for NATO troops in neighbouring Afghanistan to protest against the US drone strikes in the restive tribal regions.
Several opposition and Islamist groups as wells as tribal elders have backed the protest led by Imran, the chief of Tehrik-e-Insaf party (justice movement).
“I congratulate the people on the successful protest,” Imran said, adding the people of Pakistan will continue to protest unless the US halts the strikes targeting the people.
He demanded that the government shut down the NATO supplies through Pakistan.
“Pakistan will not be made a servant of the United States,” he said, asking the government to quit the US-led efforts to combat the terrorism.
He said the anti-US protest will gain momentum in the coming days.
Campaigners against the drone strikes from Waziristan region have also joined the protest, amid fast growing opposition to the US attacks.
The protest comes just a day after two US drone aircraft rained missiles into North Waziristan tribal region which killed 25 people, including women and children, according to tribesmen in the region.
The protestors blocked the Khyber Pass, the main supply route for NATO troops in the neighbouring Afghanistan, on the outskirts of Peshawar, the capital of Khyber Pakhtoonkhwa province.
The protest forced the authorities to suspend for two days the supplies for nearly 150,000 US-led foreign forces.
Officials said that nearly 70 per cent of NATO supplies are transported through Pakistan, the most risky but shorter supply route.
Anger runs high in Pakistan against the US drone strikes in the Waziristan tribal region, which CIA considers as the base for al-Qaida and Afghan Taliban militants for planning attacks across the border into Afghanistan.
Despite the public resentment and Pakistan’s protest, the US administration has rejected any possibility to halt the drone strikes. The message was conveyed this month to the ISI chief, Lt Gen Ahmed Shuja Pasha, when he met with the CIA boss in the US
Suspected militants regularly attack NATO trucks in Pakistan, which has also forced the US to sign agreements with Russia for alternate supply route.
The protestors will continue the sit-in till Sunday and the organisers said they would announce future strategy at the conclusion of the protest.