Pakistanis stage new protest over NATO route

Thousands march towards Afghan border against government's decision to end seven-month blockade on NATO supplies route.

    Pakistanis stage new protest over NATO route
    Pakistan and the US reached a deal to reopen land routes that NATO uses to supply its troops [Reuters]

    Thousands of people in northwest Pakistan have protested against the reopening of NATO supply routes into Afghanistan and are planning to turn the protest into a march.

    The march, organised by the Jamaat-e-Islami political party, a leading member of the Defence of Pakistan coalition of right wing and Islamist groups, began on Monday in the city of Peshawar.

    Demonstrators said they would spend the night at the park in Peshawar near a highway used by NATO trucks supplying foreign forces in Afghanistan.

    Between 5,000 and 8,000 party activists had reached the site by the evening, police said.

    A spokesman for Jamaat-e-Islami said 50,000 people would join the protest from the northwestern city of Peshawar to the nearby town of Jamrud, close to the Afghan border.

    Pakistan reopened overland routes to NATO convoys crossing into neighbouring Afghanistan on July 3 after closing them in protest against a US air raid that killed 24 Pakistani soldiers last November.

    "Supplying (NATO troops) with goods using Pakistani routes is like arming the enemy," Qazi Hussain Ahmad, a senior JI member told the gathering.

    "NATO are killing innocent Muslims in Afghanistan."

    'Death to America'

    The protest came after thousands of Pakistani extremists at the weekend rallied at the southwestern border post of Chaman, vowing to stop NATO supplies into Afghanistan.

    The protesters had embarked on a 120km journey from the southwestern city of Quetta on Saturday and reached the town of Chaman late Sunday where they held the rally.

    The protesters shouted "Death to America," "No to NATO supply" and "Long Live Mullah Omar" in reference to the Afghan Taliban leader in hiding.

    On Sunday, Maulana Samiul Haq, chairman of the Defence of Pakistan group, said the movement would continue its protests until the convoys stop.

    NATO traffic across the border has so far been minimal, with only a few trucks having crossed into Afghanistan since the routes were reopened.

    Officials at the port city of Karachi said a dispute about the payment of damages for thousands of containers blockaded for seven months, which has led to sluggish overland supplies, could be resolved this week.


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