Thousands in Pakistan Protest Drone Strikes

Thousands of Pakistanis protested in Lahore on Sunday against US drone strikes and to prevent NATO supplies from reaching Afghanistan.

drone-pakistan-strikesHafiz Saeed, a Pakistani Islamist with a $10 million bounty on his head and founder of the banned militant group Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), appeared for the second time at a mass rally in Pakistan’s eastern city of Lahore Sunday in protest of continued US drone strikes in the country’s troubled northwest province.

TV footage showed around 50,00 protestors, holding banners and placards, chanting anti-drone slogans; demanding an end of drone attacks which they said violates Pakistan’s national security and sovereignty.

The ongoing protests by Imran Khan’s political party, Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) against drone attacks in Pakistan’s northwest province gained further momentum on Sunday. Defense of Pakistan Council (DPC), a coalition of around 40 religious and political parties in Pakistan rallied from Neela Gunbad to Masjid e Shuhada to protest drone attacks in Lahore, the provincial capital of Punjab.

Thousands of people from different political and religious parties including lawyers, students, businessmen, and civil society members protested in Lahore against US drone strikes and chanted slogans calling for the blocking of NATO supplies for Afghanistan which are transported through Pakistan. They were holding placards and banners with inscriptions carrying slogans against drones attacks, US, NATO and other Western powers who they consider as “anti-Islam” forces.

Hafiz Muhammed Saeed, leader of Jama’at-ud-Da’wah (JD), the blacklisted terror organization by the UN and US, led the demonstration. Other speakers included Jamiat-e Ulema-e Islam-Sami (JUI-S) Chief Maulana Samiul-Haq.

Saeed said US drone attacks were aimed at creating more suicide bombers since US officials and media accused Islamabad of equal complicity in drone attacks. He lamented that Pakistani leaders never proved the US accusations false except for making mere verbal statements, which made their case doubtful.

Saeed said Washington started drone attacks in Pakistan after realizing defeat in Afghanistan, and that American; Indian and Israeli secret agencies were involved in this conspiracy.

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Addressing rally participants, JUI-S Chief Maulana Samiul-Haq demanded that Islamabad implement resolutions adopted in the National Assembly and all parties’ conference on CIA drone strikes in Pakistan.

Maulana Samiul-Haq criticized Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and said he had come under US pressure and was not expected to play a positive role in stopping drone strikes.

India considers Hafiz Saeed one of its most wanted terrorists because of his alleged ties with Lashkar-e-Taiba and its involvement in the 2008 Mumbai terrorist attack. He is listed on India’s National Investigation Agency’s Most Wanted list.

Kiyya Qadir Baloch is a freelance Baloch journalist associated with the Daily Times based in Islamabad. He reports on foreign affairs, Baloch insurgency, militancy and sectarian violence in Balochistan. Read other articles by Kiyya.