Thousands anti-NATO marchers gather along Pak-Afghan border
ISLAMABAD, July 15 (Xinhua) -- Thousands protesting Pakistan's decision to reopen the land supply routes for NATO forces in Afghanistan Sunday gathered at a border town as part of their campaign to mount pressure on the government to withdraw its decision.
The two-day march was organized by a Pakistani alliance of dozens of religious and political parties in southwestern Balochistan province, bordering Afghanistan.
It was the second long march by the Defense of Pakistan Council (DPC) as part of its countrywide protest against the July 3 decision by the government to reopen NATO supply line after nearly a seven-month suspension.
The first march between the eastern city of Lahore and the capital Islamabad ended on July 10 and the DPC plans a third march on the NATO's main supply route in the country's northwest on July 16-17.
Pakistan had closed NATO supply line over the killing of 24 soldiers in a NATO airstrike last November. The supply line was unblocked following apology by the U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton over the losses of Pakistani security personnel.
The decision promoted strong criticism from main religious and several opposition political parties and they are organizing marches and rallies in major cities against the reopening of the NATO supply routes.
"There is a flood of people in the march," Chief of the DPC, Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, told Xinhua on phone from Chaman, the border town in Balochistan province. Chaman, bordering Afghanistan's southern Kandahar province, is the one of the main two NATO supply routes in Pakistan.
"The march is successful than the previous one," he said, adding that the public will "force the government to stop serving the interests" of the U.S. and its NATO allies.
The second march started from Quetta, the capital of Balochistan province, on Saturday and the marchers reached Chaman Sunday afternoon after passing through several cities.
Haq said that the "massive participation" of the people in the Balochistan's march reflect the people's sentiments against the reopening of NATO supply line.
Central leaders of the DPC spoke to gatherings at different cities on the march's route and condemned reopening of NATO supply line and said the rulers surrendered to the "U.S. pressure". They asked Pakistan to desist from "helping the foreigners to shed blood of Afghans".
The authorities had taken tight security measures for the marchers in view of the on-going wave of target killings and sectarian attacks, which have killed dozens of people over the past few weeks. Police vehicles escorted vehicles of the central DPC leaders and other hundreds of vehicles in the caravan.
The DPC had also deployed its own volunteers on security duty and there had been no untoward incident during the two-day march.
Pakistan's major Islamic party Jamaat-e-Islami also took out a procession in the port city of Karachi on Sunday to oppose the reopening of NATO supply line. The Jamaat chief, Munawar Hasan, asked the main opposition party, the Pakistan Muslim League (PML-N) to join the anti-NATO protest.
In the northwestern city of Peshawar, tribal elders at a jirga or council on Sunday opposed reopening of NATO supply line. The jirga also condemned U.S. drone strikes in the tribal region and said the attacks kill innocent people.