Pakistani cricket legend-turned politician Imran Khan, center wearing cap, addresses the crowd during a rally against the US drone strikes in Pakistani tribal areas, Saturday, April 23, 2011, in Peshawar, Pakistan. Pakistan stopped Nato supplies from traveling to Afghanistan on Saturday as thousands of protesters rallied on the main road leading to the border, demanding US Washington stop firing missiles against militants sheltering inside the country. – Photo by AP

PESHAWAR: The campaign to get the US to stop carrying out drone attacks in tribal areas would continue till its “logical conclusion”, Imran Khan, chief of the Pakistan Tehrik-i-Insaf (PTI), said here on Saturday. Speaking to thousands of supporters during a sit-in at Hayatabad township, from where many of the vehicles carrying supplies for foreign forces in Afghanistan pass, Mr Khan said: “Pakistanis are not animals but human beings. That’s why they should be protected against aggression.”

He said that international law guaranteed the sovereignty of all independent states, but the US and its cronies in Pakistan had violated the law by killing scores of innocent people.He said the sit-in organised by his party would bring to an end the US designs for the region.

The attendance was far below expectations. According to political observers, the number of participants ranged between 3,000 and 4,000.

Even the Jamaat-i-Islami and a few other dissidents from other political parties, who had agreed to attend the sit-in, confined themselves to sending their leaders to make speeches rather than bringing in their workers to boost numbers.

That is despite the fact that some of those attending the rally had travelled all the way from the Punjab, bringing with them holdalls to spend the night at the sprawling Bagh-i-Naran.

Traffic in the residential Hayatabad, which serves as the main supply route for Afghanistan-bound cargo, including US and Nato supplies, continued uninterrupted, except for the road leading to the venue of the sit-in, observers noted.

Mr Khan said people were taking part in PTI’s activities “in increasing numbers”, proving that Pakistanis were a free nation and were “no longer in a mood to tolerate the rulers’ policies of enslavement”.

He was of the opinion that Washington was carrying out drone strikes with Islamabad’s consent. That is why the authorities were in no position to “show teeth to the US government”.

The venue of the protest — Bagh-i-Naran — was decorated with PTI posters and banners emblazoned with slogans against the drone strikes.

On Saturday the government suspended the supply of goods to foreign troops in Afghanistan as a precautionary measure.

Mr Khan said the number of people taking part in the sit-in would swell to millions by Sunday, sending a clear message to the government that “Pakistanis wanted freedom and are sick of the power elite’s cowardice”.

“If the masses in Egypt and Tunisia can overthrow dictators, Pakistanis can sweep aside corrupt rulers who have stashed away billions in foreign banks,” said the PTI chief.

The protest, he added, had the support of people of all religions, demonstrating the “nation’s unity”.

He vowed to remain at the Bagh-i-Naran, the venue, till Sunday evening.

The supporters and activists of PTI had started reaching the place since early in the morning from across Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Mr Khan arrived in the evening at the head of a convoy of hundreds of vehicles from Islamabad.

The PTI chief spoke to a number of rallies on his way to Peshawar. He blamed the PPP-led government for the crises afflicting the country.