Activist of a religious party taking part in sit-in protest organized by Pakistan Difa-e-Council at Aabpara Chowk on Monday. — File Photo

ISLAMABAD: Speakers at a Difa-i-Pakistan Council (DPC) rally here on Monday condemned US drone attacks, military operations in tribal areas, tabling of a resolution on Balochistan in the US House of Representatives and the ban on some religious parties. The rally expressed concern over the fate of missing persons.

The speakers warned the government against restoring Nato supply routes and granting the MFN (most favoured nation) status to India till resolution of the Kashmir dispute.

In a rare show of anger, Jamaat-i-Islami Amir Syed Munawar Hassan criticised the armed forces and said they had failed to contain the US aggression inside Pakistan, but continued to launch operations against their own people.

He blamed the United States for all ills in the country, terming it an enemy of the Islamic world. The present rulers had failed the nation by compromising on national integrity and promoting corruption and mismanagement, the Jamaat chief said, adding that the military establishment and its agencies were equally responsible for compromising on integrity and sovereignty of the country.

"Drone attacks continue to kill innocent Pakistanis, missing persons remain untraced and military operations in Swat, Buner, Waziristan and other tribal areas are being carried out at the behest of the US," the JI chief said. "When we saw the video footage of Chechens killed near Quetta, people told us that nothing would happen because the shooters were in uniform."

While leaders of other parties remained focussed on the DPC's original agenda and warned the government against restoring Nato supply routes and granting the MFN status to India till resolution of the Kashmir dispute, JI leaders highlighted problems like price hike, energy crisis and slow industrial growth.

Later talking to Dawn, Munawar Hassan said the army should defend the country instead of dabbling in other things. "Missing persons are an issue of the four provinces and we all know who is responsible for it."

He said the governments of Punjab and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa should speak against disappearance of people. "Why are they silent," Mr Hassan wondered.

He accused the PPP-led government of ignoring democratic norms, constitutional requirements and even directives of the Supreme Court. "Looking at the track record of misdeeds, Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani should have resigned by now," he added.

Like the leaders of other parties who spoke before him, Mr Hassan apologised to Baloch people for past mistakes of successive governments. "Government's initiatives, including the Balochistan package and holding cabinet meetings in Quetta, are all lollipops and eyewash."

The DPC rally was organised by Jamaat-i-Islami and security arrangements were made by Hizb-ul-Mujahideen. But the overall management appeared to be half-hearted efforts.

Organisers of the event said they had arranged 6,000 chairs, but most of them remained empty. Most of the participants belonged to Jamaatud Dawa, Ahle Sunnah Wal Jamaat (formerly Sipah-i-Sahaba), Ansarul Ulema (formerly Harkat-ul-Mujaheedin) and Jamaat-i-Islami. Others belonged to more than 40 small parties.

Since the entry of top leaders of Jamaatud Dawa and Ahle Sunnah Wal Jamaat was banned in the capital, they were represented by their second-tier leaders. They stressed that all religious parties were law-abiding citizens of the country.

Awami Muslim League chief Sheikh Rashid could not attend the rally.

Ijazul Haq, chief of his own faction of PML, and former ISI chief Lt-Gen (retd) Hamid Gul made fiery speeches and criticised the US and the government for banning religious parties.

Contrary to the previous DPC rallies, the focus at the Islamabad rally was on extending solidarity with Balochistan and almost all speakers stressed that Baloch people were loyal to the country and external forces were trying to play off the federation against them.

Amir Hamza, a leader of Jamaatud Dawa, condemned the US move on Balochistan and warned the Americans against interfering in the internal affairs of Pakistan.

It was decided that the next DPC rally will be held in Quetta on Feb 27. AFP adds:

Protesters poured onto Islamabad's streets on Monday, chanting "death to America" and demanding 'holy war' at the DPC rally. "Today, we have gathered here to raise a voice of protest against US intervention in Pakistan," DPC chairman Maulana Samiul Haq said.

"Our protest is against the possible resumption of Nato supplies, US and Indian occupation and to strengthen the country's defence," he said. "America wants to break Pakistan into pieces," he said in reference to the move sponsored by three US lawmakers calling for self-determination in Balochistan.

"Death to America" and "America deserves one treatment: jihad, jihad," shouted the crowd. "Go America go" and "No to Nato," screamed out posters.

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