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Difa-i-Pakistan begins 'long-march' to Islamabad

Published Jul 08, 2012 06:00pm


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Activists and supporters of The Defence of Pakistan coalition sit on vehicles in Lahore on July 8, 2012, as they take part in a protest rally to Islamabad. -AFP Photo

LAHORE: Prominent Pakistani hardliners who oppose their country's anti-terror alliance with Washington led thousands of people in a protest Sunday against Pakistan's decision to allow the US and other Nato countries to resume shipping troop supplies through the country to Afghanistan.    

The demonstration in the eastern city of Lahore was organized by the Difa-i-Pakistan Council (DPC), a group of  right-wing politicians and religious leaders who have been the most vocal opponents of the supply line.

Thousands of people joined a convoy of buses, trucks and cars, many carrying the black and white striped flags of the Defence of Pakistan coalition, on the 275-kilometre journey from the eastern city of Lahore to Islamabad.

Pakistan closed the route in November in retaliation for American airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani troops. After months of negotiations, Islamabad finally agreed to reopen the route last week after the US apologized for the deaths.

“Some 25,000 people have joined us at the start of (the) long march and many more would join on the way, while we have 3,000 people with us who are performing security duties,” the organisers' spokesman Yahya Mujahid told AFP.

Police, however, estimated up to 8,000 people were taking part.

“This is the beginning of our struggle. We want the USA to not only leave Afghanistan, but Pakistan also,” the DPC chairman Maulana Samiul Haq said at a rally before the convoy set off.

“This movement will continue till the government severs all contacts with United States and Nato” Haq said.

Maulana Samiul Haq also said that the rally will be peaceful, but at the same time also warned that if it was stopped in Islamabad, then they will turn the capital city's D-Chowk into a Tahrir Square.

The DPC has attracted large turnouts at recent rallies across the country, which some see as a build up to the formation of a political party to contest the next general election, widely expected within the next year.

The leaders of Difa-i-Pakistan stood in the back of a truck at the head of the convoy.

They plan to link up with thousands more supporters on the city's edge and ride to Islamabad, passing through  Muridke and Gujranwala, in a so-called "long march" against the supply line.

The Difa-i-Pakistan rally has now reached Gujranwala, DawnNews reported.

The convoy is scheduled to reach Islamabad by Monday evening.

Hafiz Mohammad Saeed, founder of the Islamist group Lashkar-e-Taiba blamed for the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, urged Pakistanis to join the protest.

“All the people who believe that (the) US should leave Afghanistan and Pakistan, they should come out of their homes and join us,” he said.

“Our aim is not just withdrawal of US from Afghanistan, but US stooges and slaves in Pakistan should also leave.”

Other prominent leaders included Hamid Gul, a retired Pakistani intelligence chief with a long history of militant support, Chief of Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) Munawar Hassan and Chief of Awami Muslim League Shaikh Rasheed Ahmed.

Supporters showered them with rose petals as they passed. Many demonstrators rode on the tops of buses, waving party flags and shouting slogans against the US and Nato. ''One solution for America, jihad, jihad!'' they shouted.

The crowd was dominated by members of Jamaat-ud-Dawa, widely believed to be a front group for Lashkar-e-Taiba, which is blamed for the attacks in the Indian city of Mumbai in 2008 that killed more than 160 people.

Jamaat-ud-Dawa is led by the group's founder, Saeed.

''We want to show the rulers that people of Pakistan are against its decision, and we want to show the world that the rulers' decision is not a reflection of the people's will,'' said Jamaat-ud-Dawa spokesman Yahya Mujahid.

The US announced a $10 million bounty earlier this year for information leading to the arrest or conviction of Saeed, but he operates freely in the country.

Pakistan says it doesn't have enough evidence to arrest Saeed, but many suspect the government is reluctant to move against him and other militant leaders because they have longstanding ties with the Pakistani military and intelligence service.

Although the army was outraged by the US attack on its troops, which Washington said was an accident, it was eager to repair the relationship to free up more than $1 billion in military aid that had been frozen for the past year.

While the supply line through Pakistan was closed, the US was forced to rely on a longer, more costly route that runs into Afghanistan through Central Asia. The route cost the US an extra $100 million per month.

The prime minister's advisor on interior affairs Rehman Malik said an elaborate security plan had been put in place for the security of the protestors.

“Four helicopters would do surveillance and two others would be on standby for rescue, while closed circuit cameras have been installed for the security of the participants,” Malik told reporters in Islamabad.

“They are patriotic Pakistanis and they want to register their protest and we have given permission to them to do it peacefully,” Malik said.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and her Pakistani counterpart Hina Rabbani Khar meanwhile Sunday hailed the reopening of the supply routes, saying the allies were putting past tensions behind them.

“We are both encouraged that we have been able to put the recent difficulties behind us so we can focus on the many challenges ahead,” Clinton said on the sidelines of a conference on Afghanistan held in Tokyo.


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Comments (76) Closed

Mickey Jul 08, 2012 07:41pm
Where is the "silent majority" in Pakistan that is often touted to be the bulwark against this religious extremism ? Or are these just "non-state actors" ? I am hope to read Nadeem Paracha's take on this mindlessness. Kudos to Dawn for giving guys like him a voice
Zahid Jul 09, 2012 03:12am
These so called spokespersons of the people of Pakistan should mobilise their resources to generate electricity; help orphans, widows; open quality education institutions, provide legal help to those seeking justice for all kinds of excesses committed against them. What alternative plans do they have to deal with the impending isolation that the nation will face if blockade is not repulsed.
ABC Jul 08, 2012 12:41pm
You can't just call some of these groups extremists just because USA calls them so. Looking at it form that perspective, USA has killed more innocent civilians (millions more) than any other nation or a group of people ..... do you honour them with that title?? And what a shame "A country that survives on loan from IMF, can it get the loan without US help". Unfortunately USA has become the GOD for Pakistan and Pakistan seems unable to survive without it !!! When a country become isolated, it becomes even more self-sustained, not deprived !!!
Maverick Jul 08, 2012 09:27pm
What are you talking about? What we need is to support these pious people in their divine venture.
Maverick Jul 08, 2012 09:28pm
We do not need loans, remember we can eat grass too.
Tahir Razvi Jul 08, 2012 09:04pm
Exactly you took my words :)
Devendra Jul 08, 2012 08:57pm
MAK, Just wait till US exits Afghanistan.
Muhammad Alvi Jul 08, 2012 09:00pm
I agree with Javed Khan above. Foreign aid to Pakistan is doing nothing for Pakistani people. It all goes into corruption to fill the foreign accounts of politicians.
Frehan Khan Jul 08, 2012 06:35pm
I hope that these people understand that others have a different perspective and different ideas to them that are equally worthy. Many do not like these primitives and their conception of Islam that they want to dump on the heads of others.It is people like these that are responsible for the backwardness of this country and they were dumped out ages ago in Turkey by a determined government.
surinder Jul 08, 2012 07:46pm
i love your broad notion!!!!!!!!
Jawad Jul 08, 2012 08:01pm
yes many ways :)
Mukesh Jul 09, 2012 06:37pm
The opening of supply routes to NATO may increase bloodshed if so many people are against this decision.
Devendra Jul 08, 2012 08:53pm
Just ask ONE QUESTION.......How many of these Protest Leader's children are in USA? How many Pakistani Politicians' and Military officers' children are in USA? AND HOW MANY OF THEM ARE TRYING AS WE SPEAK TO GET IN TO THE USA?
Naushad Shafkat Jul 08, 2012 07:33pm
I disagree in one respect; The leaders in the truck will be the FIRST to jump and apply for the visa!!!!!
Ashai Jul 08, 2012 10:36pm
Agree 100%.
Umer Jul 09, 2012 04:58am
Something called basic civilians rights. In Pakistan this is seldom given or taken.
daud munawar Jul 08, 2012 12:42pm
It is not 'DAFA' but more likely destruction of Pakistan. Hamid Gul is the biggest culprit. He is the one who put Pakistan in this predicament. Pakistan does not need army. Pakistan needs education and healthcare. We should normalize relations with India at all cost and pay attention to take Pakistan forward not backward to stone ages
Ajaya K Dutt Jul 08, 2012 02:41pm
Banner says "Stop Killing Muslims". I wish it read "Stop Killing Humanity". They would not need to make this protest then.
Muneer - Jul 09, 2012 03:14am
Day in and Day out it appears to be the same old story, protests and killings all for the sake of Islam.. 1600 years have gone by, but the mentality remains the same. No wonder the Muslim world has not progressed but remain envious and ever ready to blame the West for the state they are in..
Fraz Ahmad Jul 09, 2012 09:33am
Pakistan's decision to reopen NATO supply route is fair. You can't live with dignity and a hunger at a same time and we are smart enough to sideline our dignity to fill our belly.
KIND Jul 08, 2012 03:17pm
the wearer knows where the shoe pinches. our government knows the problems faced by the country. these self appointed dafai should dealt with strong hands. identify their leaders and silence them. iftikhar should be the first supporter this action
wajahat Jul 08, 2012 03:19pm
The issue is the educated youth is not confident enough to bring any change... we still preffer to be treated like slaves... what is the point that you are pleading for their repentance... and then finally granted and you are feeling lucky... well the protesters should be struggling for education ,health and political stability. ... for God sake be like a muslim... be self reliant.
Ded Jul 08, 2012 03:19pm
hmmm, looks like you are attacking yourself. Aren;t you practicing what you are preaching. Seems like you own the religion.
wajahat Jul 08, 2012 03:21pm
thats the point. the muslim society is beyond the geographical limits.... but unfortunately muslims are not believing in their strengths.
Umer Jul 09, 2012 05:00am
It is 1433 not 1600. But true Islam should not be used as a tool. It is about their basic rights.
Umer Jul 09, 2012 04:10am
True mostly this is the case but not always.
Umer Jul 09, 2012 04:11am
One honest leader. Then the anwer is simple. We dont need loan.
Umer Jul 09, 2012 04:09am
True intolerant is USA, attacking our civilians with drones. I am ashamed as a Pakistani when we do nothing, not even register our voice against it. I seriously dont know what ppl like us are doing in my country Pakistan.
Stephen Real Jul 08, 2012 03:12pm
Don't worry fellas will be pulling all our money and financial help out your neighborhood as soon as possible...I am sure these protestors and extremists will be able to pick up the difference for Pakistan...maybe...probably not.
Maroof Alam Kashkoli Jul 08, 2012 03:09pm
this is what is exactly wrong with the Western mindset. 50 nations of NATO are the civilized world and endowed with supreme genius to solve the problems of this world. So the world must follow...
Masood Hussain Jul 08, 2012 03:33pm
Hamid Gul &M. Samiul haq Are two of the original Culprits who have pushed Pakistan to the present situation they should be answerable to people and handcuffed,stripped and given lashes which was routine during dark period of Ziaul Haq. Look at Sh. Rashid, he has been all along a minister from Zia to Musharaf.
Nasser Ali Khan Jul 08, 2012 03:35pm
You hit the nail on its head. Although, I personally too would not open the routes for NATO trucks as costs outweigh "advantages", biggest cost being loss of negotiating ability, and that in the long run is going to be very damaging. The army, the mullahs, the politicians have been culprits but the biggest culprits are the people themselves - for the very reason you mentioned.
Muhammad Ahsan KHAN Jul 08, 2012 03:35pm
i think every time the Pakistan Government takes a wrong decision. It has decided to protect the protesters instead of protecting the NATO Convoy from the protesters. Who is attacking the Protesters?
Mohammadk Jul 08, 2012 03:37pm
This protest march will not be of any use. The Government has to see to many angles. Pakistan will not get any loan from any donor if it objects to USA demands. USA has profound influence on all donors of the world. To make Pakistan stronger, I feel we should strengthen our relationship with India. Pakistan, India and Iran will have a strong influence in the region and can build a solid block. Secondly, fair, impartial, clear and transparent, elections should be held early. Sky will not fall on earth if elections are held a few months earlier.
truth Jul 08, 2012 12:46pm
these are all "hypocrits" . they follow deviant islam. which tells them to kill if you feel like. All of these thugs have no idea what islam is about. and they claim tha they know islam better than (God forbid) prophet. Shame on all these who thinks they own islam and they can get away with anything they want under the disguise of islam. just like their ancestors did.
pakistani Jul 08, 2012 06:15pm
u too are also talking in the same tone whom u r blaming for their attitude and perfecteness about their thinking
Tanvir Afgan Jul 08, 2012 06:04pm
Mullahs have a point
M. Asghar Jul 08, 2012 06:00pm
The things are are qguite simple: It is the feudal system everywhere that is leading to these manifestations of ingnorance.
a ali Jul 08, 2012 05:57pm
I agreed with daud munawar comments. Pray for Pakistan. a ali
abdulaziz Jul 08, 2012 05:18pm
The govt is pending millions to protect the very people who are destroying Pakistan. Why? Because these thugs threaten police, army, and journalists. What a strange country!
Israr Ahmed Jul 08, 2012 05:01pm
People commenting here are clearly against Pakistan and its basic idealogy, islam.
Zafar Jul 08, 2012 04:50pm
I am extremely sorry for the people who gave comments against the "March"
syed hasan Jul 08, 2012 04:38pm
they should be marching towards the town where the poor malang was killed and burnt to death.
farhat tahir Jul 08, 2012 04:06pm
pakistan will be save from terrorism after removal of America from the region, and would more prosper without its interference. We need self respect ,peaceful Pakistan,not ruined by NATO.
Hasnain Jul 08, 2012 11:14am
I don't know why these people live in my country. We need to be intolerant towards such violent elements. JUI has become extremely radicalised under Munawar Hasan. Just today a woman was openly executed in Afghanistan for allegedly committing adultery. We can't let these elements operate freely in our country. They don't represent us.
Aslam Khan Jul 08, 2012 03:14pm
who are you referring to here as ancestors?
MAK Jul 08, 2012 11:02am
Simple question- A country that survives on loan from IMF, can it get the loan without US help ?
Nayeem Jul 08, 2012 10:36am
Only solution for america jihad!! jihad!!.....What have we muslims come down to??so much intolerance??
Eddied Jul 08, 2012 11:56am
The DPC is the embodiment of what is wrong with Pakistan...when will people rid themselves of these extremists and join the 50 nations of NATO to become part of the peaceful, civilized world...
HAMMAD Jul 08, 2012 11:59am
why you are not doing what you are saying, and secondly light is not that issue that someone order and everything will be fine..............
JMF Jul 08, 2012 10:15am
Why don't they protest the horrible load shedding in this God forsaken country?!? Do they really think the government cares what they're doing anyway? The US government feeds and clothes the PK politicians while the citizens suffer. Get real!!!
Anuj Jul 09, 2012 12:07pm
Yes, you are right, and people like you are making it sure that no one can be friend of Muslims but Muslim
Umer Jul 09, 2012 04:07am
Agreed. It is our own mess. But America is undoubtedly the enemy of people of Pakistan but a friend of Govt. of Pakistan. Only elections is our hope for a better Pakistan, taliban free, polarization free, zardari free, sharif free, altaf free, wali free. May be in next 50 years but this election should be the start of it.
Umer Jul 09, 2012 04:24am
Tolerance is one thing that should be a compulsory lesson in each school each mosque and each home of Pakistan. But this intolerance is just the reaction of injustice done to them, millions of ppl internally displaced, thousands of innocents dead, billions of dollars lost. Why is it we hate ppl who are innocent just trying to avenge themselves and not the political leader who allow such radicalistion for their benefit ? Again the failure of ppl to be tolerant is the failure of PPP and PML N govt who except the musharaf era (also to be blamed) ruled Pakistan who failed to deliver. It is their mistake that we are intolerant.
Mir Jul 09, 2012 02:54am
Just look at the bigger picture please! This "war against Terror" by the west so to speak is really about the Strategic edge and Resources. period! If they can wage these war under wrong pretexts then please give these people a break too. I dont think having a rally and a sit in its all that bad . Seems like they are only one with guts.
A.Bajwa Jul 10, 2012 01:09pm
these people have never protested when there are bomb explosions claimed by Taliban.
M Khaleeq Jul 08, 2012 11:29am
These protester have little idea how peace can be achieved.
Pankaj Patel (USA) Jul 08, 2012 12:32pm
Banner in english reads "Stop killing Muslims,does that mean Muslims any where in the world? Does it matter to them if Pakistanis got killed? I do not blame them because being Muslim religious leaders should be concerned about Muslims,but what about Pakistani and Pakistan's national interest? I never witnessed any banner for Pakistan, I guess there is nothing likea Pakistani in Pakistan.
NKhan Jul 08, 2012 12:28pm
If US announces that its giving Visa for these protesters to live in US believe me except for the leaders in Truck all of the protesters will be standing in queue in front of US Embassy. Pakistan is in bad shape not because of US but due to wrong policies of Army, Bureaucracy & Politicians and power centre Islamabad. We can't blame anyone for our mess. Why these protesters dont protest when Terrorist from Afghanistan and there brothers in arm Taliban behead our soldiers and blow up our mosques, schools, clinics ?
Javed Khan Jul 08, 2012 12:32pm
Wrong decisions by the rulers with no regards to its own resolutions of the NA and any simpathy what so ever towards its people, will lead to such protests. Do any body know the names, gendre of the 22 people killed in yesterday's drone attack and several hundreds similar attacks in the past ? This nation has been sold repeatedly for $$ by the select elite and the establishment with full support of the corrupt political leadership. And the $$$ they get never benefit this poor nation. What the people of Pakistan should expect from this civil-military-political alliance against the will of people ? Protests, long marches are what they see the right course of action.
Iqbal khan Jul 08, 2012 12:25pm
May Allah save Pakistan and Islam from these misguided people.None of them came out to protest against killing of the man burned recently in Punjab.
From the west Jul 08, 2012 02:50pm
Unfortunately, the moderate, rational and liberal Muslims have become a minority in Pakistan, slowly they will be eliminated, just like any other minority, the silent onlookers can choose to act now, or soon they would be history.
wellwisher Jul 08, 2012 02:50pm
A very simple advice: put your contry first instead of religion - that is what I see missing in Pakistan.
Amit Jul 08, 2012 03:00pm
Future :-- Bangladesh and Afghanistan are going to Rise and Shine...and Pakistan is going to Stone Age. Wake Up.....
Amigo Jul 08, 2012 03:02pm
If US decides to pull its support of Pakistan, Pakistan will collapse in no time. Foolish people don't know that, but the rulers know that very well.
Hammad Jul 08, 2012 12:02pm
This is democratic country everyone is having right to protest. And what happened in Afghanistan this is not our concern. Do you know that after the opening how much suicide bombers will born and become. What you think that you have the right to inter-fear other home and they are not allowed to react.
Malik Khalfan Jul 08, 2012 01:41pm
By and large, I would agree with you. These people will be standing in intense heat and sever cold to secure US visa. Army, Bureaucrats and above all the corrupt to the core Politicians are responsible for Pakistan's current dismal state. Public too ! At the same time its high time US must get out of Pakistan. On this score, these protesters are not wrong.
ali khan Jul 08, 2012 02:28pm
arsal Jul 08, 2012 01:19pm
Intolerence MUSLIM ?? yeah you are absolutely right , Only NATO and US are tolerant !! arent they ?? Certainly they have showd great tolerance right next day of SUPPLY RESUMPTION i thnk those 14 killed in DRONE ATTACKS had no right to live , so support NATO support killings and raise the slogan TOLERANCE
Ashai Jul 08, 2012 01:04pm
These people should be working in the fields or factories. Useless marches.
sajjad khattak Jul 09, 2012 05:32am
instead of putting comments, be practical and particitate in march
shayne Jul 09, 2012 06:10am
i think we have lost the concept of being Pakistani's and have some of our own agendas to put forward. Instead of working towards improving the country and its people we have a bunch of self centered marching on the goverment to get their motives forwarded. Long live these people, this country will progress backward instead of going forward through eduaction. The media needs to get house in order too stop airing talkshows dealing with religious or extremism to the people, its is just encouraging more trouble and less progressive thoughts.
Shoeb Jul 09, 2012 09:25am
I am 100% agree on your comments
Mir Jul 09, 2012 06:45am
I am not a fan of any religion but try to look at the bigger picture here. This "War against Terror" by the West is really about gaining the Strategic edge and getting the Resources, Period! If they can wage these war under wrong pretexts then please give these people a break too. I dont think having a rally and a sit in is all that bad . Seems like they are the only ones with the moxie.
Amir Jul 09, 2012 08:46am
I have read the comments and most of them are written by secular people who didn't know the faraiz of Namaz but want to share their opinion in the biggest islamic rules. they want to justify what is humanity what is islam but alas they don't know either. This time CIA, RAW, MOSAD and many other secret services working in Pakistan to destabilize. The killing, bombing is made by them. what do you think a muslim could do this?? You could answer if you are muslim but how could be. Now a days 95 percent of muslim not offering prayers, and disrespect their religious elders. These DPC is working great for the future of Pakistan, Remember Muslims these cia mosad raw they couldn't be friends of us.
Tahir Jul 09, 2012 11:23pm
Why don't they protest at the ruthless and brutal attacks by the Taliban on Pakistani soldiers but only when the Americans kills our Muslims? These fools are heratics and traitors, also hypocrites! The sooner Pakistan government reduces their influence In politics and controls the teachings the mullahs propagate, the sooner Pakistan will be on the path to recoveryt