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Sit-in by Pakistanis against drone attacks today

Maverick Report

PESHAWAR: The Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf (PTI) is staging a sit-in here today to block the Nato supplies to Afghanistan in protest against the killing of people in the US drone attacks.

The party’s provincial chapter has finalised arrangements for the two-day sit-in at Bagh-e-Naran Chowk in Hayatabad. Vehicles supplying goods and fuel for Nato forces across the border in Afghanistan enter Hayatabad via the Ring Road before crossing over to Jamrud subdivision of Khyber Agency.

The event is being considered significant, as it is the first major public mobilisation against the US in Pakistan. Anger is running high among the people as 25 people including women and children were killed when four US missiles struck a house in Spinwam in Mir Ali subdivision of North Waziristan just a day before the sit-in.

Addressing a press conference at the venue of the sit-in, PTI Provincial Information Secretary Zahid Hussain Mohmand said the event would start at 10 a.m. and continue till Sunday evening.

Leading a big procession, PTI chief Imran Khan would leave Islamabad at 10 a.m. and JUI-S chief Maulana Samiul Haq would receive him at Akora Khattak, he said. “The PTI chief will visit the Darul Uloom Haqqania and address the students before heading for Peshawar,” he added.

Party workers, traders and general public will receive Imran at Nowshera and Pabbi while the traders of Peshawar have organised a reception at Chamkani village near Peshawar. The procession is expected to reach Peshawar at 4 p.m. He said residents of the area would not suffer because of the sit-in as there were many diversions and the smooth flow of traffic would be ensured on the diverted routes.

To a question, he said, Imran Khan along with thousands of party workers would spend the night at the square and deliver his speech at 5 p.m. the next day. A number of political parties and organisations have announced support for the PTI sit-in to be led by cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan. The Jamaat-e-Islami, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam-Fazl (JUI-F), JUI-Sami, Pakistan People’s Party-Sherpao, Pakistan Muslim League-Quaid, Pakistan Muslim League-Likeminded and Pakistan Tehrik-e-Istiqlal have announced support to the protest rally.

Syed Ishtiaq Ali Shah, chairman of the organising committee, told reporters that 600 party workers would be deployed for security. He said the road from main Jamrud Road towards Bagh-e-Naran would be blocked near the park while Ring Road would be blocked near the main entrance to Hayatabad. He said vehicles would be parked in the nearby football stadium. Food stalls will be set-up at Bagh-e-Naran while proper arrangements have been made for drinking water. For ladies, a separate portion of the venue has been reserved. He said the administration was cooperating with them.

In Islamabad, Imran Khan resolved on Friday to stage the sit-in despite the security agencies asked him not to do so, citing security threats. The ever calm and composed looking former skipper of Pakistan cricket team said he was not afraid of terrorist attacks, as life was in the hands of Allah Almighty.

Imran said he was advised not to go for the planned agitation, as he could face threat to his life. Referring to Leader of Opposition Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan’s recent verbal attack, Imran charged that there was only one politician Mian Nawaz Sharif, who was incubated by General Ziaul Haq and General Ghulam Jilani.

Justifying the sit-in, he said during an interaction with media at the PTI Central Secretariat here that the drone hits were like nurseries of suicide bombers, as in such acts of aggression entire families were being massacred on the pretext of elimination of terrorists. He said the incumbent PPP-led regime, which claimed to be democratic, had been adopting a dual policy on drone attacks i.e. condemning these strikes for public consumption on one hand while on the other allowing the aggressor to continue hitting Pakistani people with drones.

The rulers, the PTI chief alleged, had compromised on Pakistan’s sovereignty by permitting the Americans to continue with their diabolical actions inside the country, as they cared only for their rule and vested interests. He pointed out that the same fact had been proved in the WikiLeaks. During the last three years, he noted, there had been 225 drone hits in Pakistani areas, claiming innocent lives, even of women and children.

Meanwhile, PML-N senior leader Makhdoom Javed Hashmi phoned the PTI chairman and promised to participate in the sit-in. He appreciated Imran’s initiative while in return the PTI chairman also lauded Hashmi’s apology to the nation for siding with a military dictator. Imran charged that this gesture by Hashmi would, however, not have any impact on PML-N leadership, which was a product of military dictators.

Imran Khan called upon the whole nation to raise their voice against the drone attacks in the tribal areas by joining the two-day sit-in at Bagh-e-Naran. “We shall have a symbolic block of Nato supply line as a statement of our resentment against drone attacks,” he said.

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