Pakistan Militant Leads Rally Against Supply Route Reopenings

Discussion in 'Pakistan' started by Galaxy, Jul 11, 2012.

  1. Galaxy

    Galaxy Elite Member Elite Member

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    Pakistan Militant Leads Rally Against Supply Route Reopenings

    ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — Angered by the reopening of NATO supply lines through their country, prominent jihadis and right-wing politicians mounted a determined show of force in the heart of the Pakistani capital on Monday, led by a man with a $10 million American bounty on his head.

    Standing on a stage close to Parliament here, the protest leader, Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, addressed thousands of flag-waving supporters in an energetic late-night address that highlighted both the strength and limitations of his militant following.

    Mr. Saeed is the founder of Lashkar-e-Taiba, a ruthless militant outfit that orchestrated the 2008 attacks in Mumbai, India, in which 170 people, including several Americans, were killed. In recent years, the group’s fighters have become a serious factor in the insurgency in neighboring Afghanistan.

    But Pakistan’s courts have failed to prosecute Mr. Saeed, and he lives in the open, making a mockery of the $10 million reward that the United States government offered in April for his capture. His critics say he has remained free thanks, in part, to the tacit support of the Pakistani intelligence services.

    “We are here to rid Pakistan of American slavery,” Mr. Saeed said, flanked by bearded young men in military-style uniforms, some of whom were seen earlier in the day openly carrying weapons.

    The rally was held by the Defense of Pakistan Council, an umbrella organization for militant groups and religious parties that Mr. Saeed leads. It has become the lightning rod for anti-American sentiment in Pakistan this year. The council was formed last November in reaction to a border clash in which American warplanes killed 24 Pakistani soldiers along the border, prompting the immediate closing of the NATO supply routes.

    But the eight-month blockade was lifted last week after Secretary of State Hillary Rodham Clinton finally met Pakistani demands for an apology over the episode, inciting a furious reaction from the vocal anti-American lobby in Pakistan.

    The Defense of Pakistan Council rally started in the eastern city of Lahore on Sunday and wound its way along the Grand Trunk Road, a storied colonial-era thoroughfare that traverses Pakistan’s version of the American Bible Belt: a district of deep-rooted conservatism with strong military ties and, increasingly, a source of religious intolerance.

    Many marchers supported the Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan. “We are supporting them because America is the world’s No. 1 terrorist,” said Saqlain Aslam, a 30-year-old from Lahore who is studying software technology. “We will give our lives to stop the NATO supply lines.”

    Though the procession and rally were reported to have remained peaceful, a troubling antigovernment attack coincided with the protesters’ progress on the road to Islamabad overnight: unidentified gunmen traveling by motorcycle opened fire on a military encampment about 100 miles from Islamabad early Monday, killing six soldiers and a police officer, officials said.

    The soldiers had set up the camp to search for the body of a military helicopter pilot who crashed on May 23; many were caught by surprise as they prepared for morning prayers, the army said. Another five soldiers were wounded and taken to a nearby hospital.

    The attack was unusual — most such violence occurs in the northwest, along the Afghan border — and coincided with the Defense of Pakistan Council rally, whose supporters had stopped in Gujrat, 10 miles to the north.

    Here in Islamabad, Mr. Saeed denied any connection to the attack. Instead, he said, it had been carried out by “another Raymond Davis” — a reference to the C.I.A. contractor who killed two Pakistanis in Lahore last year, and whose name has become a byword for conspiracy theories about dark American meddling.

    Also present on the march was Maulana Sami ul-Haq, a religious leader whose madrasa, or Islamic school, helped incubate the Afghan Taliban movement; Hamid Gul, a retired head of the Inter-Services Intelligence directorate; and Sheik Rashid Ahmed, a former minister under President Pervez Musharraf who issued a rabble-rousing speech that supported the idea of overthrowing the elected government.

    “People are praying to have this government undemocratically removed, I am sorry to say,” he shouted, pointing to Parliament.

    The rally highlighted the worrisome place that extremists have carved out in Pakistani public life. After Mr. Saeed ended his speech, he was whisked away in a convoy of bulletproof jeeps. Local news media reported that another jihadi group, Al-Badr Mujahedeen, was fund-raising and recruiting on Sunday in Rawalpindi, near Islamabad.

    But the Islamabad rally also highlighted the limits of extremist influence. The crowd was small by the standards of political rallies; the organizers were forced to hold the rally close to midnight, which excluded them from prime-time television coverage.

    The rally broke up peacefully after the speeches ended; organizers said they would resume protests later this month, closer to the border.

    Waqar Gilani contributed reporting from Jhelum, Pakistan, and Salman Masood from Islamabad.

    http://www.nytimes.com/2012/07/10/w...tan-kill-6-soldiers-and-a-policeman.html?_r=1
     
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  3. sob

    sob Moderator Moderator

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    One interesting thing happened this time, both Nawaz Sharif and Imran Khan refused to attend the meeting called by Hafiz Saeed. Wonder was it under pressure from the Americans or did they read something from the ground.
     

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