x Abu Dhabi, UAEWednesday 13 December 2017

Thousands in Pakistan protest against Nato supply line deal

Thousands of hardline Islamists have protested against the government's decision to allow the US and other Nato countries to resume sending troop supplies through the country to Afghanistan.

Pakistan's Islamists who oppose their country's anti-terror alliance with Washington have begun a ‘long march’ to Islamabad to protest over the reopening of a Nato supply route to Afghanistan.
Pakistan's Islamists who oppose their country's anti-terror alliance with Washington have begun a ‘long march’ to Islamabad to protest over the reopening of a Nato supply route to Afghanistan.

LAHORE, PAKISTAN // Thousands of hardline Islamists streamed toward Pakistan's capital in a massive convoy of vehicles yesterday to protest against the government's decision to allow the US and other Nato countries to resume sending troop supplies through the country to Afghanistan.

The demonstration, which started in the eastern city of Lahore, was organised by the Difah-e-Pakistan Council (Defence of Pakistan Council) a group of politicians and religious leaders who have been the most vocal opponents of the supply line.

Pakistan closed the route in November in retaliation for US airstrikes that killed 24 Pakistani troops. After months of negotiations, Islamabad agreed to reopen the route last week after the US secretary of state, Hillary Clinton, apologised for the deaths. Mrs Clinton met with the Pakistani foreign minister, Hina Rabbani Khar, for the first time since the apology yesterday on the sidelines of an Afghan aid conference in Tokyo and expressed hope that resolution of the supply line conflict would lead to better relations between the allies.

One of the reasons Pakistan waited so long to resolve the conflict is that the government was worried about domestic backlash in a country where anti-American sentiment is high despite billions of dollars in US aid over the last decade.

The protest started yesterday in the center of Lahore, where several thousand people assembled with scores of buses, cars and motorbikes. They linked up with thousands more supporters at the city's edge and drove toward Islamabad in a so-called "long march" against the supply line. The convoy included about 200 vehicles carrying 8,000 people when it left Lahore, said Babar Bakht, a police official.

After completing the four-hour journey to Islamabad, they plan to hold a protest in front of the parliament building today.