Pakistan Shuts Capital as Islamists Protest NATO Route Reopening
Pakistani authorities deployed paramilitary forces in Islamabad and shopkeepers shut early as thousands of supporters of an Islamist group converged on the capital to protest the decision to reopen NATO supply routes.
The rally by about 8,000 members of the Difah-e-Pakistan Council, or Defense of Pakistan Council, a movement of parties with links to the Taliban and other extremist groups, began yesterday in the eastern city of Lahore. Protesters plan to demonstrate in front of parliament later today after completing the 300-kilometer (185-mile) journey, according to the Associated Press.
“The opening of NATO supply routes is a violation of parliament resolutions,” Maulana Samiul Haq, a senior leader of the council, said in a speech in Lahore yesterday that was broadcast by television channels. “This long march will free our nation from rulers who are just serving U.S. interests.”
Trucks carrying supplies for U.S.-led forces fighting in neighboring Afghanistan began crossing the border from Pakistan last week after a seven-month blockade. The routes were reopened after U.S. Secretary of State Hillary Clinton apologized for the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers in a November border strike by American helicopters.