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Alliance of extremist groups demand closure of NATO routes

July 10, 2012 15:07 IST

An alliance of over 40 religious and extremist groups forged by Lashkar-e-Tayiba founder Hafiz Mohammad Saeed has vowed to march to the Afghan border to force Pakistan government to close NATO supply routes.

Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, Chairman of Defa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC), announced plans for further protests against the government's reopening of NATO supply routes at the conclusion of a "long march" from Lahore to Islamabad late Monday night.

"We will now stage a long march from Quetta to Chaman on July 14-15 and Peshawar to Torkham on July 16-17," Haq said, referring to two crossings on the Afghan border used for transporting NATO supplies.

"This movement will continue and we will now focus on areas from where the supply goes to NATO forces in Afghanistan," he said.

Over 20,000 supporters of DPC, a majority of them members of Saeed-headed JuD, gathered at a ground near Parliament at the conclusion of the long march around midnight. They shouted slogans against the United States and waved the black-and-white flags of the JuD, considered a front for LeT.

Pakistan reopened the supply lines last week after the US apologised for a NATO strike that had killed 24 soldiers.

Addressing the gathering, Saeed, the mastermind of the 2008 Mumbai attacks, urged Pakistanis to stand up against "slavery to the US."

"Pakistan's original problem is slavery to the US. We don't accept it, we want freedom," Saeed said.

He called for peace in Pakistan but warned the US that it would face resistance if it made any attempt to launch an attack on Pakistani soil.

Though the long march was described as a protest by the DPC, it was largely sponsored and organised by the JuD. About 3,000 volunteers were mobilised by the JuD to provide security to the long march, leaders of the group said.

The DPC has organised several large rallies across the country since the NATO attack and some observers believe Saeed could float a political party to contest the next general election, expected to be held early next year.

Earlier, thousands of supporters of the DPC travelled 300 km between Lahore and Islamabad in a motorcade of hundreds of buses, trucks, cars and motorcycles.

DPC leaders emphasised that their protests would continue till Pakistan cut off its ties with the US and NATO.

Its leaders like Saeed, ex-ISI chief Hamid Gul and Jamaat-e-Islami chief Munawar Hasan travelled in the motorcade.

Protesters atop buses and trucks shouted slogans like "One solution for America, jihad, jihad!" and "Death to the US".

Militants killed seven soldiers and a policeman during an attack on an army camp near Gujrat city in Punjab province hours after the long march had passed through the area.

The Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan claimed responsibility for the attack, Geo News reported. 

Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad
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