The reopening of NATO supply lines will open a new chapter of protests and rallies across the country, as some political parties are all set to milk the issue, says Tahir Ali
The expression of remorse by United States Secretary of State Hillary Clinton was enough to break the deadlock that had led to the blocking of North Atlantic Treaty Organisation's supply routes for the last seven months, following the killing of 24 Pakistani soldiers in a cross-border NATO strike at the Salala check-post in November last year.
The restoration of the NATO supply line has reduced tensions between the Unites States and Pakistan and may mark a turning point in their complex relationship.
But it will also open a new chapter of protests and rallies across the country, as some political parties are all set to politicise the issue. They have claimed that Pakistan got a mere 'sorry', not an 'unconditional apology' as demanded by its parliamentarians.
After the Salala incident, Defence of Pakistan Council, an alliance of at least 40 politico-religious parties, had organised rallies in different parts of the country and strongly opposed the reopening of the NATO supply line through Pakistan.
The DPC leadership had warned of dire consequences in case Pakistan reopens its routes for foreign forces based in Afghanistan.
Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan had termed it as a mere 'drama' and 'political show'.
After the Pakistan government reopened the NATO supply line, TTP spokesperson Ihsanullah Ihsan sent a email about DPC to the media, stating, "Re-opening of NATO supply routes by Pakistan is a test of political parties that were shouting slogans and staging a political drama. How will they face the nation? Re-opening of NATO supply routes endorses our stance that this was a drama staged by the Pakistan government and today we again claim that Pakistani rulers are complete slaves of the US. They are not Muslims as they have embraced secularism as their religion. We urge the nation, 'please do not be deceived by these puppets; support TTP instead'."
Reacting to the re-opening of the NATO supply line, the DPC announced peaceful sit-ins along NATO supply routes and called for an all-party meet on July 7 as well as a 'long march' on July 8.
Other major opposition parties are also likely to milk this issue in view of the general elections that are scheduled to be held in nine months.
Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz, Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam and Pakistan Tehrik Insaf have made it clear that they will protest against the government's decision to allow supplies for US/NATO forces, when the US had not met even a single condition set forth by the parliament.
Chaudhry Nisar All Khan, leader of opposition in the National Assembly, has said that inept rulers had made Pakistan a laughing stock and made a mockery of unanimous parliamentary resolutions.
"The decision is a total and abject surrender by a fumbling incompetent, corrupt, and rudderless government which has gone back on everything it claimed to have stood for, and in the process has not only ended up looking foolish but has also turned Pakistan's foreign and security policy into a joke," said Nisar.
Nisar said the PPP leaders might have forgotten the fiery speeches they made in parliament while passing resolutions and condemning Salala air strikes.
"They should keep this in mind that people have not forgotten their speeches during the assembly session," he added.
"Their hollow statements and false promises are part of the record. This colossal U-turn on the part of the government has caused grave damage to parliament and its independence and has compromised the sovereignty and self-respect of Pakistan," said Nisar.
While commenting about the decision, PTI leader Shafqat Mehmood said the party will protest against the government's failure to put pressure on US President Barack Obama to tender an unconditional apology over the Salala massacre.
When asked why the party would not be part of the DPC, he said that it was not a militant organisation and there was no need to take such extremist groups on board.
"Whatever we will do, we will do ourselves," said Mehmood.
He said that the PTI will hold a mammoth public rally in Peshawar against the government's move.
"If the government kept on taking such decisions all by itself, what is the need for parliament," he asked.
JUIF leader Maulana Naseeb expressed regret over the government's decision to reopen NATO supply routes and said the government has taken a unilateral decision, which is not acceptable.
"If this was the intention of the rulers, why did they waste precious time debating the US attack," said the Maulana. He said that the party would soon announce its future line of action regarding the government's decision, which has thrown the unanimous resolutions of parliament "in the trash".
Meanwhile, calls for protests by political parties and threats from militants that they will attack each and every container of NATO, has scared the drivers of the containers.
"Security risk is the biggest problem we are facing as certain politico-religious parties have publicly threatened to stop the supplies by force," said Muhammad Akram Khan Durrani, chairman of the All Pakistan Oil Tankers Owners Association.
"Since the start of NATO supplies via Pakistan, at least 150 drivers and cleaners have been killed and over 1,600 vehicles have been completely or partly damaged in various attacks. Security is a major problem for us," Durrani said.