ISLAMABAD/ LAHORE: As several quarters in Pakistan join the chorus to condemn a bill on Balochistan moved in the US Congress, thousands of Difa-e-Pakistan Council supporters rallied in Islamabad against American intervention in Pakistan.
“Today, we have gathered here to raise a voice of protest against US intervention in Pakistan,” DPC Chairman Maulana Samiul Haq told the participants who had gathered at Aabpara Chowk in the federal capital on Monday.
“America wants to break Pakistan into pieces,” Haq said, in reference to the resolution in America, introduced by Congressman Dana Rohrabacher which calls upon Pakistan to recognise the Baloch right to self determination. “Our protest is against the possible resumption of Nato supplies, US and Indian occupation and to strengthen the country’s defence.”
The alliance, which comprises 40 religious groups and parties including conservative right-wing party Jamaat-i-Islami and UN-sanctioned Jamaatud Dawa, was formed after a Nato strike on Salala Checkpost in Mohmand killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.
Also present at the rally was DPC member Hamid Gul, who headed Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence agency during the 1980s Pakistani-sponsored war against Soviet troops in Afghanistan that gave rise to al Qaeda and the Taliban.
His membership has fuelled suspicions that Pakistan’s security establishment is backing the coalition as a means of exerting pressure on the weak government and whipping up rhetoric against the unpopular US alliance.
However, three prominent leaders JuD head Hafiz Muhammad Saeed, Maulana Ahmed Ludhianwi and Dr Khadim Hussain Dhillon did not participate in the sit-in.
The decision was taken by the DPC leadership to avoid any clash with the government as the administration had imposed a ban on the entry of these three leaders in Islamabad for seven days, said Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamat spokesperson Ubaidullah Usmani.
“Hafiz Muhammad Saeed will not come to Islamabad to avoid confrontation with the government and will not attend the rally,” Yahya Mujahid, a spokesman for JuD, also told AFP.
The council has been able to attract large crowds in its recent rallies. Allah Buksh, a senior police official, said 2,500 attended the Monday demonstration as it got underway, but witnesses estimated the crowd at 3,500 as hundreds of riot police, armed with batons and wearing bullet-proof jackets stood guard.
The sit-in will continue till dusk, sources said.
“Death to America” and “America deserves one treatment: jihad, jihad” shouted the crowd.
“America can never be our friend, it is our biggest enemy. America will be defeated in Afghanistan and divided into pieces,” Mian Aslam, a former JI lawmaker said in his address to the rally.
Banners strung up in Islamabad denounced US drone strikes on militants, the government’s decision to grant India the Most-Favoured Nation status in a bid to ease trade, and re-opening the Afghan border to Nato convoys.
“Go America Go”, “No to NATO”, “Arrogant Americans – others are also human beings” and “the chains of slavery will now break up”, they read.
“The friend of the US is a traitor”, “the friend of (Pakistani President Asif Ali) Zardari is a traitor” and “the friend of (Afghan President Hamid) Karzai is a traitor”, shouted the crowd.
Jamaatud Dawa representation
Maulana Abdul Rehman Makki and Maulana Ameer Hamza will participate on behalf of Hafiz Saeed, while ASWJ central secretary information Maulana Aurangzeb Farooqi and ASWJ vice-president Punjab Maulana Maavia Tariq will represent the banned ASWJ leaders Ludhianwi and Dhillon.
ASWJ’s rally took off today from the Markaz ASWJ and headed towards Aabpara Chowk in Islamabad to participate in the sit-in, Usmani further said.
He said that Maulana Aurangzeb Faruqi will lead the rally.
On Sunday, Muhammad Saeed and Ludhianwi reached Rawalpindi to participate in the Sarbarahi Ijlas, and rumours had it that the leaders would also breach the ban to participate in the sit-in today.
However, the top leadership of the DPC decided in a meeting to abide by the administration’s orders and not take the three banned leaders along.
The rally of Jamat-e-Islami (JI), led by Rawalpindi chapter chief Dr Kamal Ameer, also took off to Aabpara Chowk from Liaqat Bagh Rawalpindi. Other party leaders, along with more than 2,000 activists of ASWJ, gathered in the office of ASWJ to participate in the sit-in, said Usmani.