Amid overwhelmingly heightened security measures, religious parties along with tens of thousands of right-wing supporters reached the federal capital on Monday midnight to mark the much-hyped ‘long march’ against resumption of Nato transit routes by Pakistan.
Thousands of frenzied protesters reached the federal capital in a convoy of hundreds of buses, trucks and cars, many carrying the black and white striped flags of the DPC after completing the 275-km journey from Lahore to Islamabad.
Hafiz Saeed Ahmed – head of Jamaatud Dawa (JuD) which primarily sponsored and organised the march – advocated peace in the country and vowed that unless “infidels” do not launch an attack on a Muslim country, the Muslims cannot wage a war against them.
“Islam means peace. We will establish peace in the country. No Muslim can take out swords against any other Muslim. We are taught by our Prophet (PBUH) to advocate our religion with our character,” he said.
His was the most moderate speech among the leaders of the alliance who categorically emphasised on anti-US sentiments. Surprisingly there was little mention of India, contrary to a common perception of Saeed’s anti-India stance.
Saeed warned the US that if they made any attempt to launch an attack on Pakistani soil, they will face similar resistance as they had faced in Afghanistan.
The DPC had announced this “long march” to protest the government’s decision to reopen Nato supply lines. It announced to organise similar protest demonstrations in Khyber-Pakhtunkwa and Balochistan along the cities from where Nato supply routes pass.
Sharing the future strategy of the DPC to maintain pressure on the government to halt the transit supply lines, leaders announced a similar long march from July 14 to 15 from Quetta to Chaman and from Peshawar to Torkhum from July 16 to 17.
Chanting slogans against opening of Nato supply routes, the marchers followed a single route through Islamabad Expressway to Faisal Chowk leading further to Jinnah Avenue and arrived at the mouth of Parade Lane at about midnight.
After completing a journey of 36 hours on the Grand Trunk road, the participants that numbered in thousands had gathered near the Parliament House and after making speeches dispersed peacefully.
Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), Ahle Sunnat wal Jamat (ASWJ), Maulna Samiul Haq’s Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam (JUI), Ansar ul Ummah, Sheikh Rashid Ahmed’s Awami Muslim League (AML) and other smaller groups are part of the alliance.
Maulana Samiul Haq told the gathering that “there is a lesson for you in the struggle of the Afghan Mujahidden.” He said the Afghan Taliban had defeated the Soviet Union and now America is on the verge of collapse and by adopting their way of Jihad we can get rid of the Americans. He took jibes at parliament and said it has become a redundant platform since it has no say in decision-making.
Syed Munawwar Hassan said that a “well-cooked conspiracy” was behind the resumption of Nato supply routes and the government had failed to deliver.
(Read: Whither Difa-e-Pakistan Council)
(WITH ADDITIONAL REPORTING BY MUDASSIR RAJA IN RAWALPINDI AND UMER NANGIANA IN ISLAMABAD)
Published in The Express Tribune, July 10th, 2012.