PESHAWAR: Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) Chairman Imran Khan, addressing a protest rally in Peshawar on Saturday, maintained that until US drone strikes stop, the Nato supply route through Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa (K-P), will remain blocked too. However, as soon as the rally ended, all those who had gathered for the protest dispersed too.
“We will not allow NATO supplies to pass from Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and in any case will stop drone strikes,” Imran told the gathering.
“Before the elections, we promised to bring peace to the country. But without drones being stopped, peace cannot be attained.
“For the first time in the history of Pakistan, a democratic government along with all other parties had agreed that the time for war had ended, and it is time for dialogue,” Imran said referring the the All Parties Conference (APC) in September. He reiterated that the drone strike which killed Tehreek-i-Taliban Pakistan (TTP) leader Hakimullah Mehsud sabotaged the peace process.
Addressing Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, Imran said that the PTI had accepted the election results and Nawaz as the prime minister of the country. “We supported you, we stood by you. We hoped you would start the peace dialogue soon… We hoped that when you would go the US and meet President Obama, you will at least ask him to stop the drone strikes till the peace dialogue is taking place. But when you talked over there, you did not mention the drones at all.
“You have no idea about the devastation in K-P caused by this war,” Imran complained. Nawaz has not yet visited Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa after elections in May.
Awami Muslim League (AML) President and MNA Sheikh Rasheed, who was the first speaker at the protest, said: “We are being killed by dengue, hepatitis, tuberculosis, electricity, gas, inflation as well as drones.”
He also criticised the federal government during his speech.
PTI Vice-Chairman Shah Mehmood Qureshi said that when PTI chief Imran Khan was talking about drones, no one listened to him. “Now even the UN secretary general says that they [drone strikes] are in violation of international laws. They call it war crimes,” he said.
The Ring Road in Peshawar, which is the main supply route for Nato, and the Pak-Afghan border at Torkham was blocked to choke Nato supplies. Security measures were also taken to avoid any untoward situation.
When will the block start?
There was confusing scenes in Peshawar as PTI chief Imran Khan left the rally venue along with other PTI and allied leaders.
In what Imran had termed to be the beginning a blockade till the drone strikes stop, all those who had gathered in Peshawar for the rally and protest, left the rally venue soon after their political leaders.
This lead to confusion on when the actual block was due to begin.
Per a post by PTI Information Secretary Shireen Mazaari on PTI’s official facebook page, the actual block will start on Sunday night.
“From late tomorrow [Sunday] night our party workers along with our allies will stop NATO containers at chosen entry and exit points into KP from both directions indefinitely.”
The post added that the supplies will be stopped at various locations in the province but the main location will be the “Ring Road Toll Plaza near Hayatabad.”
She further clarified that Saturday’s rally was the first step “in building up to this longer action.”
After the drone strike that killed Hakimullah Mehsud and sabotaged the fledgling peace initiative with militants, the PTI, Jamaat-i-Islami (JI) and Awami Jamhoori Ittehad Pakistan had decided to block the Nato supply route from Peshawar to Torkham. The protest, initially planned for November 20 was postponed till November 23 (today) in view of the security situation.
A drone strike in K-P on November 21 angered Imran even further, who said that it was their “legal right to halt Nato supplies now that a US drone has hit the settled district of Hangu”.