Aizaz Mohmand / Reuters & PressTV – 2011-04-25 02:13:33
Pakistanis Protest against US Drone Strikes,
Block NATO Supply Route
Aizaz Mohmand / Reuters
PESHAWAR (April 24, 2011) — The main supply route for NATO troops in Afghanistan was temporarily closed on Sunday after thousands of people blocked a key highway in Pakistan to protest against US drone strikes, officials said.
The NATO-led International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in Kabul, however, said the two-day blockade would have no impact on the allianceâ€™s operations in Afghanistan.
“Coordination with Pakistani government officials has been conducted and we understand the government will maintain security,” an ISAF spokesman said. “There is no impact on ISAF sustainment.”
The routes through Pakistan bring in 40 percent of supplies for NATO forces in Afghanistan, according to the United States Transportation Command. Of the remainder, 40 percent come through Afghanistanâ€™s neighbours in the north and 20 percent by air.
The call for blocking the supply line came from cricket-turn-politician Imran Khan after US officials rejected Pakistanâ€™s demand for sharp cuts in drone strikes in its tribal regions where al Qaeda and Taliban militants are based.
Activists from Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaaf (PTI), Khan’s party, and some Islamist parties staged a sit-in on the highway leading to Afghanistan through the Pashtun tribal region of Khyber.
“It is meant to send a message outside that we oppose drone strikes. We will never accept them,” Asad Qaiser, PTI president in the northwestern Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, said.
The supply to Afghanistan through Khyber region had been suspended since the protest started on Saturday, a senior provincial government official, Siraj Ahmed, said. The Chaman border crossing in the southwest has remained open to traffic, another official said.
The attacks by US pilotless aircraft are a source of concern for the Pakistani government, which says civilian casualties stoke public anger and bolster support for the Islamist militancy. But the protests have irked Pakistani truckers involved in the lucrative business of transporting supplies to the foreign troops in Afghanistan.
“They are politicians. They keep doing such dramas. But we cannot take risk so it is better to keep our trucks off the road for a few days,” Mohammad Shakir Afridi, the president of Khyber Transport Association, said. “We are fed up with this business,” he added. “Every second day either trucks are attacked or the supply to Afghanistan is suspended. We say if you (the government) do not want it, cut it off permanently or provide us proper security.”
He said his truckers had taken advanced payment for the shipments and if they donâ€™t go through, they would have to pay back that money. “We have been trapped in a quagmire,” Afridi said.
Pakistanis to Block NATO Supply Trucks
KABUL (April 24, 2011) — Thousands of protesters have held a rally in northwest of Pakistan as part of plans to block trucks carrying supplies to NATO forces in the neighboring Afghanistan.
The Pakistan Tehrik-e-Insaf party (Justice Movement) organized a sit-in in the Peshawar city of Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province to cut off the supply line of US-led troops in protest against the killing of people in the non-UN-sanctioned US drone attacks in Pakistan’s tribal areas, a Press TV correspondent reported Saturday.
The protesters are moving from the capital Islamabad and Peshawar, which is the main supply route for NATO forces amid reports that NATO has suspended its supply for two days to avert a face-off with the protesters.
The demonstration comes just a day after two US drones fired six missiles at a house in Spinwam in Mir Ali subdivision of North Waziristan tribal region, killing 25 people, including women and children, according to local reports.
Meanwhile, Zahid Hussain, a provincial leader and Secretary Information of the Tehrik-e-Insaf, told Press TV that the party has finalized arrangements for the demonstrations to be continued for two days (April 23-24) against recent unauthorized US drone attacks on the tribal areas bordering Afghanistan.
The official stated that the main objective of the protest is to pressure Pakistani and US governments to put a halt to drone attacks, which have left many innocent people dead.
Public outcry is running high against the non-UN-sanctioned strikes and there are no signs that the US will stop the attacks despite Pakistan’s protest.
The US conducted a record 124 drone attacks in the tribal areas of Pakistan in 2010, more than double the number of Predator strikes conducted in 2009. The assaults killed 1,184 people in 2010, compared to 2009’s death toll of 760 in 53 attacks, according to Pakistan’s The Nation newspaper.
On April 20, Pakistani Chief of the Army Staff General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani said the US drone strikes in Pakistan are undermining his country’s counter-terrorism efforts.
“Drone strikes are not only undermining our national effort against terrorism but turn public support against our efforts, which remains the key to success,” Kayani complained during a meeting with Admiral Mike Mullen, the Chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff.
Washington claims the stepped-up pace of US-led aerial offensives in Pakistan’s North Waziristan tribal district plays a pivotal role in eliminating Taliban militants, who are perceived to have found a safe haven in tribal belts bordering Afghanistan.
Violence Kills 500 Afghans in 30 Days
(April 24, 2011) — Afghanistan’s government says nearly 500 Afghans have been killed in the war-torn country in the past month alone amid deteriorating security situation there. The Interior Ministry said the deaths were reported between March 21 and April 20. It added that the fatalities included over 80 civilians and nearly 80 policemen and that the rest were militants.
Violence has escalated despite the presence of about 150,000 foreign troops in the country. Civilian casualties have hit record highs since the US-led invasion of the country in 2001.
Civilians have been the main victims of violence in Afghanistan, particularly in the country’s troubled southern and eastern provinces, where they are killed by both militant and foreign fire.
The issue of civilian casualties has raised concerns in Kabul, prompting Afghan officials to condemn attacks by NATO forces. The war in Afghanistan, with civilian and military casualties at record highs, has become the longest war in US history.
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