PESHAWAR: Thousands of people protesting US drone strikes blocked a road in northwest Pakistan on Saturday used to truck NATO troop supplies and equipment in and out of Afghanistan, the latest sign of rising tension caused by the attacks.
The protest, led by Pakistani politician and cricket star Imran Khan, had more symbolic value than practical impact as there is normally little NATO supply traffic on the road on Saturdays. The blocked route in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province leads to one of two border crossings used to send supplies overland from Pakistan to neighboring Afghanistan.
Khan, whose Tehreek-e-Insaf party runs the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa government, called on federal officials to take a firmer stance to force the US to end drone attacks and block NATO supplies across the country. “We will put pressure on America, and our protest will continue if drone attacks are not stopped,” Khan said. The demonstrators dispersed after Khan’s speech, but his party put out a statement saying they will begin stopping trucks from carrying NATO supplies through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa indefinitely beginning Sunday night. That could spark a clash with the federal government.
The US Embassy in Islamabad refused to comment.
The protest comes only two days after a rare US drone strike outside of Pakistan’s remote tribal region killed six people, including at least three Afghan militants, at an Islamic seminary in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.
The attack outraged Pakistani officials, as did one on Nov. 1 that killed the former leader of the Pakistani Taleban, Hakimullah Mehsud, a day before the Pakistani government said it was going to invite him to hold peace talks.