PESHAWAR: Club-wielding activists from Imran Khan’s political party forcibly searched trucks for NATO supplies in northwest Pakistan on Sunday in protest at deadly US drone strikes.
Around 100 workers from the former cricket star’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaaf (PTI) party set up checkpoints in the northwestern city of Peshawar on a main road leading to Afghanistan.
They stopped trucks and hauled drivers from their cabs to check their paperwork, following a call by Khan at a rally on Saturday to block supplies to NATO forces in Afghanistan in protest at the drone attacks.
The activists, carrying the PTI’s green and red flag, broke open truck containers to check their contents, our reporter at the scene said.
The PTI heads the government in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, of which Peshawar is the capital. But authority for the highways lies with the federal government, which has so far made no move to block NATO supplies.
Muhammad Faisal, a senior police official, said the PTI activists’ actions were illegal but he was powerless to act.
“The protesters are doing unlawful acts by checking documents and screening goods, they don’t have authority,” he said.
“But we can’t take action against them because we have no instructions from the government. If the government orders us, we will stop this illegal activity.” PTI activist Asghar Khalil, 28, said they were heeding their leader’s call to action and would not stop until Washington promised to end drone strikes.
Khan has long opposed the US campaign of drone attacks targeting Taleban and Al-Qaeda militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas.
He has intensified his rhetoric since a US drone strike killed Pakistani Taleban chief Hakimullah Mehsud on Nov. 1.
Khan says that attack was a deliberate attempt by Washington to sabotage efforts toward peace talks with the militants, who have killed thousands in a six-year campaign of violence.
“They are doing unlawful acts. They broke the sealing of my container and forcibly examined the goods,” Faiz Muhammad Khan, a truck driver transporting sanitary items to Afghanistan, said.