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Militant showdown in Islamabad

world Updated: Jul 10, 2012 02:21 IST
Imtiaz Ahmad
Imtiaz Ahmad
Hindustan Times
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The Pakistan government suffered sleepless moments on Monday as a convoy of the Pakistan Difa Council (PDC) made its way to Islamabad as part its long march to protest the reopening of Nato routes. The PDC comprises the Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam and Jamaat-e-Islami, as well as controversial groups like Jamaat ud Dawa (JuD) (the new name for terrorist group Lashkar e Tayyeba) and Ahle Sunnat wal Jamaat (ASWJ).

The PDC is being led, among others, by JuD's Hafiz M Saeed who promised his supporters that he would “bring the government to its knees” for its decision to reopen NATO supply routes. The government has replied by tightening security in and around the capital and has warned against anyone taking the law into their hands.

At the same time, interior minister Rehman Malik clarified that Saeed was not a wanted man and was “welcome in Islamabad.” “They (DPC) are patriotic Pakistanis and they want to register their protest and we have given nod to them to do it peacefully” the Daily Times quoted Malik, as saying.

By late Monday, supporters of the PDC were seen to entering Rawalpindi, half an hour from Islamabad. They said they would hold a rally at the Faisal Mosque on Tuesday, near the grave of General Ziaul Haq.

A convoy of hundreds of buses, trucks and cars, many carrying the black and white striped flags of the Difa-e-Pakistan Council (DPC) could be seen on the 275-km journey from Lahore to Islamabad.

Organizers say that over 25,000 supporters are participating in the rally. “This is the beginning of our struggle. We want the US to not only leave Afghanistan, but Pakistan also,” DPC Chairman Maulana Samiul Haq, who is also chief of JUI-S, told participants before the convoy set out from Lahore’s Nasir Bagh. Samiul Haq was speaking from a stage mounted on a truck where he was joined by JI Ameer Syed Munawar Hasan, JuD chief Hafiz Saeed and former ISI chief Lt Gen (retd) Hameed Gul.