Pakistan re-opens NATO supply route

By on Tuesday, April 26th, 2011

NATO can resume supplying its troops in Afghanistan through a key Pakistani route on Monday after protesters against US drone strikes lifted a blockade, an official said.

Supporters of former cricketer Imran Khan’s political party on Sunday ended a two-day sit-in at a Peshawar road, which was called to compel the US to end a covert missile campaign against Islamist militants in Pakistan’s tribal belt.

“Peshawar ring road has been cleared and re-opened for vehicular traffic,” senior local administration official, Muhammad Siraj Khan told AFP.

Trucks will only be able to use the route from Monday morning because of security reasons, he added.

Imran Khan — who leads the Tehreek-e-Insaf (Movement for Justice) party — earlier said his supporters would “block supplies for NATO in different parts of the country if drone attacks are not stopped within one month.”

“We will also stage sit-in in Islamabad if the government fails to stop these strikes,” he told a crowd of some 5,000 people at the end of the two-day sit-in.

Supporters waved party flags and chanted slogans such as “stop the drone attacks, stop killing innocent people and down with the government,” during the speech, an AFP reporter at the scene said.

“We want a sovereign Pakistan,” Khan said, adding that “the American people will hold even bigger demonstrations if they come to know that the innocent civilians are being killed in the drone attacks.”

The party called the demonstration in protest at US missile attacks from unmanned aircraft in Pakistan’s lawless tribal areas, which many feel infringe Pakistani sovereignty and which locals say sometimes kill civilians.

The covert strikes targeting militants in Pakistan’s lawless border regions, which are believed to be operated with the tacit consent of Islamabad, stoke rampant anti-American sentiment throughout the South Asian nation.

Public anger intensified after a March 17 drone attack killed 39 people including civilians.

NATO supply trucks and oil tankers are the targets of frequent attacks blamed on insurgents attempting to disrupt supplies for the more than 130,000 international troops fighting in Afghanistan.

Most supplies and equipment required by coalition troops in Afghanistan are shipped through Pakistan, although US troops increasingly use alternative routes through central Asia.

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