Anti-Drone Protests In Pakistan Force US Military To Halt Cargo Shipments
The US military has suspended all cargo shipments out of Afghanistan due to a non-violent blockade imposed by activists protesting the US drone program in neighboring Pakistan.
On Tuesday, Pentagon spokesman Mark Wright announced a temporary halt to military shipments from Torkham Gate through Karachi, a primary commercial transit route between Pakistan and Afghanistan, ”to ensure the safety of the drivers contracted to move our equipment.”
Pakistan’s opposition Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI) party, which organized the action, hailed the shipment suspension as a “tactical success.” Protests have been ongoing since November 24 and PTI leader and former cricket player Imran Kahn says they will continue until US drone strikes on Pakistan cease. The News International reports:
Imran Khan said Nato trucks would not be allowed to pass through Khyber Pakhtunkhwa until drone attacks were stopped. He said if anyone thought that the PTI would lift the blockade, they were mistaken. “If anyone thinks the PTI workers would be exhausted, they are making a mistake. The workers would continue this protest for an indefinite period,” he said amid cheers of approval from the protesters.
The PTI workers, along with some from the party’s coalition partner, Jamaat-e-Islami (JI), have imposed a blockade on Nato supplies by camping at five points in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa. For the last 10 days, they have been disallowing trucks taking goods for Western troops in Afghanistan. They stop vehicles, check their shipment documents and send back those suspected of taking supplies for Nato forces. As hundreds of containers have been stalled by the protest, over a dozen were forced to go back at the Ring Road sit-in.
US news outlets have rushed to point out that protesters checking the vehicles have been armed with clubs even though there have been no reports of violence. Meanwhile, threats faced by protesters have been overlooked.
Last week, oil tanker companies expressed frustration at not being able to use the Khyber Pakhtunkhwa route and threatened to “cut off” oil shipments to the region if the demonstrations didn’t stop within 72 hours. As Antiwar’s Jason Ditz explained, an oil shutdown “could be devastating for major cities like Peshawar, but could also inflame resentments against the drone strikes and fuel speculation that the US is trying to punish them for their opposition.”
It’s also been reported that Pakistan’s very first fleet of domestic drones would be deployed in the crackdown against anti-drone protesters.