LAHORE: Thousands of charged people, in hundreds of vehicles, started their long march to Islamabad from Lahore to protest against the resumption of Nato supplies on Sunday. The protest was organised by the Defence of Pakistan Council who pledged to continue the movement till the expulsion of the US from the country.
The slogan-chanting and flag waving marchers began the rally from the Masjid-e-Shuhada where the 20-party alliance leaders, led by Maulana Samiul Haq, offered special Nawafil prayers before embarking upon the two-day march which would move on the GT Road to culminate outside the Parliament House in Islamabad.
The start of the march was delayed by over an hour since aged leader of the JUI-S Maulana Samiul Haq arrived late due to indisposition while other leaders Hafiz Saeed, Syed Munawwar Hasan, Gen (retd) Hameed Gul, Maulana Fazlur Rehman Khalil, Dr Khadim Hussain Dhillon, Sheikh Rasheed Ahmad, Liaqat Baloch, Hafiz Abdul Rehman Makki and Maulana Ameer Hamza remained discussing various issues with other leaders inside the Masjid-e-Shuhada.
The long march was scheduled to start at 9:30am but much before that buses, vans, pick-ups and other vehicles had lined up on The Mall. The Punjab government had deployed police for security on the road and at Nasser Bagh from where the march was scheduled to begin. There was a shift in the Punjab government’s attitude on Friday as it removed a couple of welcome camps of the long march from The Mall. Dozens of police vehicles were also accompanying the marchers with some moving at the front while others at its tail.
With the luck of the marchers, the inclement weather showed a swift change as the sky was covered with clouds and a cool breeze started to blow. Hafiz Saeed and other leaders mentioned the weather change as a gift from Allah and said His blessings were with the participants and their cause.
Talking to the media before starting the long march, the DPC leaders Samiul Haq and Hafiz Saeed warned that the march was vital for protecting the security and future of the country which the rulers had sold to Washington for a few dollars. They appealed to the masses to join them to save the nation and future of their young generation by liberating the country from US slavery. They said that earning dollars from killing of Afghan Muslims was forbidden in Islam and appealed to the truck owners and drivers to display religious self-respect by refusing to carry Nato supplies.
They expressed sorrow that PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, JUI-F leader Maulana Fazlur Rehman and PTI leader Imran Khan did not join them despite personal invitations and refrained from chalking out a concerted national strategy to safeguard national security and integrity.
Sheikh Rasheed said that the drone attack which killed 24 people on the day after the reopening of Nato supplies was enough to remind the rulers of their real worth before Washington. He said national and religious self-respect demanded the entire nation must come out on the streets for protecting its future and honour.
The DPC leaders rode in a truck in the midst of the long motorcade comprising buses, trucks, vans, jeeps, cars and large number of motorcycles as the march cruised slowly towards Nasser Bagh, from where the march was scheduled to start, from where it took almost an hour.
Addressing the crowd waiting at Nasser Bagh, Samiul Haq said the best interest of the nation and Ummah was in ridding itself of US slavery and the DPC had come out to rid not only Pakistan but also Afghanistan from US control. He lamented that by reopening Nato supplies, Pakistani rulers had consolidated the US grip over the country and it was with their consent that drone attacks were going on. He rebutted the critics who doubted the DPC intentions, saying the DPC leaders were out to counter the global agenda of the enemies of Islam which Bush had openly unveiled by declaring that Nato was waging a crusade against Islam. He said it was a matter of shame that Pakistani and other Muslim rulers were siding with Washington in its anti-Islam agenda. He recalled that the Holy Prophet (SAW) and his companions had faced such situations where the help of Allah was showered upon them in the face of visible doom.
Munawwar Hasan said the long march was not only aimed at salvaging Pakistan but also the whole Muslim Ummah because it was launched to end the US slavery in the Muslim world and the plunder of resources. He asked all the people who were against the US drone attacks, its killing of Pakistani soldiers from across the Afghan border and those who wanted Pakistan to be free from the US slavery, to join the long march. He, however, said that those who wanted to befriend the US and were happy with US slavery should stay away.
Munawwar said that those who had launched the long march and those who had joined it were doing it only for the sake of Allah.
Hafiz Saeed said the alliance of the patriotic parties in the DPC was a blessing of Allah as they joined hands and came out to protect national and Islamic interests. He recalled the difficulties and seemingly uphill task faced by Muslim army in Ghazwa-e-Tabook against the alliance of Christian western nations but the help of Allah finally arrived because Muslims had showed unwavering trust in Him.
The marchers finally left Nasser Bagh for Shahdara at 12:30pm, two hours behind schedule, with lines of vehicles with slogan chanting participants. Jamaatud Dawa flags were seen in the maximum number while those of the Jamaat Islami, Ahle Sunnat Wal Jamaat, JUI-S and Jamiat Ahle Hadith were also seen. A large number of workers were sitting on the roofs of the buses.
During the long march, the DPC leaders had a schedule to address public meetings at Shahdara, Gujranwala and some other towns along the GT Road before staying for the night at Gujrat. They will reach Islamabad on Monday (today) evening.
Other DPC leaders accompanying the march included Ibtesam Ilahid Zaheer, Khadim Hussain Dhillon, Hafiz Abdul Ghaffar Rupari, Tahir Mehmood Ashrafi, Maulana Ilyas Chinioti, Qari Mansoor, Liaqat Baloch, Abdul Rehman Makki, Maulana Ameer Hamza, Zahid Bakhtawari, Maulana Abdul Rauf Farooqi, Brig (retd) Nadir Mir, Brig (retd) Muhammad Hanif, Irshad Arif Abdullah Gul, Maulana Bashir Ahmad Shad and others.
In Gurjranwala, the DPC caravan en route to Islamabad reached at 10:00 pm Sunday night, traversing 42 miles in 12 hours and got rousing welcome at Qila Chand where Isha prayer was offered.
Two entourages reached the historical Sheranwala Bagh, packed to the capacity by all types of vehicles, buses, wagons, cars, jeeps, coasters etc. The public meeting was addressed which maintained that the long march was sacred crusade for liberation from American hegemony. Maulana Sami vowed to enter Islamabad even if it was sealed and Sheikh Rashid challenged the authority of Rehman Malik.
Hameed Gul maintained that it was a matter of the sovereignty of the county. He feared that Pakistan was the actual target of America and its freedom was at a stake. JI Ameer Munawar Hassan said America is patronizing terrorism and the long march aims at the protection of geographical and ideological frontiers of the two countries.
Hafiz Saeed observed that the long march will force the United States to seek apology and pay compensation to the Salala martyrs. Similar speeches were earlier delivered at Kamoke on the way.
AFP adds: Organisers and police have put different figures regarding the turnout in the march.”Some 25,000 people have joined us at the start of the long march and many more would join on the way, while we have 3,000 people with us who are performing security duties,” the organisers’ spokesman Yahya Mujahid told the agency. Police estimated up to 8,000 people were taking part.