Thousands of Islamic militant hard-liners, including members of banned extremist political parties, rallied in the capital of Islamabad in Pakistan to denounce the United States, NATO and India, ahead of key elections in the country.
The broad assemblage of about forty parties fell under the umbrella of an organization calling itself “Difaa-i-Pakistan Council (Pakistan Defense Council).
Today, we have gathered here to raise a voice of protest against U.S. intervention in Pakistan, Maulana Sami ul-Haq, a cleric, told Agence France Presse (AFP).
Our protest is against the possible resumption of NATO supplies, U.S. and Indian occupation and to strengthen the country's defense.”
Haq also accused the U.S. government of wanting to “break Pakistan into pieces, in a reference to a proposal by some Washington politicians to seek self-determination for Pakistan’s restive Balochistan province.
AFP reported that the crowd shouted “Death to America” and “America deserves one treatment: jihad [holy war].”
Other chants and banners included: Go America Go, No to NATO, Arrogant Americans -- others are also human beings, and the chains of slavery will now break up.”
Another attendee at the rally was none other than Hamid Gul, the former chief of Pakistan’s notorious intelligence network, Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI). Gul’s apparent support of the rally adds to suspicions that the state’s security and intelligence arms are directly linked to Islamic militant groups.
“For 10 years our rulers as an ally of the United States spilled the blood of this nation. We insisted in the past and say it again now -- this is not our war,” Gul told the crowd, according to Dawn, the Pakistani English language newspaper.
“The Pakistani nation will not allow the resumption of supplies to NATO troops in Afghanistan. If the rulers side with U.S. aggression, the nation will rise against them.”
Mian Aslam, a former member of the Jamaat-e-Islami party told the rally: America can never be our friend, it is our biggest enemy. America will be defeated in Afghanistan and divided into pieces.”
The crowd also assailed the leaders of Pakistan’s and Afghanistan’s civilian governments.
The friend of the U.S. is a traitor, the friend of [Pakistan President Asif Ali] Zardari is a traitor and the friend of [Afghan President Hamid] Karzai is traitor, shouted the crowd.
State authorities nonetheless prohibited a number of prominent extremist leaders from attending the rally, including Hafiz Saeed, the chief of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa group, which is widely believed to be a front for Lashkar-e-Taiba (LeT), the militant organization blamed for the attacks in Mumbai, India in 2008.
The Pakistan Defense Council was established last November after 24 Pakistani soldiers on the Afghan border were accidentally killed by US/NATO missile strikes -- an incident that prompted Islamabad to close the border for NATO supply transit.