Thousands rally in Pakistan against US drone attacks

File picture shows leaders of the Defence of Pakistan Council Hafiz Saeed (L), Munawar Hasan (C) and Maulana Sami-ul-Haq at a rally to mark a Kashmir Solidarity day in Lahore on February 5, 2013

Thousands of people rallied in Pakistan's eastern city of Lahore Sunday in protest at continued US drone strikes in the country's troubled northwest. Around 5,000 protesters chanted anti-US slogans and called for an immediate end to the drone strikes at the rally organised by the Defence of Pakistan Council (DPC), a coalition of around 40 religious and political parties. The demonstrators chanted slogans calling for the blocking of NATO supplies for Afghanistan which are transported through Pakistan. DPC chief Maulana Sami-ul-Haq, in a televised address to the rally, said Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif had come under US pressure and was not expected to play a positive role in getting the drone strikes stopped. He appealed to all political parties, religious scholars and members of civil society to unite against the attacks. Hafiz Saeed, leader of the Jamaat-ud-Dawa(JuD) which is one of the DPC's component parties, also called for unity. The JuD is blacklisted as a terror organisation by the United Nations and United States. It is seen as a front for the Lashkar-e-Taiba militant group blamed for the 2008 Mumbai attacks. The Pakistan government publicly criticises drone strikes as a violation of sovereignty and counterproductive to anti-terror efforts. But the US sees them as a highly effective tool in the fight against Islamist militancy. Since 2004 the United States has carried out hundreds of drone missile attacks on suspected militants linked to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda. Hundreds of civilians have died in the attacks, according to various estimates, prompting outrage in Pakistan and abroad.