PESHAWAR - To protest US drone attacks in the country, the PTI along with its coalition partners has started blocking Nato supplies via Khyber Pakhtunkhwa.

Besides workers of Imran Khan’s Pakistan Tehreek-e-Insaf (PTI), activist of Jamaat-e-Islami and Awami Jamhori Ittihad, are also participating in the sit-ins to permanently stop Nato supplies. The PTI workers are doing duties in shifts since Sunday morning.

Club-wielding activists forcibly searched trucks for Nato supplies on Sunday but there was no Nato traffic its being a holiday. However, the protesters stopped nine trucks carrying goods and edibles under Afghan transit trade at different places.

They stopped trucks and hauled drivers from their cabs to check their paperwork. The activists, carrying the PTI’s green and red flag, broke open truck containers to check their contents. Several persons were injured in a scuffle at Ring Road Peshawar.

Talking to The Nation, PTI provincial spokesman Ashtiaq Urmar said that they had deputed their workers at five different points to block Nato supplies on Pak-Afghan Highway. He informed that these five points are: Khair Abad terminal in district Kohat, one point in Dera Ismail Khan, Peshawar Motorway Interchange at Ring Road and Hayatabad Toll Plaza.

The PTI and its allies rule Khyber Pakhtunkhwa province, of which Peshawar is the capital. But authority for the highways lies with the federal government, which has so far made no move to block Nato supplies.

“They are doing unlawful acts. They broke the sealing of my container and forcibly examined the goods,” Faiz Muhammad Khan, a truck driver transporting sanitary items to Afghanistan, told AFP.

“If they want to block supplies for Nato forces, they should stop it in Karachi or at the border.” PTI activist Asghar Khalil, 28, told AFP they were heeding their leader’s call to action and would not stop until Washington promised to end drone strikes.

Muhammad Faisal, a senior police official, said the PTI activists’ actions were illegal but he was powerless to act. “The protesters are doing unlawful acts by checking documents and screening goods, they don’t have authority,” he told AFP. “But we can’t take action against them because we have no instructions from the government. If the government orders us, we will stop this illegal activity.”

Pakistan is a key transit route for the US-led mission in landlocked Afghanistan, particularly as Nato forces prepare to withdraw by the end of next year. Nato supplies were suspended on Saturday because of a major PTI rally, which was held on the route used by the trucks.

Imran Khan has long opposed the US campaign of drone attacks targeting Taliban and al-Qaeda militants in Pakistan’s tribal areas. He has intensified his rhetoric since a US drone strike killed Pakistani Taliban chief Hakimullah Mehsud on November 1. The PTI chief says that attack was a deliberate attempt by Washington to sabotage efforts towards peace talks with the militants, who have killed thousands in a six-year campaign of violence.

Spokesman Ashtiaq Urmar said the blockade would be continued till halting of drone strikes in Fata and Khyber Pakhtunkhwa (KPK). He said they could not tolerate any more bloodshed at the hands of the United States. He mentioned that drone strikes were not only violation of international law but were also sabotaging the ongoing peace process with the Taliban.

When asked how many containers so far have been stopped by PTI workers, the spokesman said that due to Sunday, no container had come to pass through this routs while the main supply from Karachi’s Port Qasim have also been stopped due to bomb blast at Torkham border.

However, he said when the supply resumed from Karachi and Punjab terminals, they would put hurdles in Khyber Pakhtunkhwa to stop it. He said workers were doing their duties in three shifts. Around 50 workers are doing eight hours duty in one shift and after their turn another group takes the charge of duty, he added.

Ashtiaq maintained that this sit-in would continue until the US tendered apology to KPK government for their recent drone attack in district Hangu. He said the sit-in was being staged by the party and not by the provincial government. The PTI workers are also being supported by activists of Islami Jamiat Tulba and workers of Awami Jamhori Ittehad who also are performing their duties in shifts.