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Taliban targets pro-NATO Pakistani MPs

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan, March 27 (UPI) -- Pakistani lawmakers who favor reopening a NATO supply route through the country will be targeted for death, the Taliban warned.

Tehrik-e-Taliban Pakistan spokesman Ehsanullah Ehsan issued a statement Sunday warning lawmakers that they would be attacked if they favored a proposal to reopen the NATO supply route into Afghanistan, which was closed late last year.

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"If the Parliament opens land routes for the NATO troops, we will target members of Parliament and their party leaders," Ehsan said. "We are aware that the pro-American parliamentarians have started efforts to legalize routes to NATO forces."

The Taliban would "publicly slaughter drivers who carry supplies for NATO forces," Ehsan said. "The Pakistan army and the rulers are bent on destroying the country and the Taliban are working for a new Pakistan."

The warning came after a weekend of protests staged by religious parties around the country as lawmakers prepared to open debate on Pakistan's relationship with the West -- including a Parliamentary Committee on National Security recommendation that the NATO supply lines be restored with the imposition of new a tax on container trucks and oil tankers.

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Pakistan closed the supply routes in November after a NATO airstrike on two Pakistani-Afghanistan border posts using drone aircraft killed 24 Pakistani soldiers.

Maulana Faza-ur-Rahman, a leader of Jamiat ulema-e-Islam party, told a public rally Sunday in the northwestern city of Peshawar that the nation will stand against the NATO supplies, the Chinese news agency Xinhua reported.

Jamaat-i-Islami Party leader Qazi Hussain Ahmad told the English language newspaper Dawn Friday that party workers would attack NATO supply convoys if they resume.

"Workers of JI would stop NATO supplies by force if the route was restored," he told a public meeting at Nowshera Kalan while heaping scorn on the Awami National Party and Pakistan People's Party, members of the ruling coalition.

The two parties were trying to promote secularism in the country while ignoring the problems of the Pashtun people, Hussain told supporters.

Opponents also announced a protest rally would be staged Tuesday in front of Pakistan's Parliament.

Awami National Party leader and Pakistani Minister for Railways Haji Ghulam Ahmad Bilour Friday called for reopening NATO supply routes as being "in the larger national interest."

"Look the ANP wants NATO supplies to be restored in the best interest of the country, as we (the Pakistani nation) are not in a position to invite the wrath of the United States," he told Dawn. "We will strongly support parliamentary committee's resolution for restoring NATO supplies which is to be debated in the Parliament."

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The opposition to reopening NATO supply routes is linked to anger over the continuing use of drones by the United States to target suspected terrorists in Pakistan's tribal areas.

The same Parliamentary Committee on National Security last week demanded Washington and NATO cease the attacks in a report delivered to a joint session of both houses of Parliament, the Voice of America reported.

Committee Chairman Mian Raza Rabbani said the "drone strikes are counterproductive, cause loss of valuable lives and property, radicalize the local population, create support for terrorists and fuel anti-American sentiments."

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