Pakistanis sang, danced and shouted for an end to U.S. missile strikes Sunday, the second day of protest along a major road that has halted supply trucks heading to U.S. and NATO troops fighting across the border in Afghanistan.
The demonstration is set to end Monday and only around 2,000 people came out. But it has drawn broad attention in this nation at a time of increased tension between Islamabad and Washington, and it has underscored the vulnerability of the Western supply route that runs through it.
As some youth shouted and danced to drum beats, others held banners with slogans such as "Our blood is not for sale" and "Stop drone attacks, stop genocide of innocent Pakistanis." Others sang along with nationalist songs, while many took shelter from the scorching sun inside hastily built tents.
The demonstration was sponsored by the political party of Imran Khan, a former captain of Pakistan's cricket team. He has called for peace talks with the Pakistani Taliban and opposes the U.S. missile strikes against militants in Pakistan's tribal regions.
"America itself is a champion of democracy, so it should listen the voice of people of Pakistan and stop the genocide of the Pashtuns" — the main ethnic group in Pakistan's tribal regions, said Ali Khan, 39, a social worker from Peshawar.
On Saturday, authorities halted the NATO supply shipments as the protest began on the outskirts of Peshawar, around 35 miles (57 kilometers) from the Afghan border. The border crossing at the edge of Khyber tribal region is normally closed on Sunday anyway.
Much of the non-lethal supplies for foreign troops in landlocked Afghanistan come through Pakistan. Militants often attack the convoys, and last September Pakistan closed the border for 20 days to protest a deadly NATO helicopter strike inside its borders.
The U.S. and NATO normally say such interruptions have little to no impact on the supply line. But they have been turning more to other roads into Afghanistan from the north in recent years.
Tensions between Pakistan and the United States have risen since late January, when an American CIA contractor shot dead two Pakistanis he said were trying to rob him. Since then, the military has taken a tough line on the missile strikes.
The U.S. rarely discusses the covert, CIA-run program, but officials have insisted it is mostly militants who are killed by the drone-fired missiles.