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akistan's Benazir Opens Campaign in Washington as Pakistan Trembles Anarchy
October 14, 2001
U.S. ACTS AGAINST TOP PAKISTANIS AND SAUDIS PAKISTAN ON BRINK OF ANARCHY
MID-EAST REALITIES © - MER - www.MiddleEast.Org - Washington - 10/14: Benazir Bhutto came to Washington this week to open her campaign for a third term as Prime Minister of the world's second largest, and only nuclear armed, Muslim State -- her first two terms she was overthrown, political and financial corruption was rampant, and her arranged husband remains in a Karachi prison. But Bhutto has powerful allies, including the Israelis and their omnipresent lobby in Washington which was instrumental in helping bring her to power in the past. Indeed, her visit to Washington was coordinated by Mark Siegel, long-time Democratic Party activist with very close connections to Israel, to the U.S. Congress, and to the Israeli/Jewish lobby.
Bhutto's main public speech at American University in Washington was carefully crafted to appeal to American sentiments, and indeed she received a standing ovation. Clearly Bhutto is trying to position herself as the "democratic" alternative to General Pervez Musharraf should he be removed from the picture one way or another. The political situation will also be used by the U.S. to push Musharraf and the Pakistani military not only away from their former support of the Taliban in Afghanistan, but away from their strong opposition to letting the forces of what is known as the Northern Alliance take power in Kabul.
The other political force in Pakistan competing for "democratic" power comes from the more recently ousted groups aligned with the former Prime Minister, Nawaz Sharif, now in exile in Saudi Arabia; as Benazir is in exile, but in her case free to move about, in London. Also appealing to the future when it is possible the Americans will want some kind of renewed democratic facade in Islambad -- either should the current military government fall or become untennable -- the former Information Minister in the last civilian government headed by Sharif, published his own views in the New York Times at the same time Benazir is making her rounds in Washington.
Meanwhile, in a kind of payback to the Saudis Royals, now lead by Crown Prince Abdullah, for not allowing American forces to use "the Kingdom" and its extensive network of American-build airfields and military command centers, the Bush Administration has expanded its list of bad-guy "frozen assets" to include persons known to be close to the Royal family -- and done so without even giving Riyahd notice! At least General Musharraf was warned in advanced in recent days and managed to take his name off of the Board of Directors of a Charitable Organization in Pakistan that has now suffered the same frozen fate.
As for Pakistan, the likelihood is the U.S. will act as follows: As long as Musharraf is alive, strong, and in control, his government will be supported. If Musharraf falters there will be an attempt to put in place a Washington-backed and controlled "democratic" government, and certainly Benazir Bhutto is the front-runner for this job with a long record of working with the U.S. and much support from the most powerful foreign affairs lobby in Washington. Should all fail and a populist, Islamist government come to power in Islamabad, it is certainly possible the U.S. -- working closely with India and Israel -- would attempt to destroy all Pakistani weapons of mass destruction, even if that lead to large number of deaths or even the disolution of the Pakistani state.
PAKISTAN IS ON BRINK OF ANARCHY
The air strikes against Afghanistan are convulsing neighbouring Pakistan. Miriam Donohoe, in Peshawar, assesses the prospects of the military government retaining its grip on power
[The Irish Times - October 13, 2001]: The launch by the United States of its long-expected strike on Afghanistan last Sunday has lit the fuse of a potentially explosive time-bomb in neighbouring Pakistan.
America's war on terrorism has bolstered radical Islamic groups all over the country, throwing Pakistan into a dangerous new phase of political instability.
The Pakistani leader, Gen Perez Musharraf, has been battling against rising protests following the September 11th attack on New York and Washington, with hardline Islamic groups making their opposition to Pakistan's support for the United States action very clear.
But the start of military strikes by America and its allies on Afghanistan six days ago has led to an escalation of Islamic activity.
So far this week, several people have been killed in anti-American rallies. Yesterday, the first Muslim day of prayer since military action began, radical Islamic groups mobilised in all of Pakistan's large cities.
Gen Musharraf said recently that the Islamic extremists in Pakistan had only between 10 and 15 per cent of overall support in the country. But that is still 15 million people out of a population of 140 million.
"Fifteen million are capable of doing a lot of damage" one senior police officer in Peshawar told The Irish Times. "If they organised themselves properly, yes, they could be a serious threat."
The loud and violent protests on the streets of Pakistani cities, as well as rumours of dissent within the army, have fuelled speculation this week that Gen Musharraf's days could be numbered.
On Wednesday rumours of a coup swept across the country when a government building went on fire in the political capital, Rawalpindi. The fire was in fact due to an electrical fault.
The general's grip on power still appears to be firm, and in the last week he has started to consolidate his leadership and to promote to senior positions people on the same wavelength as him.
One of his first actions was to send three of Pakistan's top pro-Taliban political leaders into house arrest for three months.
But his strongest pre-emptive strike came a few hours before the United States began its attack on Afghanistan.
Gen Musharraf, who is also the army chief of staff, forced the resignations of two generals and effectively sidelined a third. All three were architects of Pakistan's pro-Taliban policy in the past.
They were also instrumental in bringing Gen Musharraf to power after the military coup in October, 1999.
In his most significant move, Gen Musharraf forced the hardline Intersevices Intelligence Agency head, Lieut Gen Mahmood Ahmad, to resign, replacing him as army vice-chief of staff with the more junior Lieut Mohammed Yousuf.
Gen Ahmad was close to Taliban leader Mullah Mohammed Omar, but failed to persuade him to give up Osama bin Laden during two trips to Afghanistan in recent weeks.
Gen Musharraf also elevated another hardline Islamicist, Lieut Mohamed Aziz, as chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, a job with the rank of full general.
The reshuffle came a day after Gen Musharraf indefinitely extended his own term as army chief, which had been due to expire on October 7th.
While the reshuffle does not guarantee that Gen Musharraf won't face any future threat from within the army, it does appear to reduce the risk considerably.
Another factor on his side is that most of the rest of the world does not want mullahs in power in Pakistan and the reality is that currently there are few alternatives to Gen Musharraf.
A takeover by fundamentalist Islamic factions in Pakistan would indeed be calamitous. According to the deputy national security adviser for President Clinton, Jim Steinberg, this would lead to an armed Islamic nuclear state. "That would be a very serious unintended consequence" he said.
The US Secretary of State, Colin Powell, due in Islamabad early next week for talks with Gen Musharraf, said that he was confident that the Pakistani leader could manage the domestic consequences of helping America. "I have no concerns about their nuclear progamme," he added.
While the anti-American protests are getting louder and bloodier, Pakistan is a country where popular politics is often conducted on the streets.
According to observers, the protests are still not viewed as a major breakdown of public order. The former prime minister, Benazair Bhutto and the ethnic Muttaheda Quami Movement in Karachi have mobilised much bigger crowds in the past.
The reported number of deaths in protests so far is smaller than many people had feared. Many protests so far appear to have been unco-ordinated and disorganised and not part of a well planned campaign to destablise the government.
While many Pakistanis have been angered by what they consider an unwarranted attack against the Taliban, at the same time the majority of Pakistan's 140 million Muslims have preferred to remain on the sidelines, discussing the crisis over tea at home, or in the market, rather than taking to the streets.
However as long as the protest goes on, speculation will continue about the government's stability.
Ilizas ul Hac, a leader of the Muslim League, predicted this week that if the bombings do not stop soon people would slowly go over to the protesting side.
He said there is a risk that the leaders will lose their grip on the country. "The sympathy of the Pakistan people are still with the American victims but the problem is no solid evidence against Osama Bin Laden has been presented." he said.
Last Thursday General Musharraf called a meeting of the country's top security chiefs, after which he announced an immediate crackdown on law-breakers, including Afghan refugees.
After the meeting law enforcement agencies were directed to arrest anyone involved in causing public disorder. They were asked to ensure that mosques and other religious premises are not used for creating hatred.
The meeting decided that Afghan refugees who were creating law and order situations would be deported immediately. The refugee problem is another factor adding to instability in the country.
A Foreign Ministry spokesman said this week that refugees are given shelter in the country and they should confine themselves to being refugees and should not start any political agitation.
"If anybody indulges in such activities they should be sent back." But the volatility may be difficult to control.
There are increasing reports of clashes between Pakistani forces and Taliban fighters in the near-lawless border region where the country's Pashtun minority lives in often deplorable conditions.
The Pashtun have close ties to Afghanistan, and although not completely supportive of the Taliban, many are angry that Pakistan has lent its support to US attacks on a Muslim country.
Resentment towards refugees is growing. They are being accused of causing crime and draining the already scarce job market and haphazard social welfare system.
Refugees are blamed for injecting political instability and Islamic fundamentalism into Pakistani society, which has become a haven for Taliban holy warriors.
In recent days, there have been growing demands from Pakistanis that all Afghans be put in refugee camps - and kept there under gunpoint.
Gen Musharraf is playing a difficult balancing act, keeping one eye on the US attacks in Afghanistan, and the other on domestic opposition to his government's alliance with America.
He can't afford to let his eyes off either ball. It won't take much for the time-bomb that is quietly ticking in his country to go off.
PROTESTERS TURN FURY ON MUSHARRAF
Crisis deepens with every bomb that falls as military ruler is accused of betraying fellow Muslims
By Luke Harding [The Guardian - Rawalpindi - Saturday October 13, 2001]: Tens of thousands of demonstrators took to the streets in Pakistan yesterday to protest against America's nightly bombardment of fellow Muslims in Afghanistan. As each bomb falls, the anger of ordinary Pakistanis - who believe that the country's military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, has betrayed them by siding with the US - is rising.
In the port city of Karachi, police fired teargas to disperse protesters who set fire to cars and buses. They also smashed the windows of an easy American target, a branch of the fast food chain Kentucky Fried Chicken. Seven people were wounded by gunfire and several others sustained minor injuries, witnesses said. No further details of their injuries were immediately available.
As smoke billowed from burning tyres and ordinary residents remained inside, the demonstrators hurled stones and tried to break into government offices and banks. Crowds also gathered in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, the capital's chaotic twin city.
In general, though, yesterday's protests after Friday's noon prayers were more muted than earlier in the week, when four people were shot dead near Quetta and rioters burned down a United Nations office and a cinema.
Many of yesterday's demonstrators belong to the same Pashtun ethnic group as the Taliban. For them, there is now only one hero: Osama bin Laden.
"America wants to capture Afghanistan and they want to finish the Islamic system in Afghanistan," one protester in Peshawar said. "This is a lame excuse of America that Osama has destroyed the World Trade Centre."
In Peshawar, from where the grand trunk road immortalised by Kipling begins, 5,000 people gathered to burn effigies of President George Bush and listen to speeches in praise of Bin Laden.
The police had taken no chances. Before the mosques began to empty, they encircled the centre of the city with steel and barbed wire. A large procession from the pro-Taliban tribal areas was turned back. In an address, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, the leader of Pakistan's largest religious party, the Jamaat-i-Islami, issued a direct challenge to Pakistan's military leader.
"Musharraf has violated his constitutional limits and has no justification to stay in power. He should resign immediately or else we will lay siege to Islamabad," he said.
In normal times, Mullah Ahmed's rhetoric would be little more than an empty boast. At the ballot box, Pakistan's rightwing Islamist parties have traditionally done badly, winning barely 3% of the vote. But these are not normal times. As each day passes, the religious parties are gaining in strength and confidence. Gen Musharraf has made it clear that he will tolerate no dissent from his internal opponents.
This week he completed a dramatic reshuffle within the army, sacking the pro-Taliban head of Pakistan's powerful ISI intelligence agency, Lt-Gen Mehmood Ahmed. Other rightwing officers were also weeded out and replaced by Musharraf loyalists. There are rumours that the bar at the army's headquarters in Rawalpindi has been reopened.
While he may have done enough to head off a counter-coup from within the ranks, Gen Musharraf still faces the prospect of a full-blown insurrection from Pakistan's tribal belt. The maliks - tribal elders who live along the border with Afghanistan, in North West Frontier Province, and in the dusty mountains south of Kandahar - have never felt much affinity with the modern Pakistani state. They feel even less now.
To prevent further violence, the army arrived two days ago to patrol the streets of Quetta, a city that resembles a war zone. Police took up positions on rooftops and army trucks were posted outside the UN buildings that have not been burned down. Armoured vehicles and truckloads of helmeted troops armed with machine guns patrolled the city.
"There is no way that the government will continue to stand for this loss of life and property," Gen Musharraf's spokesman, Maj-Gen Rashid Qureshi, made clear yesterday, military shorthand which carries a clear message that all rioters will be shot.
In the end the protests were peaceful. Around 4,000 people gathered in the city's sports stadium to hear anti-US speakers rail against the Afghan raids - interrupting them with chants of "Long live Osama" and "Death and destruction to the USA".
Had they decided to riot, it would not have been an even-handed battle: columns of riot police armed with Kalashnikovs were waiting.
Many young men have already slipped into Afghanistan to fight in the new jihad against the United States. It is against this volatile and uncertain backdrop that the US secretary of state, Colin Powell, will visit to Pakistan early next week. His diplomatic mission is clear-cut: to hold America's shaky coalition against terrorism together. But he is not universally welcome. Pakistan's religious parties have already called for a general strike to greet his arrival. "The nation will not tolerate his unclean feet on our clean land," a dozen heads of religious parties said in a statement.
On Monday Gen Musharraf said he was convinced that the US offensive against Afghanistan would be "short". His remarks earned a thinly concealed rebuke from George Bush, who said that Pakistan had not been informed of America's military strategy.
A long campaign may eventually lead to the extermination of Osama bin Laden. But it could also push Pakistan into civil war, a scenario that becomes more probable with every falling missile.
CLERICS CALL FOR NATIONAL REVOLT Leaders held as army is urged to mutiny
By Rory McCarthy
[The Guardian, Peshawar - Wednesday October 10, 2001]: The hardline cleric fast emerging as the leader behind a series of violent protests across Pakistan yesterday called on his followers to incite a nationwide revolt.
As the military regime of Gen Pervez Musharraf tried to control growing anger over the military strikes on Afghanistan, it placed three leading Islamist clerics under house arrest for three months. Within hours other religious leaders stepped up to take their place.
Maulana Atta-ur Rehman, the newly appointed leader of Jamiat Ulema-e Islam (JUI), one of the country's most extreme religious groups, told hundreds of supporters in Peshawar that it was their duty as Muslims to turn against the government.
"We will have an open war against Jews, Christians, Israel, America, everyone," he shouted to the cheering crowd outside a mosque in the narrow lanes of the old city. "The Pakistan nation should seize their nuclear weapons and fire them at America.
"We condemn General Musharraf for supporting the Americans. He is the dog of America," he said. "The Pakistan army is paid by the nation so they should turn against those who are supporting the American terrorists."
Police have placed his brother, Maulana Fazal-ur Rehman, who usually leads the JUI party, under house arrest in Dera Ismail Khan, 120 miles south of Peshawar.
Two other religious leaders with links to the Taliban were also kept under police guard at their homes: Maulana Sami-ul Haq, who runs a mosque school near Peshawar where many senior Taliban officials were educated, and Maulana Azam Tariq, who heads the feared Sipah-e Sahaba Pakistan, a Sunni militant group involved in sectarian killings.
"In an Islamic society, there is no room for extremism and violence against any other religion or group," Gen Musharraf said yesterday.
Fewer than 1,000 demonstrators took to the streets of Peshawar and were met with only a moderate police and military presence.
As Mr Rehman called on the army to mutiny, soldiers nearby appeared unmoved by his words. Plainclothes intelligence officers noted down the cleric's threats.
The police presence has been notably restrained since the World Trade Centre attacks. Public protests were banned last year and on two occasions thousands of political activists were arrested days before planned demonstrations.
Now no such arrests are being made to stop religious protests. It is clear the religious parties have greater freedom for manoeuvre because their militant wings play a vital role in Pakistan's policy on the disputed state of Kashmir. For the past decade Pakistani-based militant groups have fought a guerrilla war against the Indian army in Kashmir which Islamabad has used as a diplomatic and political tool in its efforts to have the Muslim-majority state seceded to Pakistan.
Mr Rehman's JUI party was behind rioting in Quetta, in Pakistan's western deserts, on Monday when a Unicef office was set alight and one man was shot dead.
Yesterday JUI activists organised a protest in Hangu, a town south of Peshawar, when a mob burnt down two banks and looted another. The office of an international aid agency working with Afghan refugees was also set alight. At least 13 people were injured. Several JUI leaders were among 45 people arrested.
The party is one of the largest political Islamist organisations in Pakistan and has close links to the Taliban regime in Afghanistan. Many Taliban leaders were schooled in JUI madrassahs, or mosque schools, in Pakistan.
Mr Rehman's call for revolt was echoed by other hardline clerics. Maulana Fazal Haq, the provincial leader of Sipah-e Sahaba, told protesters in Peshawar that George Bush and Tony Blair had embarked on a war against Islam.
"They want to get hold of Pakistan's nuclear bomb and make Pakistan their slave. We must fight and resist," he shouted, as his followers burnt an effigy of Gen Musharraf.
Although the clerics are vocal they have failed to bring out as many protesters as threatened, perhaps a sign of disunity between the different religious groups.
Up to 100,000 marched through cities across Pakistan in the days after the World Trade Centre attacks when Washington first warned of war against the Taliban. Now support has dwindled to a hard core.
MUSHARRAF DISMISSES TWO ISLAMIST GENERALS
Pakistan President's ruthless sacking of pro- Taliban hardliners strengthens hand against army fundamentalists
By Luke Harding
[The Guardian Islamabad - Tuesday October 9, 2001]: Pakistan's military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf, yesterday consolidated his grip on power by swiftly sacking two of his most senior generals, in an attempt to head off a growing revolt within the army against his pro-American policies.
The president demoted the head of Pakistan's powerful ISI military intelligence agency, Lt General Mehmood Ahmed, and also pushed out his deputy chief of army staff, General Muzaffar Hussain Usmani. Both officers were regarded as hardline Islamists.
Lt Gen Mehmood was previously a close ally of Gen Musharraf's. Last month he headed two delegations to Kandahar, where he tried to persuade the Taliban's leader, Mullah Mohammad Omar, to hand over Osama bin Laden. Both missions ended in failure. Sources suggest Mehmood disagreed with Gen Musharraf's decision to dump the Taliban as an ally. "He still felt the Taliban needed to be supported," one said.
Two three-star generals were yesterday appointed to crucial positions within the army. Gen Muhammad Yousaf - described by one former officer as a "decent man but no genius" was unveiled as the vice-chief of army staff, in effect Gen Musharraf's deputy. The "pious" Gen Muhammad Aziz Khan was appointed as the head of a key military committee. Both are Musharraf loyalists.
Yesterday's ruthless reshuffle makes it harder for rightwing fundamentalist officers, who form a significant faction within Pakistan's powerful army, to topple Gen Musharraf in a counter-coup. The army has stayed loyal to him so far. But as Muslim casualties in Afghanistan mount, dissent from inside the ranks is likely to grow.
"Gen Musharraf can't afford to have any group within the army which has a different viewpoint," Lt Gen Talat Masood, a close friend of the general's and a former minister, said. "He now has a team which is totally aligned to him both intellectually and conceptually."
The changes would prevent internal bickering, he added. "Gen Musharraf is very committed to his policy (of backing the United States). He wants the whole country to be committed as well," he added.
The shake-up came only a day after Gen Musharraf announced that he was extending his term as president indefinitely. The move - only hours after Tony Blair's visit to Pakistan - was "in the larger interests of the country", his military spokesman, Major General Rashid Qureshi, said. Gen Musharraf was due to retire over the weekend after serving three years as a four-star general and chief of army staff.
Sitting beneath a portrait of a youthful Mohammed Ali Jinnah, Pakistan's westernised founder, Gen Musharraf yesterday said his reshuffle had "no relation whatsoever" with events unfolding inside Afghanistan. He said he had been contemplating a change in the army hierarchy for several months. "I was wearing too many hats," he said.
The threat to Gen Musharraf comes from a significant rightwing group in the middle-upper echelons of the army, made up of admirers of Pakistan's late hardline dictator, General Zia ul-Haq.
The soldiers were junior officers during the Zia era in the 1980s but have now risen to the level of corps commanders. "At least half of the 10-12 corps commanders in Pakistan are Islamist or influenced by them," one source said last night.
Gen Musharraf yesterday acted against the army's two most fundamentalist generals but has so far left the rest of his senior hierarchy unchanged. The rank and file soldiers in Pakistan's army pose less of a threat. Some sympathise with Pakistan's religious parties but others hold liberal views, and drink alcohol.
Most observers believe that Gen Musharraf - who deposed Pakistan's corrupt civilian government in a coup two years ago - has played a difficult hand extremely well. He has so far managed to prevent an Islamist backlash inside Pakistan. At the same time he has renewed his relationship with the United States, Pakistan's cold war ally, by offering the US crucial intelligence on Osama bin Laden and the use of airspace.
The change in his political fortunes is extraordinary. After deposing Pakistan's elected prime minister Nawaz Sharif, Pakistan was suspended by the Commonwealth and hit with fresh sanctions. Britain in particular was vocal in its protests. The sanctions have now been lifted. Both Britain and the US have offered the military regime debt relief and the generous rescheduling of loans. Mr Blair has even promised to renew defence links with Pakistan.
In an interview with the Guardian in May, Gen Musharraf expressed his frustration that the new US Republican administration had not sought to pursue closer ties with his regime.
"Every Pakistani wanted Bush to win. Every Pakistani would have voted Republican," he said. Now, partly through an accident of geography, but also through his own adroitness, Gen Musharraf has made Pakistan America's most important ally on the subcontinent.
There was little criticism in June when Gen Musharraf appointed himself president. Despite the prospect of general elections next October, he will continue to run the country. He has few rivals for the job of leader. Pakistan's two former prime ministers, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, are both in exile, accused of corruption. Only two other Pakistani army chiefs have extended their tenure: Field Marshal Ayub Khan in the 1960s and Gen Zia-ul Haq in the 1980s. Zia went on to govern for 11 years.
PAKISTANI MILITANTS VOW LONG 'HOLY WAR'
By Willis Witter
[THE WASHINGTON TIMES - CHARSADHA, Pakistan, 10/13]: Fist-pumping protesters yesterday marked the first Muslim Sabbath since the onset of U.S.-led air strikes on Afghanistan, clashing with police as white-robed clerics urged crowds to prepare for a decade of "holy war" against the United States.
In the southern Pakistani city of Karachi, police fired shots into the air and canisters of tear gas into crowds of more than 20,000, who rampaged through the city burning vehicles and one Kentucky Fried Chicken restaurant.
Two protesters were injured. At least 60 Afghans were arrested in the protests and are being deported to Afghanistan, officials said.
With a heavy police and army presence, protests in Lahore, Quetta, Peshawar and other cities passed largely without incident, and supporters of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf took heart that the turnout was smaller than many had expected.
Yesterday's brief pause in the U.S. campaign against Afghanistan's ruling Taliban was attributed to respect for a Muslim festival commemorating the mystical journey by the Prophet Muhammad to heaven, known as the Night Journey or the Ascent.
Still, the ferocity of anti-American hatred on display in Pakistan proved unnerving, with people scorning President Bush as an enemy of Islam and vowing to fight to the death against the United States.
"Bush said it was a 'crusade,' and we accept that. Yes, it is a crusade. It is a war between Muslims and non-Muslim," former lawmaker Gohar Shah told a crowd of thousands in the town of Charsadha, near the Afghan border in Pakistan's rugged Northwest Frontier province.
"It is not a question of one or two years. We are ready to fight for 10 years," Mr. Shah said to cheers from thousands of white-capped protesters who filled the downtown plaza on a sunny autumn afternoon.
The reference was clear. A day earlier, as U.S. bombs rained on targets in the Afghan capital of Kabul and other cities, Mr. Bush had warned Americans to expect a battle of one or two years. The decade referred to the Afghanistan's 1979-89 war to expel occupying Soviet troops.
"We are used to jihad. We fought the Russians for 10 years," said Ibrahim, a businessman attending the rally. "If America wants to wind up like the Russians, then come to Afghanistan. In the name of Islam, we are willing to destroy ourselves."
Yesterday's protests came after five days of bombing of military targets throughout Afghanistan in an effort to weaken Afghanistan's ruling Taliban government and pressure it to hand over Osama bin Laden, the suspected mastermind of the Sept. 11 suicide airliner attacks on New York and the Pentagon.
Yesterday, Taliban spokesmen said the American bombing had killed at least 200 civilians in a village near Jalalabad, but that could not be independently verified. The village is suspected of being a training camp for bin Laden militia.
In northern Afghanistan, rebel troops and Taliban soldiers were reported to be locked in fierce fighting near the northern city and key stronghold of Mazar-e-Sharif. Mohajeddin Mehdi, an official in Tajikistan affiliated with the opposition's government-in-exile, said the opposition had seized strategic points to block Taliban supply routes.
The Taliban, for its part, said they had recaptured the Quadis district in the northern Badgis province, which has changed hands several times. The private Afghan Islamic Press agency reported the claim, citing the Taliban as saying they captured 50 opposition fighters and that several rebels died. Neither side's reports could be independently verified.
The U.S. bombing campaign has fueled unrest throughout the Muslim world, reflected yesterday in anti-American protests in the Philippines, Indonesia, India, Malaysia and throughout the Middle East.
By the time the Pentagon announced a halt in bombings yesterday, night had already fallen on this side of the world and protesters had gone home.
The fervor of yesterday's protests reflected the key problem confronting the United States in its war on terrorism.
While it has won support from Pakistan's Gen. Musharraf and leaders of other Muslim nations, Mr. Bush's repeated assertions that the battle is against terrorism and not Islam has had little discernible effect here.
Banners with pictures of bin Laden and of Mr. Bush being driven into the ground by a boot symbolizing Islam rose above the crowd in Charsadha.
The crowds roared in agreement to repeated exhortations: "Are you ready for jihad?" "Are we with Osama?" "Long live the Taliban" and "Down with America."
When Western reporters wandered into the crowd, plainclothes policemen quickly hustled them up a darkened stairway to a balcony above the angry crowd.
"Our government is a slave of America," shouted Qazi Hussain Ahmed, leader of Jamaat-e-Islami, Pakistan's largest Muslim-based party. "If Musharraf steps aside, then America will be in our hands."
Leaders of major Muslim political parties called for a nationwide strike on Monday to continue the protest.
The government says militant Islamists represent only a small minority in the nation of 145 million and that most support the decision to side with the United States against the Taliban and bin Laden, who has waged his war against the West since being granted shelter in Afghanistan five years ago.
The government threatened to crack down against violent protests, and several of the nation's militant religious party leaders remained under house arrest.
"There are only a few extremist elements, who tried to disrupt law and order, but we have given instructions to the law enforcement agencies not to allow anybody to take law in their hands," Gen. Musharraf's spokesman, Maj. Gen. Rashid Quereshi, said in the capital of Islamabad.
CAN PAKISTAN'S LEADER HOLD ON?
By Mushahid Hussein*
With Pakistan's pro-Taliban policy buried in the wreckage of the World Trade Center, President Pervez Musharraf has struggled to put Pakistan back on track and restore the badly bruised relationship with the United States. Joining the antiterrorist coalition may prove to be a fateful choice, one that opens onto a future of more difficult choices.
Mr. Musharraf's declaration yesterday that "no extremist activity will be tolerated in any quarter of Pakistan" came in response to serious anti-American protests. On the same day, one radical Pakistani Islamist leader vowed to send 10,000 warriors "against U.S. and all the infidel forces." Soldiers were deployed and sandbag bunkers set up here in the capital. A poll showed 62 percent of Pakistanis opposing involvement in the war against Osama bin Laden and the Taliban. Even Mr. Musharraf's grip on his own armed forces has been called into question.
Yet Mr. Musharraf has tried to give an optimistic view of Pakistani support for the American-led effort. Pakistani politics has been a delicate game for many years, but never more so than now. During the past decade, Pakistan's policies were driven by the pursuit of an elusive balance. A basically friendly government on its west (Afghanistan) was seen as countering the perceived threat from the east (India). With a weak economy and a polarized citizenry, Pakistan spread itself thin, simultaneously seeking to preserve its security, promote an isolated Afghan regime and protect Pakistan's long-standing claim on Kashmir.
Now, with the bombing campaign in Afghanistan, Mr.Musharraf has to separate the war on terrorism from any perception of supporting an attack against fellow Muslims.The backlash from the religious right was expected. Most of the Taliban leaders had studied at seminaries in Pakistan.They share an ideological affinity with many Pakistani clerics and an ethnic bond with Pakistan's 20 million Pashtuns. The biggest anti-American demonstrations have taken place in Peshawar and Quetta. These cities, capitals of the provinces where most of Pakistan's Pashtuns reside, also have the largest concentration of Afghan refugees, who number about 2.2 million. Pakistan's aversion to the Northern Alliance is rooted in this demographic reality, since the alliance is made up of non-Pashtun groups.
Mr. Musharraf also has to contend with other critics, including skeptics in his own military constituency. They see an American pattern of shifting alliances, short memories and a pronounced tendency to forget its friends when it tires of them.
In this campaign against terrorism, the prospects for Pakistan are as hazardous as those for Afghanistan. Pakistan's real nightmare concerns the war's aftermath. Once the Americans are done with Afghanistan and depart, will Pakistan again be left to clear the debris? Refugees and a sprawling culture of Kalashnikovs, narcotics, sectarian terrorism: all these were the unwelcome gifts of the last Pakistani-American effort in Afghanistan.
Serving as the frontline state from 1979 to 1989, Pakistan helped engineer an American triumph in the last battle of the cold war. But with the mission accomplished, the United States left in an unseemly hurry. The 1990 sanctions - intended to prevent Pakistan from acquiring a nuclear capability - were the parting kick. Mr. Musharraf hopes, as do most Pakistanis, that America's rediscovery of Pakistan will be different, resulting in a resilient relationship.
In his two years in office since the military coup of Oct 12, 1999, Mr. Musharraf has combined flexibility with a willingness to make tough decisions. He stunned Pakistanis by making a deal with Nawaz Sharif, whom he had deposed, by allowing the former prime minister and his family to move to Saudi Arabia. And the general, initially perceived as hawk, surprised his detractors by reaching out to India's prime minister, Atal Behari Vajpayee, at the Agra summit last July.
Now he has radically reshuffled his core military team, off-loading a number of the men who installed him in power and bringing in a new head for the Inter-Services Intelligence agency, which had been the most important conduit for Pakistan's support of the Taliban. Mr.Musharraf has distanced Pakistan from the Taliban and even invited Afghanistan's former king, Zahir Shah, to help cobble together a new coalition to govern Kabul.
Pakistan's change of direction needs sustained international support if the country is to be an effective defender of Muslim moderation. The American-led coalition can help in various ways: by providing economic relief, particularly a debt write-off, to help stabilize the country; by brokering a compromise with India over Kashmir; and by holding Mr. Musharraf to his promise of elections.
In a country where none of the free elections from 1970 to 1997 have given the religious political parties more than 5 percent of the popular vote, democracy remains the best bulwark against extremism. Only when democratic life has been stabilized will Pakistanis, and the region, taste the fruit of enduring freedom rather than enduring instability. [NYTimes, 10 October]
* The author is former Information Minister of the last deposed civilian goernment of Pakistan
POLICE USE TEAR GAS TO BAR MOBS OF MUSLIM MILITANTS FROM AIR BASE IN PAKISTAN
By MUNIR AHMAD
[Associated Press - ISLAMABAD, Pakistan - October 14, 2001) - Firing tear gas and spraying bullets into the air, police and paramilitary troops on Sunday fought back hundreds of angry militant Muslims marching on a southern Pakistani air base where U.S. personnel are reportedly working, authorities said.
Police and roving groups of demonstrators in the southern city of Jacobabad fought pitched battles well into the afternoon Sunday as scattered groups of militants kept trying to reach Jacobabad Air Base.
Jacobabad city police said 349 people had been arrested - most of them in advance to prevent the protests from materializing. Jacobabad, a city of about 200,000, was sealed off by police to outsiders. All major roads leading into the city were closed, and anyone trying to reach the city was checked thoroughly.
In a separate demonstration several miles outside Jacobabad, one demonstrator was killed and 10 were injured, authorities and protest leaders said. No further information was immediately available.
Pakistan's military government, mindful of political sensitivities, has officially denied that "U.S. armed services personnel and aircraft" are inside the country. The government insists it will not allow Pakistani territory used for attacks on Afghanistan.
But on Thursday, Pakistani officials confirmed on condition of anonymity that the country has allowed U.S. military aircraft to land inside its borders. They said President Gen. Pervez Musharraf also granted the United States use of at least two air bases during air strikes inside Afghanistan.
The officials emphasized that the Americans were not ground forces and did not characterize them as U.S. military personnel. They identified one of the two air bases as Jacobabad - news that has enraged militant Muslims.
The crowd in downtown Jacobabad, which protest leaders from the influential Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam party said numbered in the thousands, had gathered outside a hotel in the central part of the city and begun moving toward the air base.
Heavily armed authorities, who had been patrolling Jacobabad's streets for days, first warned them to stop, then fired tear gas shells into the crowd and bullets into the air.
Protesters responded by throwing stones and shouting slogans, then disbanded into smaller groups and ranged through the city. A jeep filled with paramilitary troops also was attacked, authorities said.
At a roadblock 15 miles outside town, nearly 2,500 demonstrators - a caravan of buses and pedestrians from different religious parties that came from all over Pakistan - waited tensely at roadblocks. Police stopped them from proceeding to Jacobabad to join the unrest. The issue of U.S. personnel in Pakistan is extremely controversial in this Muslim country of 145 million people.
Islamic religious parties sympathetic to Afghanistan's ruling Taliban consider it a betrayal that their government is helping U.S.-led attempts to destroy terrorist installations in Afghanistan that belong to Osama bin Laden, top suspect in the Sept. 11 attacks on the United States.
Militant leaders promised to penetrate the air base and take action.
"Body bags will be sent to America," said Riaz Durrani, a Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam spokesman. "Then they will realize the misery."
Abdul Ghafoor Hydri, a Jamiat Ulema-e-Islam leader, said at a news conference Saturday night that the party had called for followers to attack the air base and even stage suicide attacks to destroy American aircraft.
Despite the government's official denial of an American presence, residents of Jacobabad have been saying otherwise.
"People have seen American aircraft landing and taking off during the past couple of days, and especially yesterday," Rashid Bijarani, a farmer in Jacobabad, said Sunday. Others in the city also spoke of seeing U.S.-marked craft in recent days.
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