Pakistan in trouble with Bush as Islamists take frontier province

Fred Feldman ffeldman at
Sat Nov 30 23:16:45 MST 2002

Difficulties for the U.S. mounting in Afghanistan and Pakistan -- not to
mention what is going on in Latin America -- as preparations for invading
Iraq continue.  Fred Feldman

Subject: [R-G] Americans under threat as Islamists take frontier

Daily Telegraph   November 30, 2002

Americans under threat as Islamists take frontier

By Ahmed Rashid in Lahore

An alliance of hardline Islamic fundamentalist parties opposed to the US
presence in Pakistan took office yesterday, in the strategic North West
Frontier Province, which borders Afghanistan.

The alliance has vowed to throw FBI agents and US special forces out of the

Its election victory is the latest blow in a long line of critical issues
creating serious tensions between America and Pakistan, even though publicly
President George W Bush says President Pervaiz Musharraf is still supporting
the war against terrorism.

Mohammed Akram Durrani, the candidate of the six party Mutahedda
Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) was elected chief minister of the province, securing 78
of 119 votes in the provincial legislature. The MMA made huge gains in the
general election in October. MPs greeted Mr Durrani's victory with shouts of
"God is great". Two days earlier the MPs had led prayers condemning America
and prayed for the country to be "ruined and destroyed".

Mr Durrani said in Peshawar this week that the province would never allow
FBI and US troops to operate from its soil. He withdrew the statement after
nervous government officials approached him.

The army and the newly elected federal government have pointed out that the
military co-operation between America and Pakistan and control of the border
with Afghanistan is under their control rather than that of the provincial

"There is no immediate threat, the MMA cannot stop US-Pakistan military
co-operation to apprehend al-Qa'eda in the border region," said a senior
government official.

Dozens of Taliban leaders are known to be hiding in seminaries run by senior
MMA members. The MMA continues to support the Taliban publicly and has never
condemned Osama bin Laden or al-Qa'eda.

US officials are increasingly critical of what they say is Gen Musharraf's
two-track policy on many issues. "Musharraf has made so many unfulfilled
promises and pledges to the US that his credibility here is at an all time
low," said a senior Washington official.

American officials say several intelligence agencies have determined that,
though Pakistan's military is helping to arrest al-Qa'eda militants based in
Pakistan, it is harbouring former Taliban leaders and supporters of the
renegade Pathan militant Gulbuddin Hekmatyar, who is a prime target for US
forces in Afghanistan.

Hekmatyar has issued a call to his fellow Pashtuns for a jihad against US
forces and President Hamid Karzai's Afghan government.

"We are extremely concerned at the victory of friends of Taliban in the
frontier province," said Zalmay Rassoul, the national security adviser to Mr
Karzai, who was visiting Washington. "We want a declaration of
non-interference from all our neighbours."

Pakistani officers say there is resentment in the military of the huge
influence of India and Russia in Kabul and the loss of status of the Afghan
Pathans whom Pakistan supports.

After an audio tape apparently made by bin Laden was handed to an Arab
reporter in Islamabad in broad daylight on Nov 12, Gen Musharraf faced
severe international embarrassment.

He has repeatedly asserted that bin Laden is dead and al-Qa'eda has little
presence in Pakistan, but FBI officials have said the tape is genuine and
that bin Laden is alive.

US officials believe either that bin Laden is hiding in the frontier area
while al-Qa'eda maintains significant communications and logistics hubs in
Islamabad and Karachi, or that he has escaped to Yemen from a Pakistani port
on the Arabian Sea.

Meanwhile, US congressmen are demanding that Pakistan be punished for
allegedly aiding the North Korea's nuclear weapons programme in exchange for
North Korean-made nuclear-capable missiles.

Colin Powell, the US secretary of state, warned Pakistan on Tuesday that it
could face "consequences" if America discovers that it is continuing to make
the alleged nuclear transfers. US officials say Mr Powell is trying to keep
this and other bones of contention with Pakistan under wraps because the
State Department is wary of opening a front with Pakistan while it faces
renewed threats from al-Qa'eda and a possible war in Iraq.

The officials also say Pakistan continues to allow infiltration of Islamic
militants into India despite Gen Musharraf's pledge to cease doing so.
Pakistan denies this.

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