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Pakistani Islamic leaders disoriented by rout of Taliban

Pakistani Islamic leaders disoriented by rout of Taliban

Publications: The Times of India
Dated: December 6, 2001

Islamabad: The weakness of Islamic religious parties, and radical groups in Pakistan has been exposed following the rout of the Taliban in Afghanistan and about-face by Islamabad, analysts said.

With the writing on the wall for the Taliban, calls by the Pak-Afghan Defence Council (PADC) for "jihad," or holy war against the Americans and civil disobedience against the Pakistani government are bringing fewer and fewer people on to the streets. "The religious parties' agitation in Pakistan over the situation in Afghanistan has been short on numbers and long on rhetoric," wrote Syed Talat Hussain, an leader writer in the daily Dawn.

"By coming out on the streets, these parties attempted to show their strength but end up exposing their weaknesses."

Idrees Bakhtiar, a Karachi-based specialist in radical Islamic groups, agreed. "The performances of the PADC in terms of mobilisation have been poor," he said.

The group did manage to get 50,000 people on to the streets on October 26 during countrywide demonstrations against the US strikes on Afghanistan, which have since fizzled out.

Compared to the half-a-million people who used to spill on to the streets of Karachi to protest the United States involvement in the Gulf War against Iraq in 1991, however, the turnout, though the largest in the country, was meagre.

The Islamists are "demoralised, as if struck by the sudden collapse of the Taliban," said Bakhtiar. Moreover, he added, the various groups have failed to form a united front.

Another analyst, Illyas Khan, said the various groups were "manipulated, financed and trained" by the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI), the Pakistani secret police.

They therefore became "disoriented" when the authorities began turning on the pressure from the United States.

President Pervez Musharraf reaffirmed in a television address last week the desire of Pakistan, which helped the Taliban into power in Afghanistan, to contain religious radicals. Following the September 11 terrorist attacks on the United States, several religious-leaders among them Qazi Hussain Ahmed of the Jamaat-e-Islami, have been placed under house arrest, while scores of their followers have been imprisoned.

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