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March 21, 2000
For Islamic militants in Pakistan, America is Enemy no 1
When United States President Bill Clinton makes a brief stopover in Islamabad on Saturday, Pakistan Chief Executive General Pervez Musharraf may have to do much explaining, among other things, about the increasing influence of Muslim militants in Pakistan.
This influence has been on the ascendency since October 12 when General Musharraf toppled the Nawaz Sharif government. The Lashkar Toiba, which is considered to be the largest private Islamic army in Pakistan, claims Sharif had to go as a result of the Mujahideen's prayers.
Unlike political parties, whose public activities have been banned, Islamic parties have no such restrictions. The Jamaaat-i-Islami and Jamiat al-e-Hadis, who hosted former Chechen president Zelim Khan last month, took him to a cantonment mosque for a lecture.
Analysts feel that in the vacuum created by restrictions on political leaders, the Islamists are gaining in popularity. A recent analysis in The News said the people are looking towards Islamist parties such as the Markaz Dawat Wal Irshad as they have run out of political options. Significantly, these parties hold their public meetings in Islamabad and Rawalpindi, which houses the headquarters of the military. These public meetings are becoming more and more political, the analysis said.
At these meetings, speakers do not directly threaten General Musharraf but keep reminding the audience that Sharif was dislodged by their campaign because he had bowed to American pressure. America is generally described as its enemy number one.
General Musharraf, who apparently considers politicians as his enemy number one, does not seem inclined to bridle Islamic militants for the present.
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