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Pakistani revolution predicted

g and compass

The Washington Times

October 20, 2001

Pakistani revolution predicted

By Willis Witter

PESHAWAR, Pakistan - Pakistan's leading Muslim cleric, moments after addressing the largest anti-American rally yet, said yesterday that an Islamic revolution had begun in Pakistan that would eclipse the 1979 revolution in Iran that brought the Ayatollah Khomeini to power.

"It's bigger, no doubt, than in Iran. Everything is prepared," said Qazi Hussain Ahmad, leader of Pakistan's largest religious political party, Jamaat-e-Islami.

The difference, he said, is that the Muslim leadership in Pakistan is divided and "we don't have the symbol of hatred the Iranians had with [Shah Mohammed Reza Pahlavi]."

The Khomeini revolution replaced a secular monarchy in Iran with an Islamic fundamentalist state hostile to the United States. In contrast, Pakistan has been under military rule since a 1999 coup, but its passionately Muslim population's views often do not reflect the moderation of its ruling elite.

Asked if America was in danger of becoming that present-day object of Muslim hate, the cleric simply warned that anti-American sentiment has grown since the military action against Afghanistan's Taliban regime began.

Despite opposition within Pakistan, the U.S.-led operations within Afghanistan continued with air assaults, special-forces operations and broadcast messages urging ordinary Afghans to stay out of the way of the effort to root out Saudi exile Osama bin Laden, believed to be the mastermind behind the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks .

U.S. forces last night launched and completed the first ground combat mission, as a team of crack Army Rangers was dispatched into southern Afghanistan to attack a Taliban target, a U.S. official said.

U.S. warplanes also dropped four bombs on the capital of Kabul and attacked Kandahar, the southern stronghold of the ruling Taliban.

As the United States, Great Britain and the international community grow confident the Taliban regime will soon fall, discord about what sort of government should take its place has emerged.

Russia, India and Iran all expressed dismay with Secretary of State Colin L. Powell's statement that there may be room for some Taliban "moderates" in a new power-sharing arrangement in Afghanistan. The Iranian foreign minister yesterday spoke against the proposal, while India and Russia also rejected the idea in a joint statement.

Mr. Powell made the assertion after a meeting last week with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf, in which he also said that any future government would have to be acceptable to Afghanistan's neighbors. Pakistan is a one-time ally of the Taliban, while Russia, India and Iran have all supported Afghanistan's opposition forces of the Northern Alliance.

Mystery surrounded the visit to Pakistan of Taliban tribal-affairs minister Jalaluddin Haqqani, a powerful leader of Afghanistan's dominant ethnic Pashtun majority and commander of five southeastern provinces.

There were suggestions that Mr. Haqqani might have met Pakistan officials or representatives of exiled King Mohammed Zahir Shah, who is being touted as a possible unifying figure in any post-Taliban government. Analysts say it is significant that in 13 days of U.S. bombing, the raids had not targeted some of the main provinces that make up Mr. Haqqani's power base.

As the military campaign continues, the humanitarian effort to assist the people of Afghanistan intensified despite serious disruptions caused by the Taliban.

The U.N. World Food Program has said Taliban forces were still occupying its food depot and office in Kandahar. Earlier this week, Taliban activists also seized control of an office and warehouse of the International Organization for Migration (IOM) in the northern city of Kunduz. The IOM told its staff to stay at home and wait for clear directives.

Almost 18,600 tons of food have been handed out to Afghans by the U.N. food program since the Sept. 11 attacks, while American cargo jets continue to drop food packets. More than 500,000 food rations have been dropped so far.

Still, unrest in Pakistan demonstrates the potentially explosive public suspicion that the U.S.-led military action in Afghanistan is directed against Islam. Yesterday's rally in Peshawar drew at least 100,000 people, with posters of bin Laden held high, one proclaiming "Americans to your death." One speaker chanted "revolution" to roars of approval.

"We will teach American a lesson," Mr. Ahmad told the crowd. "We are ready for jihad. We give full support to the Taliban. We stand with them and will help any way we can."

The turnout was far bigger than party leaders had expected and the crowd dispersed peacefully under the eye of a heavy police and army presence manning roadblocks and sandbag bunkers.

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