Accessibility links

Pakistan Under Pressure from Islamic Groups to Vote Against War on Iraq - 2003-03-11

Pakistan's prime minister was expected to address the nation on Tuesday to outline his government's policy on Iraq. The mainly Muslim nation is among the six elected members of the U.N. Security Council that are still undecided about how to vote on a U.S.-sponsored resolution seeking authorization for a war on Iraq.

Prime Minister Zafarullah Jamali's government fears that an attack on Iraq could lead to unrest among Pakistan's mainly Muslim population.

The government has come under pressure to from opposition parties led by an alliance of Islamic groups to vote against a war on Iraq. Hundreds of thousands of people have taken part in anti-war demonstrations in Pakistan in recent days.

The pressure seems to have worked. Some members of Prime Minister Jamali's ruling party say Pakistan will not approve a United Nations Security Council resolution seeking to authorize a war on Iraq.

In a speech to Parliament on Monday, Mr. Jamali hinted at his decision. Mr. Jamali said Pakistan will not support any military designs against Iraq because it cannot become a party to the destruction of either Iraq or its people.

The bottom line of all protests in Pakistan is that peace should be given a chance and we should not participate in a war against Iraq and that is what the prime minister has said," said Mushahid Hussain, a senator-elect of Prime Minister Jamali's ruling Pakistan Muslim League party. "And that is also my conclusion that Pakistan, if it abstains as seems likely, that will meet the aspiration of the people of Pakistan and also serve the national interest of Pakistan."

Leaders of some Islamic parties, however, say Pakistan should vote no on the resolution, not just abstain.

A draft resolution sponsored by the United States, Britain and Spain gives Iraq until next Monday to comply with U.N. demands and give up suspected chemical, biological and nuclear weapons. The Security Council vote on the proposed resolution is expected later this week.

Pakistan is in a delicate position on the issue. While it opposes the U.S. threat to use force to disarm Iraq, Islamabad has been a close ally of Washington in the war on terror. The United States has supplied Pakistan with considerable aid, and it is a major market for Pakistan's exports, which means Islamabad may be reluctant to directly vote against the United States.