The leader of Pakistan's largest religion-based political party says U.S. forces are not needed for any anti-terrorism operations in Pakistan. Islamic parties scored major gains in just-completed elections, and are expected to dictate terms for their cooperation with the new government.
Qazi Hussain Ahmad, leader of the Jamaat-i-Islami party, has called for U.S. troops in Afghanistan to withdraw, saying they are not needed to fight terrorism.
Speaking to reporters Monday, Mr. Ahmad said there should be a clear definition of terrorism, and lashed out at what he called unilateral anti-terrorism efforts. "Terrorism must be defined. What is terrorism? If terrorism is defined, and we are convinced (of) this, yes, this is terrorism. But if there is unilateral action, and if the accuser is himself the judge and the executioner, this cannot be accepted," he said.
Pakistan's military ruler, President Pervez Musharraf, has allowed U.S. forces and federal agents into Pakistan to track down remnants of the Taleban and al-Qaida fleeing Afghanistan. The Islamic political alliance capitalized on that to wage an anti-U.S. election campaign that won it 45 seats in last week's National Assembly elections. Religion-based parties in Pakistan have never won more than four seats in previous elections.
No single party won enough seats to constitute a majority in the 342-seat National Assembly. But the strong third place showing by the six-party Islamic coalition ensures it a role as power broker in the formation of a new government.
In another first, the Islamic parties also won control of provincial assemblies in Baluchistan and the North West Frontier Province the two Pakistani provinces bordering Afghanistan.
Mr. Ahmad said the Islamic political alliance is not a coalition of extremists or terrorists, and that world should not be frightened. He added that Mr. Musharraf's foreign policy is subject to review by the Parliament, but that his coalition will be, as he put it, flexible in the national interest without compromising Islamic principles.
The political jockeying for power has already begun, as politicians began flocking to Islamabad for meetings on the clouded political situation.
A party of Musharraf government loyalists took the most seats, but must find coalition partners if it is to form a government. The second biggest bloc went to the Pakistan Peoples Party of self-exiled former prime minister Benazir Bhutto. Ms. Bhutto was convicted of corruption-related offenses and was barred from running for office herself.
Mr. Musharraf, who has ruled since ousting prime minister Nawaz Sharif in 1999, has pledged to relinquish power to whatever government is formed. But he has carved out a continuing role for the military in the form of a new National Security Council. Mr. Musharraf will retain the posts of president and chief of the army and holds the power to dismiss an elected government.