Fundamentalist Religious Forces in Pakistan Fare Well in Elections
Opponents of Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf, including Islamic fundamentalists and secular groups, fared well in the national elections last week. Political analysts worry that this will make it more difficult General Musharraf to crack down on Islamic extremists on the border of Pakistan and Afghanistan, according to the New York Times.
A group of six Muslim fundamentalist parties with anti-American platforms had their strongest showing ever since 1993. They won at least 49 parliamentary seats, making them the third largest voting block in the assembly. These religious parties have strong support in the Northwest Frontier Province and the southwestern Baluchistan Province, both of which border Afghanistan and are suspected to be havens for Taliban and Al Qaeda fighters. The group’s secretary general, Munnawar Hasan, stated in an interview with Reuters, “We will stop the ongoing pursuit of Taliban and Al Qaeda when we form a government. We will go by the rule of law. Taliban and Al Qaeda members are our brothers.”
In 1999, when General Musharraf seized power by a coup, many Pakistanis supported his overthrow of what they saw as a corrupt government. However, Musharraf’s current support of the United States and the war against terrorism has created tensions between Musharraf and many fundamentalists in Pakistan. Musharraf retains almost absolute power over Pakistan, including complete control over the army and the power to dissolve the new Parliament at will, despite his claims to be moving to a more democratic rule, according to the Times.
Media Resources: New York Times 10/11/2002, 10/12/2002, Associated Press 10/11/2002; Reuters 10/11/02