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Saturday, 15 September, 2001, 23:59 GMT 00:59 UK
Analysis: Pakistan's role in US plans
Residents of Karachi read headlines about
Many ordinary Pakistanis are expressing concern
By the BBC's Susannah Price in Islamabad

The first confirmation that Pakistan had agreed to all of the United States requests for co-operation in the wake of Tuesday's attacks came from the American Secretary of State Colin Powell.

The Pakistani cabinet and National Security Council met for four hours to discuss in detail what help should be given to the United States.

They were looking at recommendations made by military commanders during their talks on Friday.

President Bush has named the Saudi born dissident Osama Bin Laden as the prime suspect in the attacks on Washington and New York.

He is in hiding in Afghanistan which now looks set to be one of the first targets if there are any retaliatory strikes.

Observers believe the United States is looking to Pakistan for intelligence on Osama Bin Laden and his hosts the Taleban authorities.

It is less clear the extent of military co-operation required.

Internal dissent

It seems most likely that they will ask for permission to use Pakistani airspace for attacks. However most in Pakistan believe it is unlikely that the Americans will be allowed to station troops here - and Pakistan has said its own soldiers will not be involved.

Pakistani officials have confirmed that Islamabad has agreed to the broad parameters of the demands but has asked for more discussion and details.

But the fact that Pakistan's foreign minister Abdul Sattar refused to even confirm this during his press conference in Islamabad, points to Pakistan's growing concerns about internal dissent.

Mr Sattar talked in very general terms about the cabinet meeting saying only they were in the process of discussions.

He also said the Pakistani president, General Pervez Musharraf, would be holding talks with politicians and religious leaders in the next few days.

This will be an important element of consensus building within the country.

Small demonstrations

Although as a military ruler General Musharraf does not need to worry about political opposition, he will want the maximum support possible to push forward his policy of supporting the United States.

It is only after the consultations that General Musharraf is expected to announce any substantial details.

There has been little open opposition to Pakistan's moves to abandon its old ally the Taleban, although privately many ordinary people have expressed concern.

Religious extremist groups have apparently been under pressure to keep quiet and not criticise the government.

However there was one small demonstration on Friday where a few hundred people gathered to protest against Pakistan's moves towards the United States and to warn that they saw an attack on Afghanistan as a war against Islam.

Taleban ties

The Taleban are furious that their main supporter Pakistan appears to have switched its allegiance.

Their threat to declare war on neighbouring countries which give military help to United States may sound like rhetoric - but it could serve as a call to its supporters inside Pakistan to protest.

Pakistan is obviously anxious to avoid this - ironically the foreign minister spoke of Pakistan's long standing support towards Afghanistan, especially in its struggle against foreign intervention.

He also stressed the cultural ties and pointed out that Pakistan was one of only three governments to support the Taleban.

Pakistan is also keen to forestall criticism by suggesting it is not acting alone.

The foreign minister repeatedly referred to the United Nations resolutions calling for international co-operation to bring those responsible for the attacks to justice.

The government is also consulting closely with China and a special envoy from Saudi Arabia is in Pakistan for talks.

The BBC's John Simpson
"Pakistan's problems could be only just beginning"
See also:

14 Sep 01 | Americas
In pictures: A world in mourning
14 Sep 01 | Americas
Nineteen hijack suspects named
14 Sep 01 | Europe
Europe mourns with US
14 Sep 01 | Africa
Kenya mourns with US
14 Sep 01 | Europe
FBI 'ignored leads'
14 Sep 01 | South Asia
Taleban defiant over Bin Laden
14 Sep 01 | Asia-Pacific
S Korea mourns US victims
13 Sep 01 | Americas
Q&A: Military options
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