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Tuesday, 9 October, 2001, 17:54 GMT 18:54 UK
Pakistan changes direction
Protester in Pakistan with picture of Osama Bin Laden
There have been violent anti-US protests in Pakistan
By the BBC's Zaffar Abbas in Islamabad

Pakistan's about-turn on Afghanistan - dumping the Taleban in favour of a broad-based government - is likely to have a direct impact on its own internal security.

As President Pervez Musharraf completes two years in power this month, the current international crisis seems to have given him the opportunity to take Pakistan out of religious conservatism and revive its image as a moderate Islamic state.

Our protest campaign is not just in support of the Taleban, it is for the survival of the Islamic movement in Pakistan as well

Senior member
He has condemned the Taleban for sheltering terrorists - including those involved in violence in Pakistan.

General Musharraf has also denounced street agitation by pro-Taleban Islamic groups and sidelined some Islamic conservatives within the army.

Analysts say this shows a major shift in policy.


However, senior officials in the military government admit that religious groups, which were the main beneficiaries of the earlier policy, will not give in without a fight.

President Pervez Musharraf
President Musharraf has sidelined conservative army officers
The authorities have decided to come down heavily on those involved in violent demonstrations.

At least three high-ranking leaders of different Islamic groups have been put under house-arrest.

Officials said they would not hesitate to arrest other senior members of hard-line Islamic groups if there were more attempts to organise violent protests.

Next target

General Musharraf has condemned the Pakistani protests against the US-led action and says the overwhelming majority support his views rather than those of hard-line Islamic groups.

But many such groups feel that if the government's new Afghan policy succeeds, they might become the next target.

"It is a well calculated American plan to suppress the Islamic movement in this region," says a senior member of the hard-line Jamaat-e-Islami.

"So our protest campaign is not just in support of the Taleban, it is for the survival of the Islamic movement in Pakistan as well."

Some analysts view the recent reshuffle in the army as an attempt to encourage more moderate leadership.

The BBC's Daniel Lak in Quetta
"Hundreds of soldiers are on patrol here"
Hamid Gul, Former Head Pakistan Intelligence Service
"Unseating [the Taleban] from Kabul may be easy"
See also:

08 Oct 01 | South Asia
Musharraf shakes up Pakistan army
19 Sep 01 | South Asia
Who are the Taleban?
05 Oct 01 | Americas
The investigation and the evidence
03 Sep 01 | Country profiles
Country profile: Pakistan
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