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Friday, 11 October, 2002, 13:49 GMT 14:49 UK
Pakistan's bitter pill for Bush
Islamist candidate reads prayer of thanks
Islamists have capitalised on the anti-American mood

An alliance of Islamic parties has done unexpectedly well in elections in Pakistan.

Competing together for the first time, the alliance of six parties has performed particularly well in North West Frontier Province, which borders Afghanistan.


The lessons from this election are uncomfortable, not just for George Bush but for other Western leaders, as they contemplate the growing rift between the Muslim world and the West

But their success will be unwelcome to the Bush administration in Washington.

The grim message for the United States from this election is that anti-American feeling in Pakistan is extremely strong - and poses serious challenges to President Pervez Musharraf, one of America's key allies in its "war on terror".

When the Pakistani leader dramatically changed course last year - by breaking the country's close ties with the Taleban rulers in Afghanistan - he also committed himself to creating a more liberal and tolerant society.

Many Pakistanis - as well as many in the West - believed there was a unique opportunity to eradicate the "culture of jihad" which had taken root in Pakistan in the 1980s.

Disenchantment

But that hope is looking threadbare. The Islamic parties - which have performed poorly in previous Pakistani elections - have now made significant gains.

General Musharraf voting
General Musharraf has unwittingly boosted the Islamists
They have done so by capitalising on the anti-American mood - and on the widespread disenchantment with a political class seen as corrupt and self-serving.

In addition, a number of analysts in Pakistan believe that by weakening the two traditionally dominant parties - those of Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto - General Musharraf unwittingly boosted the Islamists.

These analysts argue that if the elections had been fought on a level playing field, the Islamists would not have been able to make such impressive gains.

It is not the first time in the Muslim world that a pro-Western leader has clobbered the mainstream political parties, and so created a vacuum which Islamist groups have hastened to fill.

So the lessons from this election are uncomfortable, not just for George Bush but for other Western leaders, as they contemplate the growing rift between the Muslim world and the West.

Musharraf's Pakistan

Democracy challenge

Militant threat

Background

TALKING POINT

FROM THE ARCHIVES

BBC WORLD SERVICE
See also:

11 Oct 02 | South Asia
10 Oct 02 | South Asia
09 Oct 02 | South Asia
08 Oct 02 | South Asia
08 Oct 02 | South Asia
08 Oct 02 | South Asia
10 Oct 02 | Media reports
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