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Thursday, 24 October, 2002, 09:09 GMT 10:09 UK
Islamists seek to reassure West
Qazi Hussain Ahmed at meeting
Islamists 'will honour international commitments'

Religious parties in Pakistan say the international community should not be frightened of their success in the recent elections.

The alliance of six Islamic parties, the MMA, emerged as the third biggest force in the general elections in which no single party has been able to get a majority.

Pro-Taleban protest in Quetta
Success reflected anger at the Afghan war
MMA leaders have told diplomats from Western and other countries that they are a democratic force and believe in the rule of law.

They say they would honour all international commitments made by previous Pakistani governments, but would like to have a balanced foreign policy.

Anti-US

The alliance has remained an enigma for many Western diplomats.

The MMA had campaigned on an anti-American slogan and its success in the areas bordering Afghanistan raised apprehensions about its policies towards Western countries.

To allay such fears, MMA leaders gave a detailed briefing to Islamabad-based diplomats on Wednesday and tried to dispel the impression that they are a Taleban-like force.

A senior MMA leader, Qazi Hussain Ahmed, said it is true that their success is a reflection of growing public anger against the policy of some Western countries towards Islamic states.

However, he said instead of rejecting the will of the people, there is a need to understand Pakistan's Islamic movement.

He said the MMA wants to establish an Islamic system, but only through a democratic process.

'Flexible'

Another alliance leader, Maulana Fazlur Rehman, said they have only a limited mandate and would like to be flexible in order to work with other parties to strengthen the democratic system.

He said they are opposed to President Musharraf's move to make the parliament subservient to a military-dominated national security council and may sit in opposition if such a policy is enforced.

Maulana Rehman said the MMA would like to co-operate with the international community in all areas, but is opposed to the policy of taking dictates from international financial institutions on Pakistan's social and economic agenda.

Some Western diplomats described the MMA's move to explain its policies as interesting, but said there are clear contradictions in their earlier statements and the explanations they have given to the diplomatic community.

Musharraf's Pakistan

Democracy challenge

Militant threat

Background

TALKING POINT

FROM THE ARCHIVES

BBC WORLD SERVICE
See also:

23 Oct 02 | South Asia
16 Oct 02 | Business
09 Oct 02 | South Asia
08 Oct 02 | South Asia
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