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Meeting Pakistan's New Islamic Leadership in Peshawar, Frontier Province

Last month New Trend's representative caught up with Jamaate Islami Pakistan's new leadership team which is an important component of the Islamic government which has emerged in Frontier Province with the overwhelming support of the people.

It was also an opportunity to meet (briefly) JI's leader Qazi Hussain Ahmad and members of his family in their Peshawar home. His son, a very fine young physician, was particularly hospitable and our representative was able to pray with the family in their tastefully adorned home.

Qazi Hussain Ahmad, with his milk white beard, his brother, his son, his relatives and friends all dress in Pakistani dress, Pathan style, and their education, sophistication and wealth have not made them arrogant or brash. Qazi sahib is now the leader of the opposition in the Pakistani parliament after having won from his constituency in the Peshawar area with an electoral lead which just about erased the candidacy of his nearest opponent.

Our representative met a number of newly elected members of the National Assembly of Pakistan. However, New Trend's focus was on the new government in Frontier Province. Finally, New Trend managed to interview Sirajul Haq, Senior Minister in the new government in spite of his hectic schedule.

SIRAJUL HAQ is an attractive personality, quite tall, somewhat lanky, almost boney, wearing an Afghan cap, a Pathan-style sleeveless jacket over his shalwar kameez. He is soft spoken but clear in his thoughts, very calm, thoughtful, to the point and VERY INTELLIGENT (indeed SHARP). He looks like a mullah but speaks like a university professor, a total surprise for people who want to stereotype Islamic leaders.

Sirajul Haque's ideas for reform in Frontier Province are exactly those of an educated, enlightened and progressive Pakistani. He wants:
1. Hospitals and quality medical services for the masses.
2. Clean water, especially for the poor.
3. Better roads, improved sewage services.
4. Clean air (he recognizes that Peshawar is an environmental disaster area).
5. Forest development.
6. Better and more schools with emphasis on the education of girls.
7. Crackdown on official corruption, end to bureaucratic delays.
8. Cheap and quick legal services for victims of oppression.

Decades of secularist, corrupt governments in Frontier Province have ruined the health, education and environmental systems. The corruption has seeped down to the lower levels with the distribution of blue movie videos and the display of third rate Punjabi and Indian movies. [The new Islamic government removed all sign boards showing dancing women and murderous men and only weeks later had a big bonfire of "playboy" type videos.

Unfortunately, there is a strange contradiction in the situation in Frontier Province. What the eloquent Sirajul Haq wants to do is exactly what the Province needs: unfortunately the MASSES DID NOT ELECT THE NEW GOVERNMENT FOR THESE PURPOSES. The people elected Islamic candidates to FACE UP TO AMERICA and to SUPPORT THE TALIBAN JIHAD MOVEMENT. Intense loathing of the American bombing of Afghanistan and the treacherous role General Musharref played in handing over 400 mujahideen and Islamic volunteers to the Americans caused these landslide election victories for the Islamic candidates.

It is very doubtful if those in the new government have the solid determination needed to foil American designs. This is a peaceful movement which carries out demonstrations and rallies to protest against FBI raids and the ever growing treachery of General Musharref. The new government has warned that it will not tolerate armed intervention in Frontier by the U.S. Observers say that the U.S. will (and is) intervening and the peaceful movement is not able to stop such moves. Musharref's mercenary troops have helped the Americans to blow up the homes of people who gave refuge to Chechen mujahideen.

The outcome seems to be that if U.S. intervention increases (as it is), the people will be disappointed in the peaceful movement and start moving towards the Jihad movements. Thus the electoral process will fail owing to U.S. military moves and the armed Jihad, strong in Punjab but still weak in Frontier, could gain immense support.

The peaceful demonstrations are Pakistanis' way of saying to America: We don't want to fight you. Get out of our country and let us live according to our values. Unfortunately, with Musharref and the fat (and corrupt) military establishment is in America's pocket and peaceful protests are rejected as "unimportant" by the U.S. embassy.

2003-02-05 Wed 08:32ct