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Party Chief Wants U.S. Out of Pakistan

November 10, 2002|From Associated Press

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan — A leader of Pakistan's religious right, coming off the bloc's best election showing in the country's 55-year history, demanded Saturday that the U.S. military leave the country.

"We were opposed to their war in Afghanistan before, and we are opposed now. The vote of the people was clear: They want them out of Pakistan," Maulana Fazlur Rehman said in an interview.

Last month's general elections, the first since military rule was imposed here in 1999, gave the religious right 59 seats out of 342 in parliament. The pro-military party won 103 seats, far short of the 172 needed to form a government. Former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto's party controls 80 seats and may form an alliance with the religious bloc.

The six-party alliance of religious parties, of which Rehman's party is a dominant partner, campaigned almost exclusively on an anti-American platform. It demanded U.S. soldiers leave Pakistan and neighboring Afghanistan, criticizing President Pervez Musharraf's support for the war on terrorism.

Rehman's lieutenant, Mir Hussain Gillani, added that it was the religious duty of every Pakistani Muslim to protect and offer sanctuary to Taliban forces and Al Qaeda members.

He said Osama bin Laden was not a terrorist. "Osama is one of the biggest followers of Islam," he said. "What has the United States and the West proven that he has done?"

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