In Pakistan, Militants Share Principles Of Extremist Vision
Boston GlobeOctober 20, 2007 Oppose close ties with US, woman leading nation
By Kathy Gannon, Associated Press PESHAWAR, Pakistan - Some are Al Qaeda, some are Taliban, and others are homegrown. But all of Pakistan's militants share a vision and unshakable beliefs that include a ban on a woman leading the nation and opposition to a close alliance with the United States.Benazir Bhutto, former prime minister, blamed Al Qaeda and Taliban militants for Thursday's deadly suicide bombing that killed scores in Karachi during a procession to mark her homecoming after eight years in exile.The attack came as Pakistan's government is struggling to contain a rising Islamic militancy in the lawless tribal regions along the Afghan border in northwestern Pakistan. Violence linked to militants has killed more than 1,000 people in a little over three months - most in the restive tribal belt on the border.The self-declared defenders of Islam have also rampaged through the region bombing girls schools, threatening female teachers, and even beheading two women they charged with prostitution. They have burned down music and CD shops and threatened barbers with violence if they trimmed beards. In some areas, they have even set up their own police forces.President Pervez Musharraf, the head of the military, has vacillated in the past between blistering military attacks on the militants and negotiating peace deals with them. The deals struck in 2005 and 2006 have been blamed for a reconstituted Al Qaeda in the region and a resurgent Taliban in Afghanistan.It was unclear yesterday whether Thursday's attack would strengthen the resolve of Bhutto's backers to work together with Musharraf's ruling party to fight the militants jointly.Hard-liner anger against Musharraf surged this summer when the army raided a pro-Taliban mosque in Islamabad, leaving more than 100 people dead. Militants launched suicide bombings and other attacks in response, causing the government to deploy thousands of troops to the northwestern tribal regions.Militants in Pakistan's North West Frontier Province called Thursday's suicide attack revenge for the Pakistani military operations in the area and the support Bhutto and Musharraf have offered the United States in its fight against terrorism.Mahmoud Al Hasan, a leader of Hezb-ul-Mujahedeen, a militant group aligned to Pakistan's religious Jamaat-e-Islami party, condemned the bombing because of the civilians who were killed, but attacked Bhutto and Musharraf as "slaves" of the United States.He castigated Bhutto for her comments against extremism and her recent statement that she would accept US assistance in targeting Osama bin Laden if he is found on Pakistani territory."Benazir Bhutto was totally talking like an infidel. What should be the reaction of jihadis? They should definitely kill her. She is an enemy of Islam. She is an enemy of jihadis. She is an enemy of the country. This is the reaction," said Hasan. "If it had killed only Benazir Bhutto then it would have been OK."A businessman in the northwestern city of Peshawar who finances militant groups said the attack against Bhutto was well coordinated and planned.The man, who spoke on condition of anonymity for fear of being arrested, said there are hundreds of would-be bombers in Pakistan who are ready to blow themselves up in such attacks.He said they find sanctuary in the tribal regions along the Afghan border where like-minded tribesmen under the Taliban banner hold sway.One of the warlords in this region, Baitullah Mehsud, threatened earlier this month to meet Bhutto's return to Pakistan with suicide attacks, according to local media reports.Mehsud, who has denied responsibility in Thursday's attack, has bragged of having 3,000 would-be suicide bombers. His suicide squads have taken credit for attacks against the military and police in northwestern Pakistan, as well as bombings at a hotel in the capital of Islamabad that killed a security guard and at the Islamabad international airport.Mehsud signed a peace pact with the army in February 2005 promising to deny shelter to foreign Al Qaeda fighters in exchange for an end to military operations in the region and compensation for tribesmen killed by the military.Then Mehsud's men kidnapped 250 Pakistani soldiers in August, whom they are still holding. Three of the soldiers have been beheaded.