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Musharraf fooling the West, says MMA

Pak's top oppositon party also says that Musharraf is trying to widen the gap between religious circles and liberals.

india Updated: Dec 21, 2006 11:42 IST

A top Islamist leader has reminded Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf that religious parties hold the key to peace in the tribal region bordering Afghanistan that are the hotbed of Taliban activities.

Maulana Fazlur Rehman, secretary general of the Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) and Leader of Opposition in the National Assembly, has warned Musharraf against calling names to religious parties and advised that he should avoid alienating their leaders.

"We have been helping create agreements throughout the tribal areas and what do we get in return? Musharraf calls us dangerous," Rahman said in an interview with the British newspaper The Daily Telegraph.

Rahman also accused Gen Musharraf of "deceiving" his allies in the war against terror.

"Dressed in uniform, the general is championing the cause of democracy but the nations of the world take no serious notice," he said. "He has been fooling the Western world."

Musharraf has repeatedly urged Pakistanis not to vote for "hypocrites" and "extremists" in the next general elections.

"With his poisonous propaganda against the religious parties, General Musharraf is trying to widen the gap between the religious circles and the liberals in the country," Rahman alleged.

The MMA secretary general stressed that peace in Afghanistan would require talks with the Taliban.

"There can only be peace if foreign forces leave Afghanistan and the Afghan government holds talks with the Taliban," he said.

"They are the sons of the soil," said Rahman, who has been credited with running a chain of thousands of seminaries in the tribal areas that supply young fighters to the Taliban movement.

He denied that the Taliban uses his seminaries as staging posts in their cross-border activities, but admitted that he directs his followers to support Taliban fighters in Afghanistan by providing "humanitarian aid".

"We support anyone who is struggling for the implementation of an Islamic government," he said, without specifying the type of assistance.

Partly with the help of the religious party leaders, the Musharraf regime signed a pact with tribal leaders in the Waziristan region that promises them autonomy in return for their safeguarding the border against extremists.

But the Western think tanks have said that the pact has only ended up providing a safe haven to the Taliban and Al-Qaeda's foreign mercenaries.