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Jaish price set for US al Qaida hunt

Islamabad, Oct. 20 (PTI): Pakistan’s hardline religious alliance, which posted major gains in the October 10 general elections, has promised to go soft on the US crackdown on al Qaida militants in the country but demanded the release of leaders of banned militant outfits, including the Lashkar-e-Toiba and the Jaish-e-Mohammad.

Mutthahida Majlis-e-Amal (MMA) leader and chief of the Jamat Ulema Islamic Maulana Fazlur Rehman told the British high commissioner to Pakistan that the alliance would let the US and UK complete their agenda against international terrorism on Pakistani soil, MMA sources said.

Diplomats of the US, Britain, Canada and the European Union have been calling on mma leaders, especially Rehman, ever since the alliance posted impressive victories in the polls.

However, another major component of the MMA, the Jamat-e-Islami has demanded that the government release the leaders of the Lashkar-e-Toiba, Jaish-e-Mohammad and Sipah-i-Sehba of Pakistan, an extremist Sunni group which was banned by President Pervez Musharraf in February during the height of Indo-Pak standoff.

Jamat-e-Islami’s deputy leader Liaqat Baloch said Jaish-e-Mohammad leader Masood Azhar, who was released by India to end the hijack of the Indian Airlines flight in 1999, former Lashkar chief Hafiz Muhammad Saeed and Sipah-i-Sehba leader Azim Tariq should be released as the government “failed” to produce any evidence against them, the Times quoted him as saying.

“We will press for their release. The state says they’re involved in terror, but these people are behind bars without justification. This is state-sponsored terrorism,” Baloch said, adding that there was no justification to ban the outfits.

Baloch said the Lashkar-e-Jhangvi, a sectarian Sunni outfit, which the government holds responsible for the recent parcel bombs in Karachi, is an organisation run by “the agencies”.

The alliance has said it would introduce “total Islamisation” in the province and threatened to ban cable TV to honour its pre-polls commitment to voters.

“We have been given a full mandate to Islamise the system in this province,” MMA leader Maulana Amanullah Haqqani said.

Security force shifts

The International Security Assistance Force (Isaf), which used Karachi airport as its transit base for Afghan operations, has decided to vacate it after the pro-Taliban parties that won the recent polls stepped up demand for the US to leave Pakistani airbases.

Isaf has informed Pakistan’s Civil Aviation Authority that it has decided to wind up operations in Pakistan with immediate effect.

The force has been using karachi, alongwith several airports, as the hub for the forward mounting base (fmb) since the middle of january to transport troops, heavy arms and ammunition to fight taliban and al qaeda in afghanistan.

In addition to this, the us also used pakistani airbases for its operations in afghanistan.

”They (isaf) have just intimated to us that they have completed their work in pakistan and now they are winding up the operation,” the 'news' daily quoted pakistan aviation officials as saying.

”Our contract with the isaf will expire on november 11,” the newspaper quoted pakistan international airlines (pia), source as saying. They said isaf had informed that it was not interested in the renewal of the agreement.

”There is no information about the shifting of the isaf operation to any other nearby country,” one caa official said.

”They have not told us anything. They have certainly said that their mission has been completed in pakistan,” he said. (more) pti kjv vr 10201252 d

The three leaders have been kept in preventive detention which was periodically extended. Saeed was released briefly and reportedly taken into custody again. The government denies his detention but his family claimed he was taken into custody again.

He said that mma has been the target of a smear campaign ever since its strong showing at the polls, adding the party would neverthless be a likely candidate of the coalition government in islamabad.

”Since we will form the governments in nwfp and balochistan, we will have to share in the federal government to protect the provinces,” he said.

Baloch said the mma governments in the frontier province and balochistan would check illegal immigration and prevent cross-border infiltration from across the durand line.

He also said the party would once again call for an end to us military and intelligence presence on pakistani soil. Pti kjv vr dv 10201427 d

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