| Maulana Fazlur Rehman (left), chief of the Islamic fundamentalist party Jamiat Ulema-i-Islam and leader of a six-party alliance, celebrates the alliance’s poll victory with a supporter in Peshawar on Monday. (AFP)
Islamabad, Oct. 14 (Reuters): Hardline Islamic parties which have emerged as potential coalition partners after a general election in Pakistan said today they would seek to impose Islamic law in the country and ask US troops to leave.
Talks over who would form a coalition in parliament gathered pace, with the focus of the outside world on whether the Islamic front, which recorded stunning gains in last Thursday’s poll, would be part of the government or in opposition.
The election, designed to return Pakistan to civilian rule after a coup in 1999, has been strongly criticised by European Union observers who said the military tipped the voting in its favour to allow President Pervez Musharraf to hold on to power.
“We assure the international community that we are not terrorists,” Qazi Hussain Ahmed, vice president of the Mutahidda-e-Amal (MMA) Islamic coalition, told a news briefing in Islamabad where he set out his party's stall.
“We will not use this country for terrorism, nor allow anyone to use this country for terrorism,” he said, before adding: “But we do not approve of foreign interference. For this we do not need any help from the American forces nor their bases in the country. There should also be no such bases here which could be used for interference in the affairs of neighbouring states.”
He was referring to the small US military presence in Pakistan concentrated at the Jacobabad air base, from where search and rescue operations in Afghanistan are launched.
The MMA is also likely to oppose the small numbers of US intelligence agents helping Pakistani forces track down al Qaeda suspects in tribal areas near the Afghan border.
MMA chairman Shah Ahmed Noorani told reporters in Karachi that his party supported the introduction of Islamic sharia law.