Madinat al-Muslimeen Islamic Message Board
|America rewards Pakistan|
|09/21/01 at 09:49:15|
|America 'to lift sanctions on Pakistan' |
Staff and agencies
Friday September 21, 2001
America has agreed to lift sanctions imposed on Pakistan and India and to reschedule $600m (£410m) in bilateral debt with Islamabad, a senior western diplomat said today.
The diplomat, who asked not to be identified, said that "discernible progress" would be seen soon.
Details of the surprise deal are reportedly being finalised at the moment and will allow a resumption of American assistance to Pakistan, which ended after sanctions were imposed for the nuclear tests it carried out in 1998.
The news come after a fruitless year of talks under the Paris Club to reschedule Pakistan's bilateral debt.
America will sign an agreement on rescheduling $600m worth of debt, part of Pakistan's $1.6bn debt considered by the Paris Club, in a move seen by many as a reward for Pakistan in return for its support of the US over its expected attacks against Pakistan's neighbour, Afghanistan.
The decision by Pakistan's military ruler, General Musharraf, to back the west over another Muslim state has sparked widespread dissent across the country.
A fifth consecutive day of protests in Pakistan brought parts of the country to a virtual standstill today, as demonstrators rallied behind Islamic groups who had called for a nationwide strike.
Shops were closed, transport was suspended and people were unable to get to work.
Police stepped up their deployment of artillery and troops, firing tear gas into some crowds of demonstrators.
Protesters are enraged at the government's pledge on Wednesday to support American military strikes aimed at capturing Afghanistan-based Osama bin Laden, the chief suspect in last week's American terrorist atrocities.
Despite ongoing negotiations, Afghanistan's ambassador to Pakistan announced today that Afghanistan's hardline rulers, the Taliban, will not hand over Bin Laden without evidence.
Asked if the Taliban would hand him over, Abdul Salam Zaeef said, "No", but his translator added, "No, not without evidence."
Pakistanis near the Afghanistan border have vowed to launch holy war against Americans.
Thousands of protestors today swarmed the streets of Peshawar, near the north west border, shouting anti-American and anti-Pakistani slogans.
Burning a life-sized effigy of the US president, George Bush, they shouted "Long live Osama".
"We will fight until the death and destruction of the United States," read one sign. "Crush America and Bush," read another.
During Friday prayers in Peshawar, hardline Islamic clerics told their listeners that they backed Bin Laden and the Taliban leadership that has protected him and his followers in Afghanistan for several years.
Hundreds of people watched today's protests from rooftops and balconies in the city, where most people are Pashtun - the same ethnic group that dominates the Taliban - and where two million Afghan refugees live.
Around 15,000 heavily armed police patrolled the city on foot and in tanks.
Violence also flared today in Karachi, the country's biggest city and commercial hub.
The most serious clashes occurred in the Sohrab Goth neighbourhood of Karachi, where an estimated 1,500 Afghan refugees fought with police, burning tyres and attacking vehicles.
In other parts of Karachi, police fired tear gas and beat people with iron-tipped sticks to disperse crowds pelting vehicles with stones and blocking roads.
At least 70 demonstrators were arrested, police said.
In other parts of Pakistan, such as cities of Quetta, Lahore and the capital Islamabad, riot police were on guard, although no protests had broken out.
Most shops and schools were ordered to close for their own safety.
The general strike also closed schools, offices and shops in the northern Indian state of Jammu-Kashmir, where Islamic rebels are supported by Pakistan in their fight for independence.
The US has turned to Pakistan because of its critical geographical position on the border with Afghanistan, and because of its ties to the Taliban regime.
The Afghan Defence Council, an alliance of 35 religious and militant groups, has warned General Musharraf that his decision to back America could plunge the country into civil war.
Yesterday, a grand Islamic council in Afghanistan met at the request of the Taliban leadership and took the decision to ask Bin Laden to leave voluntarily.
It is not yet known if he will comply, or if a war could be averted even if he did.
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