Monday, February 04, 2002

Leader of the Pak- Rantburg's Fred Pruitt has this take on the hard-core Islamic crowd wanting to go toe-to-toe at the polls with Musharraf

The fundos have defined themselves as the opposition to Musharraf. They'll either push him into trying to mend fences with them or they'll push him from a moderate Islamism all the way into secularism. If they've overestimated their own strength, as they have a habit of doing, and the beards lose in the elections, their power will be broken - at least until memories fade and a little revisionism takes place. If they see a hefty defeat coming, though, they're going to press sympathetic elements in the armed forced and the ISI to either fix the election or to oust Musharraf. It'll be something to watch.

I'm not sure if they have the street support to beat Musharraf in a fair fight. If Musharraf keeps a lid on the more militant Islamists and avoids turning the average devout Muslim against him, he's got a long stay ahead of him. I would be leery of using Turkey as a model; supressing Islam too much could backfire and turn the average mosque-goer against the government. A long-but-firm leash is the answer, but that's easier said than done.

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