Washington Report on Middle East Affairs
September 1, 2000 | M, M.
JAMAAT CHIEF VISITS WASHINGTON
QAZI HUSAIN AHMED, amir (chief) of Pakistan’s Jamaat-e-Islami and a prominent opposition leader in Pakistan, recently visited Washington, DC to attend the annual convention of the Islamic Circle of North America (ICNA).
Surprisingly, his visit seemed to have taken on a semi-official status. Pakistani Ambassador Dr. Maleeha Lodhi made a special trip to Baltimore to meet Qazi Husain Ahmed at the ICNA conference and later hosted a dinner for him at her official residence in Washington. While in Washington, Ahmed held a press conference, spoke at several think tanks, including the Brookings Institution, and met with Washington Post editors and with Karl Inderfurth, U.S. assistant secretary of state for South Asia. (Ironically, last year the State Department had refused to issue a visa to the Jamaat chief.)
The change of heart seems to have coincided with ruling Gen. Pervez Musharraf’s opening of dialogue with Pakistani opposition groups. Jamaat is known to have influence with the country’s right-wing political forces.
At his press conference, Ahmed supported Musharraf’s “reform agenda,” saying he hoped democracy would be restored in Pakistan “as soon as possible.” Describing Pakistan’s nuclear capability as “purely defensive in nature,” he justified it as a response to India’s continued external threat. He called upon America not to abandon an old ally, and to stop accusing Pakistan of harboring terrorists, saying, “This is sheer false propaganda and a gross exaggeration of facts.”
Regarding U.S. policy in Afghanistan, Ahmed urged Washington to engage the Taliban in a constructive dialogue instead of boycotting them. Opposing any suggestion of partition, he advocated formation of a broad-based government in Afghanistan. “That country has suffered enough,” he said. “The world community must come to the rescue of the impoverished people of Afghanistan.”
On the home front, the opposition leader hoped to see the process of accountability move more quickly, and without prejudice, so Pakistan’s future can be free of unscrupulous politicians and their abuses of power. “Bringing in technocrats and empowering NGO’s is not the answer for Pakistan’s continued problems,” he remarked. “The country has enough talent. What is needed is the restoration of the spirit of Islam for which the country was formed. Adherence to `law’ and `justice’ and respect for human rights are what is needed.”
On the issue of Pakistan’s relations with India, the Jamaat-e-Islami chief observed: “Nothing will work without the fair and equitable solution of the Kashmir dispute in accordance with the standing U.N. resolutions and the will of the Kashmiris.” –M.M. Ali
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