Pakistan religious party 'faces crackdown'
The Pakistani military is privately warning the country’s largest religious party to distance itself from al Qaida by the end of March or face a crackdown, a senior security official told United Press International Wednesday. Since the beginning of the year, Pakistani intelligence agents have arrested at least four al Qaida suspects from the homes of leaders of Jamaat-i-Islami — Pakistan’s main religious party, which has dozens of members of parliament and controls a number of ministerial posts in a key regional government. Most recently, Khalid Sheikh Mohammed, who is believed to have planned the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks in the United States, was seized at the residence of a Jamaat leader at the weekend. Other officials in Islamabad confirmed by telephone that the ultimatum had been conveyed to Jamaat through what they called “the usual channels” — a reference to the widely known private contacts maintained with religious extremists by Pakistan’s Inter-Services Intelligence, or ISI, the feared spy agency. “This is a wake-up call for the government, which was hoping to bring religious parties into the political mainstream,” one senior security official said. Full Story