Pakistan to ask Taleban to hand over bin Laden
A Pakistani delegation will go to Afghanistan on Monday to deliver an ultimatum to the Taleban militia demanding the hand over Osama bin Laden, the prime suspect in the U.S. terror attacks in New York and Washington, a top government official said Sunday.
Sunday, September 16, 2001
The Pakistani team will issue the ultimatum to the religious militia: either deliver bin Laden within three days, or risk a massive retaliatory assault, said the official, speaking on the condition of anonymity.
However, Pakistan's ambassador to the U.S. said the delegation had to get approval for the trip from the United Nations because of existing sanctions that prohibit travel to Afghanistan but that Pakistan had petitioned the UN for permission.
"We're expecting this delegation to fly out tomorrow once we have received permission from the UN sanctions committee which will allow that plane to fly to Afghanistan," Maleeha Lodhi, Islamabad's ambassador to the United States, said.
"We will be urging the Taleban leadership...to accede to the demand of the international community...to hand over the person that they are harboring, Osama bin Laden, so that he is brought to justice."
"We are responding to the call of the international community, as well as the United States," she said.
But, the Taleban's reclusive leader, Mullah Mohammed Omar, has said previously that handing bin Laden over to non-Muslims would be like betraying a tenet of Islam. On Sunday, the Taleban called an "urgent" meeting of clerics from all over Afghanistan where they voiced support for the ruling militia and condemned the U.S. demanding proof bin Laden was involved in last week's attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon.
Meanwhile, Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf is battling to win domestic support for his commitment to help the U.S. Musharraf plans to woo politicians, religious leaders, and press chiefs in his fight to win domestic support for his promise to help the U.S. retaliate against those responsible for Tuesday's attacks.
Musharraf, an army general who seized power in a bloodless coup in October 1998, is to meet leaders of political parties, have lunch with prominent religious figures, and address newspaper editors to justify his decision - one that threatens to divide the nation.
Some of Pakistan's religious leaders have already been asked by government leaders to use their influence with the Taleban to get them to hand over bin Laden.
They have refused.
"We told the government that we're very sorry but we can't do that and we don't have that kind of influence over the Taleban," said Amir-ul Azeem, a spokesman for Pakistan's best-organized religious party, Jamaat-e-Islami, or Party of Islam.
Although Islamabad has remained tight-lipped about exactly what form its assistance will take, the U.S. says Pakistan has promised full cooperation following requests to provide access to its airspace, seal its border with Afghanistan, cut fuel supplies, and share intelligence.
It has also been reported that Washington has asked Musharraf to permit U.S. military forces to be stationed in Pakistan in anticipation of raids against bin Laden and his Taleban protectors.
Musharraf could face a severe domestic backlash. Musharraf's grip on the country is still not entirely secure, as he only declared himself president in June.
"These decisions are fundamental to the national security of Pakistan. It is vital that the people should be taken into confidence," a Pakistan newspaper said in an editorial.
Musharraf now must decide between helping the United States and risking internal turmoil or backing away and suffering sanctions, possible military strikes and economic meltdown.
"Without doubt, Pakistan is caught between the devil and the deep sea," a newspaper said.