- The Washington Times - Tuesday, September 25, 2001

KHATTAK, Pakistan Pakistan's most powerful tribal leader, Ajmal Khattak, yesterday pleaded with the country's leading fundamentalist agitator, Sami ul-Haq, "to keep Pakistan calm during the present crisis."
But Mr. Khattak's entreaties were unsuccessful. Mr. ul-Haq, who serves as the co-president of Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islami, president of the University for the Education of Truth and chairman of the Afghan Defense Council, was not listening. His cell phone rang each time Mr. Khattak tried to make a point.
At the end of a narrow, dusty, dirt alley choked with donkey carts weaving between fruit and vegetable stalls, the two leaders sat on stained white plastic chairs outside Mr. Khattak's rundown, mud-brick abode. Mr. ul-Haq kept telling his callers "not to worry because our Islamic forces are ready." Mr. Khattak would then start his pitch again, urging Mr. ul-Haq to give President Pervez Musharraf "the benefit of the doubt."
But Mr. ul-Haq did not seem to be interested in what Mr. Khattak had to say. "The Israeli Mossad intelligence service organized the acts of terrorism against America to give America a pretext to launch a general offensive against the Muslim world," he said. "So we must reply."
"If you believe that," replied Mr. Khattak, president of the National Alliance Party, "all the more reason not to fall into the trap and to keep your powder dry." Mr. ul-Haq once again brought his cell phone to his ear, most obscured between his top-hat-sized turban and his flowing black-dyed beard. "No, don't worry," he told the caller. "Everything is under control. You will be pleased."
After Mr. ul-Haq drove off in his 4x4 Subaru, honking donkey carts off the narrow path into the space between the stalls, Mr. Khattak shook his head sadly and said, "They seem to be preparing something big."
Fazlur Rehman, the other co-president of Jamiat-e-Ulema-e-Islami, yesterday was in Chaman, the border town on the road that links Quetta and Kandahar, headquarters for Taliban leader Mullah Mohammad Omar. Mr. ul-Haq told Mr. Khattak he had gone there to address Afghan refugees. When asked what he thought might defuse the immediate crisis, Mr. Khattak said, "the United States must talk to Taliban leaders with a high-level delegation."
Told that it was too late for what would probably be seized upon by Omar as a pretext for more dilatory tactics, Mr. Khattak said, in a barely audible voice, "It won't take much at this stage for our extremists to light the fuse of civil war."
Mr. Khattak also said that U.S. support for the Northern Alliance battling Taliban forces in the hope of taking Kabul and bringing back old king Zahir Shah, 88, "would be a tragic mistake."
The alliance, he explained, "is made up of minority Tajik and Uzbek tribes who can never control the dominant Pashtuns. Before dipping its toes in Afghanistan's treacherous waters, Washington should always remember that these fierce warriors defeated two of history's mightiest empires Great Britain and the Soviet Union."
Repeated attempts to get through to Mullah Omar's office were unsuccessful. Someone kept answering the phone and saying each time, "Call back in 5 minutes."
Meanwhile, journalists continue to trickle in from all over the world. An estimated 400 are scattered in small hotels from Islamabad to Rawalpindi and from Peshawar to Quetta. A total of 280 of them are at the Islamabad Marriott. Construction workers have put up plywood partitions in the ballroom to create 16 more beds without bathrooms. They go for $100 a night. Regular rooms run $300 a night. Some 250 Afghan hotel staff have been sent home on indefinite leave under orders from Pakistani security.
A U.S. delegation that arrived Saturday night has split into State Department and Defense Department teams to negotiate the modalities of the assistance pledged by Pakistan for real-time intelligence, overflight rights and logistical facilities. U.S. teams also went directly to Peshawar near the Afghan border and Quetta, the capital of Baluchistan.
Distributed by United Press International

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