Growing political unrest in Pakistan will harm the country’s fight against terrorism and bolster extremists, Pakistani opposition leader Nawaz Sharif said.
Militants and extremists are “there to take advantage” of the unrest triggered by court rulings that barred him from elected office, Sharif told the Associated Press in an interview in Lahore.
Sharif had called for peaceful protests, but rioting broke out for a third day as police fired tear gas to break up the crowds.
About 100 people had piled rocks and bricks to block a six-lane highway between Islamabad and the city of Rawalpindi. Officers blasted those in the crowd with tear gas, forcing them to disperse.
Unrest threatens fight against terrorism
The protests began after the country’s Supreme Court upheld a ruling that banned Sharif from contesting the February 2008 elections because of a prior criminal conviction.
The court also banned Sharif from challenging President Asif Ali Zardari in the 2013 general elections and removed Sharif’s brother as head of the government in Punjab, Pakistan’s richest and most populous province.
The recent unrest and brewing political crisis risks distracting Pakistan’s shaky government from the fight against al-Qaeda and the Taliban and the country’s perilous economic situation.
The popular Sharif has accused Zardari of orchestrating the court rulings and has called for protests.
But Agree With Its Goal of Driving US Forces Out
A study of public opinion in predominantly Muslim countries reveals that very large majorities continue to renounce the use of attacks on civilians as a means of pursuing political goals. At the same time large majorities agree with al Qaeda’s goal of pushing the United States to remove its military forces from all Muslim countries and substantial numbers, in some cases majorities, approve of attacks on US troops in Muslim countries.
Opposition to US military presence appears to be related to largely negative views of US goals in relation to the Muslim world. A key belief is that the US has goals hostile to Islam itself. Large majorities ranging from 62 percent in Indonesia to 87 percent in Egypt say they believe that the United States seeks “to weaken and divide the Islamic world.”
Many also perceive the US having goals of economic domination. Large majorities say that it is a US goal to “maintain control over the oil resources of the Middle East” ranging from 62 percent in Pakistan to nine in 10 in Egypt, Turkey, Azerbaijan, and Jordan, and the Palestinian territories.
Views of al Qaeda are complex. Majorities agree with nearly all of al Qaeda’s goals to change US behavior in the Muslim world, to promote Islamist governance, and to preserve and affirm Islamic identity.