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Musharraf in Central Asia

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    Musharraf in Central Asia

    For those still bleeting about the international "isolation" of Pakistan... they should watch how are CE is being welcomed in Turkmenistan and Kazakhstan. Hopefully the CE can get some pipeline deals signed?

    Musharraf seeks to allay Kazakh concerns

    By Eurasia Analyst Malcolm Haslett

    Pakistan's military leader, General Pervez Musharraf, has arrived in Kazakhstan for talks on regional security and economic co-operation.

    The situation in Afghanistan, after the recent victories there of the strictly Islamic Taleban movement, is also likely to figure in his meeting with Kazakh leaders.

    Kazakhstan, though a traditionally Muslim country, is an avowedly secular state which like its post-Soviet neighbours fears the spread of militant Islam.

    Last May General Musharraf visited another central Asian state, Turkmenistan, to discuss a possible gas-pipeline from there to Pakistan.

    The proposed pipeline would pass through Afghanistan, which is notorious for its instability.


    The Pakistani military enjoy an extensive - some say a controlling - influence over Afghanistan's Taleban movement, which is close to its avowed goal of uniting Afghanistan under its rule.

    And General Musharraf no doubt assured Turkmenistan's president, Saparmurat Niyazov, that the pipeline project through Afghanistan is viable, since it would be protected by both the Taleban and Pakistan.

    General Musharraf will seek to quell fears

    The Pakistani leader will stop off to see Mr Niyazov on his way to Kazakhstan, and on his way back, doubtless to keep him in touch with what goes on in his Kazakh talks.

    The Kazakh president, Nursultan Nazarabayev, has only recently strengthened his economic and security ties with Russia and two other states in the region, Kyrgyzstan and Tajikistan.

    Kazakhstan is a step removed from the conflict in Afghanistan.

    It has no common border with Afghanistan and unlike Kyrgyzstan it has not been troubled by incursions by Islamist rebels.

    And unlike Russia, it has no troops along the former Soviet frontier guarding against possible incursions from Afghanistan.

    Militant fear

    But Kazakhstan does share the concerns of its neighbours about the possibility of unrest inspired by Islamist militancy.

    Kazakhstan will, no doubt, on behalf of itself and its allies, want assurances from General Musharraf that he will use his influence with the Taleban to stop them crossing any borders into former Soviet territory.

    The Central Asians and Russians fear the encouragement that a victorious Taleban regime in Afghanistan would give to religious militancy and discontented elements in the region.

    The post-Soviet republics still want a broad coalition in Afghanistan, including the Taleban's opponents.

    And that is something Pakistan, in its turn, is unlikely to concede.