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John Vause: Pakistan leader faces challenges

CNN's John Vause  

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- Amid angry anti-American protests and a flurry of meetings with domestic and international political leaders, Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, asserted he has control over his country and confidence in what the future holds.

CNN's John Vause reported Tuesday from Islamabad on the challenges facing Musharraf. The following is his report:

VAUSE: It's been a very busy day for the Pakistan president. He is facing growing unrest across Pakistan, so he met Tuesday with some political leaders. He met with the main political party, and he will meet with others in coming days.

In many ways, these meetings are seen as an attempt by the Pakistan president to shore up his support as he faces growing disquiet and the U.S.-led military campaign enters its fourth week. Musharraf's spokesman [Maj. Gen. Rashid Qureshi] said these meetings with political parties should not be considered in any way that the government is in danger of collapse. [Here's what he said:]

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QURESHI: There's no question of any change in government here. [Musharraf] keeps meeting with people from the various segments of society to share views and to listen to what they have to say. It's actually mutual consultations.

VAUSE: Still, there are growing problems for President Musharraf and almost daily protests across Pakistan -- anti-U.S. protests that are quickly turning into anti-Musharraf protests as well.

And in the Northwest Frontier province, thousands of heavily armed Pakistani men are at the border, waiting for the call to cross into Afghanistan. The leader of those men, we are told, is in Jalalabad, Afghanistan, negotiating with the Taliban for their entry so they can fight alongside the Taliban.

The Taliban are saying, for the moment, thanks, but no thanks -- we will call you when we need you, most likely when there is a start to any kind of ground offensive. Obviously, that's another problem Musharraf is facing.

The other problem he's up against is the growing number of refugees leaving Afghanistan for Pakistan. On Tuesday, Musharraf met with the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, discussing plans to cater to 300,000 refugees. These people will soon be in some kind of no-man's land due to the military campaign in Afghanistan.

Musharraf also spoke with the United Nations about a future government in Afghanistan. There is agreement that the future government should reflect and should include the Afghan people. [Here's what Rudd Lubbers, the U.N. High Commissioner for Refugees, said:]

LUBBERS: I really hope there will be an effort to include the Afghan people because they hold the key to ending the reign of a leadership that supports terrorism. I do hope those who plan [the post-Taliban government] from far away know what's happening here, that they understand this is about people -- this is about the Afghan people.

VAUSE: Still Musharraf feels confident enough, and he says the situation is under control. He will leave the country for a visit to the United States in a meeting with U.S. President George W. Bush a week from Saturday.


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