STEVE INSKEEP, host:
Al-Qaida's publicity arm has issued another audiotape of Osama bin Laden. This time he calls on Pakistanis to wage a holy war against their military ruler, General Pervez Musharraf.
Here's NPR's South Asia correspondent Philip Reeves.
PHILIP REEVES: The latest bin Laden tape has surfaced at a time when Musharraf is under intense pressure. Pakistan's army suffers daily attacks in the tribal borderlands where support for al-Qaida and the Taliban has been hardening. Several hundred Pakistani soldiers are still being held hostage after being captured last month without a shot being fired. Last week, there was further humiliation when a suicide bomber penetrated a high-security base and blew up a group of highly valued Special Forces. Musharraf faces a raft of challenges in Pakistan's Supreme Court over his plan to seek reelection as president in just over two weeks. And now bin Laden is weighing in against him.
In the tape, bin Laden says it's obligatory for Pakistanis to fight to remove Musharraf and his military-backed government. He rails against the Pakistani general for his close alliance with the United States. Bin Laden also says he will avenge this event.
(Soundbite of explosion)
REEVES: The assault by Pakistani government forces on the hard-line Red Mosque in Islamabad in July.
Mr. ABDUL RASHID GHAZI (Chief Cleric, Red Mosque): Well, we will defend. We will sacrifice our lives, and that's it. That's what we can do.
REEVES: Bin Laden mentions this man by name - Abdul Rashid Ghazi. Ghazi was one of the leading militant clerics of the mosque. More than 100 of his followers were killed when the mosque was stormed, and so was Ghazi himself.
The tape is the latest in a flurry of videos and audio messages on the Internet to be issued by al-Qaida to mark the sixth anniversary of 9/11.
(Soundbite of videotape)
Mr. OSAMA BIN LADEN (al-Qaida): (Arabic spoken)
REEVES: After a long lull, bin Laden has surfaced anew. This burst of propaganda is being seen by some analysts as further evidence that al-Qaida is regrouping and more confident. Pakistan's government has dismissed bin Laden's message, saying it won't produce any change in policy, as Pakistan is already fully committed to fighting terrorism.
Dr. Hasan-Askari Rizvi, one of Pakistan's leading political analysts, says bin Laden's call for Muslims to wage holy war on Musharraf cuts both ways for the general.
Dr. HASAN-ASKARI RIZVI (Political and Defense Analyst): It's a kind of a dual message. Musharraf can use this to his advantage. On the other hand, it's also a pressure tactic against Musharraf.
REEVES: Musharraf has long sought to present himself as a bulwark against a rising tide of Islamist militancy, an enlightened moderate who should therefore be allowed to stay in power to keep extremism at bay.
This stance has won him support within the international community, but it hasn't convinced many Pakistanis. A recent poll found support for bin Laden in Pakistan was considerably greater than it is for Musharraf.
Political commentator Nasim Zehra says this mainly reflects the widely felt opposition among Pakistanis to U.S. policies.
Ms. NASIM ZEHRA (Political Commentator): The feeling in Pakistan is one of feeling very strongly about unfair, illogical, and destructive policy that the United States is following in the - most of the Muslim world. So Osama is seen as somebody who is standing up and resisting that.
REEVES: Philip Reeves, NPR News, New Delhi.
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