Professor Khurshid Ahmad, a federal senator from Pakistan's largest Islamic party Jamaat-i-Islami (JI), described it as an alarming situation.

  

"It seems that America is trying to pressurise Pakistan to send its forces to Iraq," he said in a statement.

  

Ahmad accused the US and Britain of "trying to draw in other countries to face the consequences of their illegal occupation."

  

"America has not brought freedom or security to Iraq. It is simple occupation and Pakistan cannot and must not be a party to it," he said.

 

Other political parties said sending troops would make them equal to mercenaries.

  

"We will not allow the Pakistani army to become mercenaries. We oppose the idea of sending army troops to Iraq," Tehmina Daultana of the opposition Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz said.

 

Quagmire

 

Analyst Muhammad Afzal Niazi said Pakistan was being "sucked into the quagmires of both Afghanistan and Iraq."

 

Lawyers have already vented their opposition, calling the proposed deployment of Pakistani troops to Iraq "a national tragedy".

  

General Musharraf, during his recent visit to the US, reiterated that he supported "in principle" sending Pakistani troops to join a post-war peacekeeping force, provided it was under the auspices of the United Nations, the Organisation of Islamic Conference or the Gulf Cooperation Council.

  

US President George W. Bush had personally conveyed the request to Musharraf during their talks at the private Camp David retreat, the Pakistani President said.

 

In Bangladesh also

 

There was also consternation  in Bangladesh, a Muslim majority nation like Pakistan. Opposition party leaders warned the government not to accede to a request by US Secretary of State Colin Powell that Dhaka send troops to help keep order in Iraq.

   

Officials said the government was still considering the request, but academics and businessmen said any commitment of troops should only be taken in consultation with other Muslim countries.