- The Washington Times - Thursday, January 10, 2002

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf will tell his countrymen this week that after 20 years of rampant extremism, the South Asian nation will return to its original values as a modern, tolerant Islamic state, according to the country's foreign minister.
"We are reverting to the dream of our founding father who envisaged Pakistan as a moderate and progressive Islamic state based on principles of freedom and tolerance," Pakistani Foreign Minister Abdus Sattar said in an interview yesterday.
"The subject of his speech will be militancy and extremism."
Speaking by telephone from the country's capital, Islamabad, Mr. Sattar said some previous leaders had erred in allowing Islamic militants to build up their power base in the country.
"We have governments that did a lot of things they should not have done. Irresponsibly, they built up the foreign debt to $39 billion and took the path of least resistance they did not do what they had to do.
"Therefore, these [extremist] groups continued to grow and the state didn't act against them," said Mr. Sattar, who added that the militancy began with the end of the struggle against the Soviet Union in Afghanistan during the 1980s.
"The White House invited mujahideen [militant Islamic] leaders. This became a glorified profession for people."
Mr. Sattar said Gen. Musharraf would continue in his speech to distance Pakistan from a series of extremist groups that have helped Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terror network and its ousted Taliban hosts in Afghanistan.
But it remained not clear whether he would clamp down sufficiently on militant groups fighting in Indian-held portions of Kashmir to avert a war with India, which has mobilized its army along the Pakistan border.
Indian Home Minister Lal Krishna Advani said in Washington last night that he had shown Secretary of State Colin L. Powell a list of four demands that have already been presented to the government of Pakistan.
The demands call for Gen. Musharraf to:
Hand over to India 20 accused terrorists whose names have been turned in, with evidence.
Close training camps and stop arms supply and funding and any other direct assistance to terrorists based in Pakistan.
Stop the infiltration of men and arms from Pakistan into Indian-controlled Kashmir and other parts of India.
Categorically denounce terrorism in all its manifestations, wherever it exists.
Mr. Powell noted after the meeting that Gen. Musharraf had arrested the leaders of terrorist groups and other individuals, closed down offices and spoken out against terrorism.
But, he said, "I think there is room for additional work on his part. We're looking forward to the speech he will be giving later this week, which I think will be a powerful signal to his nation and to India and the rest of the world."
Mr. Powell said the United States would be looking not only at Gen. Musharraf's speech but also at additional concrete action against extremists. "As you well know, the Indians believe more action is required. And we will see what happens in the days and weeks ahead."
Mr. Powell also announced he will stop in India and Pakistan on a trip to Asia beginning Jan. 15.
Mr. Sattar said that even before the September 11 attacks on the United States, the government of Pakistan had moved to shut down violent sectarian groups that have murdered hundreds of Pakistanis because of their Sunni or Shi'ite allegiances.
The government also outlawed the display of weapons at rallies and passed a law ordering people to turn in unlicensed weapons. Some 120,000 firearms were handed over voluntarily and another 20,000 were seized from people who illegally held on to their guns.
But the biggest challenge for Gen. Musharraf lies ahead: clamping down on Islamic militant groups that have increased their power by recruiting and training young Pakistanis to fight in Kashmir against Indian rule.
Gen. Musharraf, an army commander who in 1999 seized power from a corrupt civilian prime minister, is seen as a West-oriented, modern man who is a far cry from the bearded preachers rallying millions of poor Pakistanis to join violent religious causes.
However, he was forced to back down when he tried early in his administration to confront Islamic militants and reform the blasphemy law, which allows police to jail anyone accused of insulting Islam.
Gen. Musharraf was also rebuffed by leaders of Islamic schools, known as madrassas, that teach hatred of America and intolerance of non-Muslims. They rejected his calls for reforms in the schools.
The attacks on America forced Gen. Musharraf to finally confront the militants and support the U.S.-led anti-terrorism campaign and the bombing of Afghanistan.
He briefly detained some Islamic preachers who called for the overthrow of his government after he allowed U.S. forces to use Pakistani air bases.
When street protests quickly died, revealing that most Pakistanis were unwilling to back the Taliban and Osama bin Laden, Gen. Musharraf sought to extend the campaign. He shut down extremist groups and forced the madrassas to modernize their study programs and identify foreign students.
Recently, he outlawed and jailed the leaders of Lashkar-e-Taiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed, militant groups that U.S. and Indian intelligence officials say the Pakistani army helped to arm, train and infiltrate into Indian-held portions of Kashmir.

LOAD COMMENTS ()

 

Click to Read More

Click to Hide