- The Washington Times - Sunday, May 5, 2002

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf said yesterday that he turned down a U.S. extradition request for those accused of killing Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl so that their punishment at home could serve as an example to those defying his crackdown on violence and terror.
The military leader also suggested that he wanted to see changes in the constitution, to give the military a formal say in overseeing elected governments.
Gen. Musharraf, who ousted an elected government and imposed military rule in 1999, spoke for two hours with selected reporters and depicted himself as a reluctant leader whose place in history is to guide Pakistan to democracy.
A referendum on Tuesday, criticized by the opposition as a sham, gave Gen. Musharraf five more years as the country's president.
He said he would resist any U.S pressure to extradite British-born Islamic militant Ahmed Omar Saeed, the chief defendant in the trial of those accused of killing Mr. Pearl.
Saeed and three other defendants have pleaded not guilty to charges of murder, kidnapping and terrorism. They face the death penalty if convicted.
"He's done a terrible act in Pakistan," the president said of Saeed. "He must be punished in Pakistan. I want the people of Pakistan to know that we will move against terrorism."
State Department spokesman Frederick Jones could not confirm yesterday that Gen. Musharraf denied a U.S. extradition request. But, he said, "The overriding issue is that the United States would like to see the kidnappers of Daniel Pearl brought to justice."
Sean McCormack, spokesman for President Bush's National Security Council, said, "We reserve the right to pursue our request for extradition depending on the outcome of Omar Sheik's trial and possible sentencing."
Gen. Musharraf spoke of creating a National Security Council, giving the military chief of staff a shared role with the president and prime minister in exercising "checks and balances on all the power brokers" in a democracy.
Such a body would "encourage the government if it was doing well," he said, but would also have the "power to check misdoing."
Gen. Musharraf suggested that he would stay in power as long as he believes he has the people's support and until he believes the country can be run by freely elected governments without the instability that has accompanied past experiments with democracy.
"Let us see how the country's doing, and let us see how I'm doing," he said at his sprawling offices. "My exit strategy? The moment I see the people don't want me, I quit."
"We want true democracy to function in Pakistan, take root in Pakistan, so that a government functions for its whole tenure and fully hands over to the next elected government," he said.
Gen. Musharraf left no doubt that he would keep a close eye on his country's political direction for the near future.
"The prime minister will run the country" after October elections to parliament, Gen. Musharraf said. "But I will not allow him to run it badly."

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