Musharraf gestures at a
news conference on Friday in Islamabad
Musharraf Admits He Was
Soft on Jihadis Since 2002
July 31: General Pervez Musharraf explained to the world media
on Friday why he had not taken form action against the Jihadis
since 2002 and conceded that if he had gone all out against them,
"one million Taliban would have stormed Pakistan's streets
and our boat may have capsized."
Musharraf told foreign journalists in Rawalpindi he did not have
“a free hand” in 2002 because of an unstable economy,
the confrontation with India over Kashmir and insufficient international
support for his presidency.
also believes he is in a stronger position to campaign against
religious militants than during a limited crackdown in 2002. “I’m
in a totally different environment,” Musharraf said on Friday.
"Today I am very strong. We need to act against the bigwigs
of all the extremist organizations,” Musharraf said. “We
are not going as fast as I would like to go.”
boat would have capsized” if the Government had pursued
domestic militants more aggressively in 2002, he said. “We
took action, but there were restraining factors."
In response to specific questions on the difference between the
crackdown he had ordered in 2002 and now, Gen. Musharraf said
the world and media should not judge the performance of his Government
through the eyes of the past. "Today, it is a totally different
environment", he quipped.
Elaborating on the point, Gen.
Musharraf said three years ago, the economic situation of Pakistan
was not stable. Besides, he did not enjoy the confidence of the
world as a military ruler and his country was engaged in a 10-month
military standoff with India.
I had operated strongly (against fundamentalists) the boat would
have capsized". When a western journalist asked why he was
not serious in his earlier attempt to curb militancy, Gen. Musharraf
retorted, "You have to be realistic and take cognizance of
the ground situation. By taking stringent action against fundamentalists,
I would have risked the prospect of a million Talibans on the
streets of Pakistan".
Musharraf said all the estimated 1,400 foreign nationals studying
in the country's madrassas would have to leave the Islamic seminaries.
"All foreigners are to be removed" from Pakistan's more
than 10,000 Koranic schools, said Musharraf, and no new visas
would be issued to non-Pakistanis wishing to study in the seminaries
and prayer schools. The
ban would also apply to holders of dual nationality.
"An ordinance to this effect
will be adopted in the next coming days," General Musharraf
said, as part of new rules requiring all seminaries to register
with the Government by the end of the year.
British Prime Minister Tony Blair
has urged Pakistan to move against extremists and radical madrassas
following news that some of the London July 7 bombers had recently
visited the South Asian country.
Musharraf vowed to continue a
crackdown on hardliners he ordered last week, in which security
forces said they had rounded up more than 600 suspected militants
and Islamic clerics.
"Till now there is no suspect
arrested" directly related to the London bombings, Musharraf
said. "The investigation is going on. It's a little premature
to draw a conclusion. It's a very tedious job."
The president, who has banned
10 extremist groups, said the raids had aimed not at rounding
up large numbers of people but at catching the leaders of the
Islamic radical underground.
"I don't want to arrest the
workers," he told a group of foreign correspondents. "I
want the leaders of the banned groups. I'm not impressed by figures.
We want to get all of the bigwigs."
Musharraf also pledged to enforce
a ban on anti-Western hate speeches being spread from mosque's
loudspeakers or through audio recordings.
Asked about the seriousness of
the arrest campaign, Musharraf: "I have never done anything
not seriously. I don't bluff. I do act with realism. I am realistic,
not idealistic. I am very, extremely serious."
Madrassas offer free religious
education and board for more than one million Pakistani children,
especially in areas neglected by state education services, but
some have been targeted for preaching hatred against the West.
hardline schools were set up as indoctrination and military training
sites during the 1979-1989 US-backed war against the Soviet occupation
in neighboring Afghanistan.
Under the registration drive,
the tribal and staunchly-Islamic North West Frontier Province
had registered 720 religious seminaries, provincial law and parliamentary
affairs minister Malik Zafar Azam said late Thursday.
As part of the sweeping arrests,
Pakistani security services this week arrested Hashim Qadeer,
a fugitive suspect in the 2002 murder of Wall Street Journal reporter
US President George W. Bush later
Thursday phoned Musharraf to discuss the "war on terrorism"
and regional issues, said White House spokesman Scott McClellan
without giving further details.
Security sources believe Osama
bin Laden may still be hiding in western Pakistan, but Musharraf
said this week his forces had dismembered Al-Qaeda and broken
its communications structure.
shares a 2,400-kilometres (1,500-mile) border with Afghanistan
in the rugged and lawless mountain areas of the North-West Frontier
Province and Balochistan, tribal regions which were for long beyond
the reach of the central Government.
daily violence rocks the region, where 70,000 Pakistani troops
are hunting Taliban and Al-Qaeda linked insurgents who use remote
mountain hideouts to stage cross-border raids on US and Afghan
Musharraf ticked off another journalist who wanted to know why
he was not in favor of strengthening democratic institutions and
democracy. "I think you are referring to my uniform. That
is the only issue. But two-thirds majority in Parliament has sanctioned
it. If this is not democracy what else is it? You want me to dissolve
the National and Provincial Assemblies. Is this your definition
of democracy? Please understand that Pakistan has a certain environment
and we have democracy".
said, in the next few days, he would promulgate an ordinance to
regulate the functioning of religious schools and it would be
mandatory for them to register with the Government by December
31. "At the same time I urge you to be realistic. If 5,000-odd
seminaries refuse to register, I am not going to close them down.
We would like to adopt a strategy of persuasion".
said the Al-Qaeda has become an "international phenomenon"
and urged the world to join hands in addressing the state of mind
called "Al-Qaeda phenomenon" through just resolution
of the underlying causes of terror — political disputes.
there was no network of Al-Qaeda in Pakistan, he said the "Al-Qaeda
phenomenon" meant an individual who has followers, carries
out terrorist action in London or elsewhere and claims that he
is a member of the Al-Qaeda or is a branch of the Al-Qaeda.
world must understand that this Al-Qaeda has become a phenomenon
— it has no command structure originating from Pakistan
and conveying messages to the whole world to do this act and do
that act under total coordination of some commander. It is a phenomenon
where everyone has started calling himself Al-Qaeda, whether he
has done it in London or Sharm-el-Shek," he argued.
Musharraf said military action alone would not lead to ultimate
success in the fight against terror as they only gain time for
other instruments to be used to change this phenomenon.
other instrument is resolution of political disputes. I have been
calling for this during the last few years — resolve political
disputes because that leads a person to extreme acts because he
is feeling deprived and hopeless."
Addressing extremism in the long-term also involved the issues
of poverty and education. "It may be a long-term strategy
but what I am saying is to kill this phenomenon, which is a state
of mind — we act with the military to gain time by hitting
and curbing terrorists and Pakistan will remain in the lead role.
But to attack the phenomenon in the mind, the whole world has
to act to resolve political disputes and social issues. The sooner
it is understood, the better for the entire world."
claimed that as a result of Pakistan's sustained and effective
campaign against terrorism, the Al-Qaeda is unable to operate
from the country. He
brushed aside suggestions that the Al-Qaeda has its headquarters
in Pakistan. "This
is absolutely and totally baseless," he asserted and said
that in reality, Pakistan had dismantled the organization's ability
to exist and operate as a homogeneous body. "If Al-Qaeda
cannot act here, how come they are carrying out terrorism in the
world," he asked. - Report compiled with help of Wire