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Don't attach religion to terrorism: Musharraf

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf says he is against use of the term Islamist terrorists or "Islamo-fascists."

india Updated: Sep 26, 2006 13:52 IST

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf says he is against use of the term Islamist terrorists or "Islamo-fascists" as such labelling can then be used for other terrorist outfits as well, like the Tamil Tigers in Sri Lanka who are Hindus.

"Does one call terrorists in Sri Lanka Hindu terrorists? Why is Pakistan's bomb called an Islamist bomb? Why is India's bomb not called a Hindu bomb and that of Israel as a Jewish bomb?" Musharraf asked.

"Pakistani people are certainly for fighting terrorism, but they somehow are not happy with relations with the United States," he said on Monday night after the release of his autobiography, "In the Line of Fire", in New York.

He said he would advise President Bush to refrain from using such terms. Musharraf said the US president was a friend of his and "I am sure he understand the sensibilities".

The visiting Pakistani leader, who has made a series of provocative statements in the last few days, also joined issue with US President George W Bush over the use of the term "Islamo-fascists" for terrorists.

"It weakens all moderates including me," said Musharraf, as Muslims feel alienated. "We should never use Islam with terrorism. Let's not attach religion to it," he suggested.

There is no doubt that the people of Pakistan are disturbed by what's happening in the Islamic world, he said suggesting that the situation had been further exacerbated by the opening of another front in Lebanon.

On the hunt for Osama bin Laden too, he stuck to his guns saying that the two sides had decided that Pakistan will take action on its side of the border and Afghanistan and the US on the other side.

Asked if he would prevent the US from taking action against bin Laden if there was actionable information, Musharraf again said they were together in the hunt and would decide what to do when such information came.

On reports of bin Laden's death in Pakistan, Musharraf said he had checked with authorities in Islamabad. They did not know anything about it and so he would not be able to substantiate it.

Asked to comment again, now that the book was out, about the alleged threat made by then deputy secretary of state Richard Armitage to bomb Pakistan back into stone age, Musharraf started by trying to unruffle some feathers.

"Armitage is a great friend of mine. He subsequently became a good friend and I cherish his friendship," he said and clarified that the US official had not contacted him directly, but this is what his director of intelligence had told him.

In any case then secretary of state Colin Powell had called him earlier. And he had no doubt in his mind that Islamabad had to support the US in its war on terror. "That is the reality."

Asked why he had pardoned AQ Khan, who had sold Pakistan's nuclear secrets, Musharraf said this was also another of his balancing acts between conflicting international and domestic pulls.

"This man is a hero to the man in the street in Pakistan. He gave us the bomb. He ensured our security. How can you do something to him?" he asked and explained that Khan had been pardoned to ensure the security and stability of Pakistan.

Asked why he had been the target of multiple assassination attempts, Musharraf said, "Obviously I am standing in their (terrorists) way for what I am doing for the security of the region and the world".

He said while Islamabad and Washington are "doing very well" together at the government level, the people of Pakistan were not too happy with relations with the US.

But gradually they are understanding that it is necessary and for the benefit of both, Musharraf said. "I have no doubt in my mind that they understand that although they may not be liking US as much."