As troops fanned out in Pakistan's northwestern province to counter activities of a pro-Taliban cleric, President Pervez Musharraf said the main threat to the country's national security is "internal" with a handful of extremists out to disrupt law and order.
The only solution to this problem is "to reject forces that fanned hatred, led to sectarian strife and involved extremist forces", he said addressing troops at Skardu in the Northern Areas yesterday.
The beleaguered military ruler said "the real threat to the stability of Pakistan is internal and a handful of extremists are out to disrupt law and order".
In an Islamic society, there is "no place for obscurantist elements that are trying to polarise society by creating divisions or imposing their own will," he said.
Musharraf's comments came as some 4,000 troops were deployed in Swat Valley to counter the activities of pro-Taliban cleric Maulana Fazlullah and his banned Tehreek Nifaz-e-Shariat Mohammedi.
Fazlullah, popularly known as the "FM Maulana" and "Mullah Radio" for broadcasting calls for a jehad from an illegal FM radio station, and his 400 armed followers have challenged the writ of the local administration and taken over duties performed by the police.
The army had said yesterday that the troops were being deployed at the request of the NWFP government to aid the local administration and to stop the cleric and his men from "terrorising" the people.
Musharraf said security forces were fighting extremism along with the entire nation.
He hoped the nation would "rise to the occasion and urged it to consolidate itself internally and follow the slogan 'Pakistan First'".
Musharraf also said that though peace and stability is ensured by the armed forces, economic stability too plays a pivotal role for progress and prosperity.
"Due to operational readiness, high standard of training and morale of our troops, the defence of our country has become impregnable. Our strong armed forces equipped with latest conventional and non-conventional weapons are a guarantee for peace," he said.