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Musharraf takes strong anti-militancy stance, defends state

Admitting to the presence of foreign militants in Pakistan's restive northwest, former president Pervez Musharraf said the issue should be addressed head-on.

world Updated: Mar 09, 2009 22:44 IST

Taking a strong anti-militancy stance, former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf Monday urged concerted efforts to prevent them from operating on the country's soil even as he extended his unequivocal support to the government, the army and spy agency ISI in their efforts to stamp out terrorism from the country.

Addressing a press conference in Karachi on his return from attending a conclave in New Delhi, he urged India and Pakistan to resolve their differences in a "sensible way" and "avoid whipping up war hysteria".

"War hysteria is negative as it creates differences between people of the two countries. The people need to be brought together for the success of the composite dialogue and peace process," said Musharraf, addressing his first full-fledged press conference after laying down office August 2008.

Admitting the presence of foreign militants in Pakistan's restive northwest, the former president said the issue should be addressed head-on as it could not be wished away.

"There are foreign terrorists in the tribal areas. Whatever names you call them - Al Qaeda - there are Uzbeks, even Chinese. We have to remove them from our territory.

"The government has to take action against them. It is for Pakistan to take action and not for foreign agencies to do so," the former president added.

"We are getting notorious in the world because of them and every leader has pointed it out," he maintained.

Noting that "we live in a globalised world and not in a vacuum," Musharraf said Pakistan was putting itself in a difficult position by not taking action against militant groups operating in the country.

He also sought to debunk suggestions in the Indian media that there was no distinction between the militants, the Pakistani state and the Inter-Services Intelligence (ISI) agency.

"The government, the army and the ISI are all playing their roles in combating terrorism. We should support them and not demean their efforts," he contended.

Musharraf also defended an accord between the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) government and a radical cleric on imposing Shariat laws in Swat and six other districts of the province, saying it was in line with the demands of the people and would help restore peace in the area.

"Thousands of people had come out in the area. What did they want? They wanted speedier justice. That will eventually bring peace," he said.

"The people wanted speedy justice which was not possible because of the high court and the Supreme Court (appealing against orders of the trial courts). Now, these appeals will be heard by the Federal Shariat Court," Musharraf pointed out.

He also noted that the move to impose Shariat laws in seven districts of the North West Frontier Province (NWFP) had been initiated during his tenure in office.

"The demand had been made during my time. We had initiated discussions on it," Musharraf said.

Under the deal between the Tehreek-e-Nafaz-e-Shariat-e-Mohammadi (TNSM), or Movement for the Enforcement of Islamic Laws of radical cleric Maulana Sufi Mohammad, and the NWFP government, the Taliban that control the area would lay down their arms in return for the imposition of Shariat laws.

The US and other Western governments have roundly criticised the accord, saying it amounted to bowing before the Taliban.

Musharraf did not agree.

"I think we can work with some elements of the Taliban. If it brings peace, why not give it a chance?" he retorted.

Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has warned that he would validate the accord only after peace returned to the region.

On Monday, NWFP Chief Minister Haider Khan Hoti signed the documents for promulgating Nizam-e-Adl, as the Shariat laws are known.

This will now be sent to provincial Governor Owais Amhed Ghani and then to Zardari. They will become law once the president gives his assent.

The TNSM is believed to be pressuring the NWFP government to impose the new laws by March 15.