Musharraf declares no terrorist strikes allowed from Pakistan

Saturday, January 12th 2002, 12:00 am
By: News On 6

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) _ President Gen. Pervez Musharraf declared Saturday he will not permit terrorist activities on Pakistani territory and announced a ban on two Kashmiri groups accused by India of last month's attack on its parliament.

Musharraf, using a nationally televised address to try to defuse the crisis with India, also announced moves to curb foreign students studying in Pakistani religious schools, long a breeding ground for religious extremism.

He affirmed Pakistan's ``moral and diplomatic'' support for Kashmir in its struggle for self-determination but banned two Kashmiri extremist groups _ Jaish-e-Muhammed and Lashkar-e-Tayyaba _ blamed by India for the Dec. 13 attack on parliament.

Musharraf refused to hand over any Pakistani citizens sought by India in connection with the parliament attack but said that if the government found evidence against them ``we will try them in our country.''

There was no immediate reaction from the Indian government. However, an Indian defense analyst, C. Rajamohan, told Star Television News in New Delhi that the speech was ``quite a courageous effort, especially in relation to Kashmir.''

``The sense of it is that no one will be allowed to promote terrorism in the name of Kashmir,'' he said. ``I think it comes very close to India's demand.''

Kashmir, a Muslim-majority former princely state in the Himalayas, has been the cause of two out of three wars between India and Pakistan. Each country controls part of Kashmir and claims all of it. Hindu-dominated India accuses Pakistan of fomenting violence there; Pakistan has called it an indigenous freedom struggle.

Much of Musharraf's lengthy speech was devoted to a denunciation of Islamic extremism in Pakistan, which developed rapidly in this country since the 1980s and which opposed the government's decision to back the United States in the war against terrorism.

Musharraf said Pakistanis were ``fed up'' with religious extremism and wanted to build a society of mutual respect and tolerance. He declared that if extremist clerics will not ``show any responsibility, we will stop them.''

He said that no new mosques or religious schools would be permitted without government registration. Foreign students and teachers in Pakistani religious schools must show they were in the country legally by March 23 or they would face deportation.

He said that loudspeakers at mosques would be permitted only for daily calls to prayer and for sermons at Friday services and not for promoting political positions.

The speech had been widely considered as critical not only to defusing the crisis over Kashmir but in confronting the religious extremist challenge to Musharraf's Western-backed government.

President Bush and other world leaders had urged Musharraf to take a strong stand against Islamic extremists allegedly using Pakistani territory to launch attacks in Indian-controlled parts of Kashmir.

India and Pakistan rushed hundreds of thousands of troops to the boundary in the disputed territory after the Dec. 13 attack against the Indian parliament building in which 14 people died.

That has raised the specter of a confrontation by two nuclear-capable South Asian countries.

India denounced the attack as terrorism and declared its right to respond in the same manner as the United States when it launched military operations Oct. 7 against Afghanistan following the September attacks against the World Trade Center and the Pentagon.

Musharraf appealed to other countries to help resolve the dispute over Kashmir.

``I want to address to the international community, especially to the United States: Pakistan rejects terrorism in all its forms and manifestations,'' Musharraf said. ``Pakistan will not allow its territory to be used for any terrorist activity anywhere in the world. Now, you must play an active role in solving the Kashmir dispute for the sake of lasting peace and harmony in the region.''