19 February 2004

General in mufti blasts terror before ulema

19 February 2004
The Times of India

General in mufti blasts terror before ulema

By Siddharth Varadarajan

Islamabad: It was just the kind of coincidence which prompts right-wing cynics here to cry betrayal: on the day Pakistan and India announced a schedule for the resumption of talks, Pervez Musharraf, dressed in battle fatigues, waded into a convention of ulema and proceeded to hector them about the evils of terrorism and extremism.

Echoing the warning he sounded to militants in Muzaffarabad on February 6 not to indulge in terrorism in the name of jehad and freedom struggle, Musharraf said their activities were giving Pakistan a bad name.

He urged the clerics in attendance to launch a movement against terrorism and extremism at the national and provincial levels. An impression has been created internationally that Pakistan is involved in terrorism and is also responsible for nuclear proliferation, he said, declaring that this was false and that everything had to be done to counter this damaging view.

If urgent steps were not taken, he said, the day was not far away when the world would turn on Pakistan militarily and bombs rained down on the country.

Pakistan, he said, was wrongly being seen as a country and society dominated by extremism and extremist elements. It was up to the ulema to counter this view because the terrorists defaming Islam are in a small minority while Islam itself is a religion of peace and harmony.

Barely a week ago, Musharraf took another cause dear to heart of Pakistan’s Islamists, the Zia-ul-Haq-era Hudood Ordinances which discriminate against women. The time was ripe, he said, for the laws to be debated afresh.

A major thrust of Musharraf ’s attack on Wednesday was on foreign militants operating from Pakistan, a clear reference to al-Qaida. Calling on these militants to surrender or return to their own countries, Musharraf threatened them with the full might of the Pakistani army if they resisted.

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