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Saturday, 12 January, 2002, 21:44 GMT
Musharraf declares war on extremism
Pakistanis watch Musharraf's address to the nation
Musharraf said he was not bowing to external pressure
President Pervez Musharraf has told his people "we must rebuild ourselves" in a fierce attack on extremism that many hope will lead to a reduction in military tension with neighbouring India.

No organisations will be able to carry out terrorism under the pretext of Kashmir

General Musharraf
In a televised address to the nation, Pakistan's military ruler pledged to punish hard anyone responsible for extremism in Indian-administered Kashmir or involved in religious intolerance within Pakistan.

Washington reacted positively to President Musharraf's speech saying it marked a break with the past over Kashmir and gave both Pakistan and India the chance to reduce tensions.

"The United States ... welcomes President Musharraf's explicit statements against terrorism and particularly notes his pledge that Pakistan will not tolerate terrorism under any pretext," Secretary of State Colin Powell said.

Violence and terrorism has been going on for years and we are weary and sick of this Kalashnikov culture

General Musharraf
The speech comes shortly before Mr Powell's visit to the region.

Mr Musharraf announced that two groups India blames for an attack on its parliament last month, Lashkar-e-Toiba and Jaish-e-Mohammad - are now banned.

However, he ruled out handing over to India Pakistani nationals on a list of militants drawn up by Delhi, a key Indian demand for an end to the current military crisis in the region.

Hours before the speech, Pakistani police rounded up more than 200 members of sectarian religious groups as a "precautionary measure" to prevent a backlash to the speech.

'Slaughter in mosques'

President Musharraf spent much of his speech berating religious intolerance and the disastrous effects it has had on his country.

Madrassah in Lahore
Musharraf said religious schools should be reformed
"Pakistan has been turned into a soft state where law means little if anything," he warned.

"Violence and terrorism has been going on for years and we are weary and sick of this Kalashnikov culture."

He lambasted religious groups that had supported the Taleban in Afghanistan.

"They set up Pakistan-Afghan defence councils which served nothing but presenting negative views," the general said.

Within Pakistan itself, he said religious intolerance had led to a situation where "we started slaughtering each other in mosques, the houses of God".

The BBC's Zaffar Abbas in Islamabad says the general's remarks are likely to be appreciated by those Pakistanis who want a peaceful society.

'No Kashmir terrorism'

General Musharraf also addressed head on the dispute with India over the territory of Kashmir - the cause of two wars between the nuclear neighbours.

New measures
Two Pakistan-based Kashmiri militant groups banned
Two hardline religious groups banned
Mosques banned from making political messages
Religious schools to be registered

"We will never budge from our principled position on Kashmir. Kashmir has to be resolved through dialogue in accordance with the wishes of the people of Pakistan and in accordance with the UN resolutions," he said.

But he warned: "No organisations will be able to carry out terrorism under the pretext of Kashmir... Whoever is involved with such acts in the future will be dealt with strongly whether they come from inside or outside of the country."

Schools threat

General Musharraf also stressed the need for continued reform of Pakistan's religious schools or madrassahs which are perceived to have encouraged militancy and helped the development of the Taleban

Indian border reinforcements
India says it is ready for war

He said madrassahs that did not act responsibly would have their "freedom taken away".

Most of the people arrested overnight are said to be from two Muslim groups blamed for much of the sectarian violence within Pakistan which kills hundreds of people every year.

The groups are Sipah-e-Sahaba, made up of Sunni Muslims and Tehrik-e-Jaffria, supported by Shias.

In his speech, General Musharraf said these two groups were now also banned.

Indian doubts

There has been no official reaction from India, but a senior member of the governing BJP, K.R. Malkhani, told the BBC that Pakistan had still not taken effective enough measures to combat extremism.

Displaced Indian families
Thousands of villagers have fled the border areas
The BBC's Jill McGivering in Delhi says the mood of scepticism in India will be hard to counter.

She says many Indians may respond cautiously before they see whether General Musharraf's powerful rhetoric really does translate into concrete action.

Tension between the two nuclear rivals has been high ever since the suicide attack on the Indian parliament.

In the weeks since the attack, the leaders of Jaish-e-Mohammad and Lashkar-e-Toiba, have been detained by Pakistan police.

Many of their offices had already been closed down and raising funds for them declared illegal.

Both groups are committed to ending India's control of part of Kashmir - the biggest thorn in relations between the two countries.

Lashkar-e-Toiba vowed to continue its "holy war" despite the ban.

The BBC's Matt Frei
"It was unprecedented stuff"
President Musharraf
"Pakistan will not allow its territory to be used for any terrorist activity"
The BBC's Khalid Javed
reports on the reactions that have been given to the speech
See also:

12 Jan 02 | South Asia
Pakistan to regulate religious schools
12 Jan 02 | South Asia
Analysis: Musharraf's gamble
12 Jan 02 | UK Politics
UK praises 'courageous' Musharraf
12 Jan 02 | South Asia
Musharraf speech highlights
12 Jan 02 | South Asia
India cautious on Musharraf
07 Jan 02 | South Asia
Analysis: Musharraf on a tightrope
04 Jan 02 | Americas
Powell urges Pakistan to do more
07 Jan 02 | South Asia
War moves spread fear on border
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