BBC NEWS Americas Africa Europe Middle East South Asia Asia Pacific Urdu Hindi Pashto Bengali Tamil Nepali Sinhala

BBC News World Edition
 You are in: South Asia  
News Front Page
Middle East
South Asia
Talking Point
Country Profiles
In Depth
BBC Sport
BBC Weather
Wednesday, 14 August, 2002, 09:40 GMT 10:40 UK
Analysis: Musharraf rebukes extremists
President Musharraf and his wife at an Independence Day celebration
Pakistan is celebrating 55 years of independence

It was widely expected that the speech by Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf to mark the country's 55th independence anniversary would last just 10 minutes and would be in Urdu, Pakistan's national language.

But instead, the president spoke for more than half an hour in English - in what was far more than a ceremonial address.

Grieving relatives at the scene of the attack on  a missionary hospital
Christians in Pakistan have suffered a string of violent attacks
Much of the speech was about the series of violent attacks since the beginning of the year carried out by suspected Islamic extremists.

The extremists have targeted both Western interests and the country's tiny Christian minority.

Last week a Christian missionary school and a church in a hospital compound came under attack in two separate incidents. Ten people were killed.

International opinion

General Musharraf wanted to make it clear to the international community - and the audience at home - that he was not only outraged by such acts of violence, but was working to stop them.

He outlined a series of measures already taken, including beefing up security, strengthening the judiciary and a new anti-terrorist organisation.

He also announced the authorities had been successful in arresting many of those responsible for the killings.

The international community has looked favourably on General Musharraf since he abandoned Pakistan's previous policy of supporting the Taleban in Afghanistan and backed the American-led coalition after 11 September.

Indian Central Reserve Police officer near Srinagar
The dispute over Kashmir is causing widespread unease
But there had been criticism that he was not doing enough to stop the al-Qaeda supporters and Islamic extremists from operating, especially in the semi-autonomous areas close to Afghanistan.

General Musharraf's reaction has been to portray Pakistan as a victim of terrorism and of the extremists - as well as announcing how this was being tackled.

He desperately needs to restore international confidence.

Earlier this week the American authorities closed their information centre in Islamabad and reiterated a travel warning to citizens.

Most embassies have already evacuated non-essential staff and families - partly also in reaction to the growing tension between India and Pakistan.

For the audience at home he needed to provide reassurances of safety and stability, and also ensure that a clear distinction was made between the extremists, whom he accused of tarnishing Pakistan's image, and true Muslims.


The other main issue currently being discussed in Pakistan - the elections - was also covered in the speech.

The president pledged to do everything possible to ensure a free and fair election. He also spoke of the need for new leaders who would develop the nation.

This is being seen as a justification for his controversial proposed amendments to the constitution which effectively stop the two former prime ministers, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif, from returning to power.

Although President Musharraf is assured of five more years in power, the composition of the new parliament could have a major impact on his position.

The BBC's Susannah Price
"There is a great deal of concern in the international community about the increasing Islamic extremism"
Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf
"The recent attacks specially directed at our Christian brothers and sisters are the most shameful examples of terrorism"
Musharraf's Pakistan

Democracy challenge

Militant threat




See also:

14 Aug 02 | South Asia
09 Aug 02 | South Asia
09 Aug 02 | South Asia
05 Aug 02 | South Asia
27 Jun 02 | South Asia
Internet links:

The BBC is not responsible for the content of external internet sites

Links to more South Asia stories are at the foot of the page.

E-mail this story to a friend

Links to more South Asia stories

© BBC ^^ Back to top

News Front Page | Africa | Americas | Asia-Pacific | Europe | Middle East |
South Asia | UK | Business | Entertainment | Science/Nature |
Technology | Health | Talking Point | Country Profiles | In Depth |