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Wednesday, 28 August, 2002, 22:16 GMT 23:16 UK
Al-Qaeda 'active' in Pakistan
President Musharraf
Musharraf says he is strengthening democracy

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf has said members of the al-Qaeda network are active in Pakistan in "unspecified numbers" and are having a destabilising effect in some cities.


The democracy in Britain is not the same as here, we need to adapt it to our requirements

Pakistani President
General Musharraf told the BBC there were indications that foreigners - possibly al-Qaeda members - were involved in recent attacks on foreigners and Christians.

But he said most attacks were carried out by Pakistani militants.

General Musharraf refused to speculate on the whereabouts of the al-Qaeda leader, Osama Bin Laden, but said he did not believe he was in Pakistan.

He said the elections in October would show that Pakistan's own Islamic extremists were not supported by the public.

No threat to government

General Musharraf said it took him just a day to take stock of the situation after the 11 September attacks, and he felt the Pakistani public appreciated his decision to back the US-led coalition.

Grieving relatives at the scene of the attack on a missionary hospital
Christians in Pakistan have suffered a string of violent attacks

He said the "extremists" who took to the streets in protest when he abandoned Pakistan's backing for the Taleban had no popular support.

"They don't pose any threat to the government, they are just extremists," he said.

"They can undertake extremist acts, but you will see in these elections that they have no case in politics."

'Tailor-made' changes

He defended his controversial changes to the constitution which meant he would be able to dismiss the parliament after the elections.

Sharif supporters
Musharraf says the public supports his moves

He said the suggestion he was trying to consolidate power was a misinterpretation of his position, saying that the changes were in the interests of Pakistan.

"It was tailor-made for the Pakistani environment. Democracy does not have a set formula.

"The democracy in Britain is not the same as here. We need to adapt it to our requirements."

And he said former prime ministers Nawaz Sharif and Benazir Bhutto - currently living abroad - had looted the country and should not be given a chance to return and take part in the elections.

General Musharraf said Mrs Bhutto would have to go on trial if she came back, and Mr Sharif had happily made an agreement to leave and should not be allowed to return.

Kashmir worries

The president reiterated his position that militants were not being allowed to cross over the dividing line of control in Kashmir despite India's allegations that this was continuing.

He said his pledge did not have a time limit but added that India should now reciprocate.

The president also warned there was a lot of support for the Kashmiri cause in Pakistan and the question was: how long would the Line of Control remain quiet?

Musharraf's Pakistan

Democracy challenge

Militant threat

Background

TALKING POINT

FROM THE ARCHIVES

BBC WORLD SERVICE
See also:

28 Aug 02 | South Asia
21 Aug 02 | South Asia
22 Aug 02 | South Asia
21 Aug 02 | South Asia
22 Aug 02 | South Asia
20 Aug 02 | South Asia
05 Aug 02 | South Asia
12 Jul 02 | South Asia
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