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Last Updated: Tuesday, 17 January 2006, 19:43 GMT
Musharraf looks two ways in extremist fight

By Aamer Ahmed Khan
BBC News, Karachi

Mujahideen fighter in Afghanistan
Fighters in Afghanistan passed through Pakistan
President Pervez Musharraf's latest crackdown on extremism, outlined in his July address to the nation, appears to have been aimed in two directions, inwards to his fellow Pakistanis and also to the rest of the world.

Most of his time was taken up with painting a picture of the country's contemporary realities - not all of which may be visible from the outside.

Perhaps what is most significant was the subtext that strongly suggests that there is little Pakistan can do to tackle its problem of extremism without active assistance and support from the outside world.

One significant departure from President Musharraf's earlier references to extremism relates to his candid admission of Pakistan's "direct or indirect" linkages to the scourge of extremism.

"No matter where something happens, we end up being directly or indirectly involved," he said. Involved, he said, and not blamed.

"It turns out that they [extremists] have either visited Pakistan or passed through it on their way to Afghanistan."

Extremism realities

This is a marked departure from the country's existing policy of flatly denying any linkage with Islamist extremism.

Banned groups not allowed to operate under new names
No public displays of unauthorised weapons
Clampdown on inflammatory material, including audio, video tapes and their publishers and distributors
Militant groups not allowed to collect funds
Monitoring hate sermons from mosques
All madrassas registered by December 2005

Gen Musharraf then elaborated on the extremism-related realities within the country.

Between 20,000 to 30,000 Muslim militants, he said, flocked to Pakistan from all over the world during the US-backed war against the Soviets in Afghanistan through the 1980s.

He said all their finances and logistics were routed through Pakistan.

"Where are they now?" he asked. "Not all could have stayed on in Afghanistan."

The president let the question hang there.

If one were to assume - even if purely for the sake of argument - that many of these subsequently found their base in Pakistan, then what was the environment that greeted them?

According to President Musharraf, the fallout from the Afghan war has divided Pakistani society into roughly three categories.

Spreading hate

There are those who subscribe to what he called orthodox Islamic thought. Then there are those that are enlightened and educated and finally there is the vast majority who have been left terribly confused about Islam by the Afghan war.

Televisions showing President Musharraf
Musharraf gets his message across
The president said that the orthodox group had for 26 years been raising funds, recruiting manpower, providing military training and spreading hate literature in aid of the extremists.

At times the extremists also draw support from Pakistan's mainstream religious parties, he said.

It is hard to avoid concluding from his remarks that the country has been providing an ideal sanctuary for Islamic extremists.

Not many are likely to find fault with the picture of Pakistan painted by General Musharraf in his address to the nation.

As the head of the Pakistan army - an institution credited with crafting and carrying Pakistan's pro-jihad policy in Afghanistan - few know more about what goes on in Pakistan than the army chief.

What is important is how the world reacts to the problems outlined by the president.

If anything the US should become more active within Pakistan's borders until they decide to stop harboring our enemies.
John, New York, USA

His own prescription is multi-pronged.

Gen Musharraf wants a far more dynamic role for the Organisation of Islamic Conference in the affairs of the Muslim world.

He also wants active assistance and support from the West - not only in tackling extremism but also in helping many Muslim nations in the developing world out of their vicious cycles of public poverty.

But lastly, and perhaps most importantly, President Musharraf wants the West to give a deep think to the festering disputes that involve the Muslim world.

The subtext of all that he said seemed to indicate his conviction that only after the West and the Muslim world are able to resolve their disputes can the latest measures he has announced against extremism be expected to bear fruit.

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