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Wednesday, 19 September, 2001, 23:39 GMT 00:39 UK
Text: Musharraf rallies Pakistan
President Musharraf
Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf has addressed the nation, acknowledging that many Pakistanis are bitterly opposed to his policy of support for the US in its efforts to track down Osama Bin Laden.

He said the country was facing its worst crisis for 30 years over the issue, but added that the US plans were not an attack on Afghanistan or Islam.

The following are excerpts from his address, which was broadcast live on Pakistani TV:

In the name of God, the most merciful and compassionate.

My dear countrymen, peace be upon you.

I think that I should share my views with you and the whole nation on the situation through which the nation is passing and the international crisis that has emerged recently. First of all, a large number of lives have been lost. Thousands of lives have been lost in the wake of terrorism in the United States on which myself, my government, and the whole Pakistani nation are deeply grieved...

This terrorist incident has sent a wave of profound grief, indignation and a sense of revenge in the United States.

Right from the beginning till now Osama Bin Laden and the al-Qaeda movement are their first target.

Their second target is the Taleban.

This is because the Taleban gave shelter to Osama Bin Laden and his al-Qaeda network.

The United States has been demanding for many years that Osama Bin Laden should be extradited and brought before an international court.

The Taleban had rejected this demand.

That is why, their second target is Taleban.

The third target: They intend to launch a prolonged war against international terrorism.

Islam not a target

What is worth noting is that in these three targets which I mentioned, there is no talk of any war against Islam or the people of Afghanistan.

In this entire campaign, support is being sought from Pakistan.

What is this support?

In all, there are three important things in which the United States is seeking our support.

First, the exchange of intelligence and information; second, the use of our airspace; and third, they are asking for logistic support from us.

This is the external situation. Now I want to apprise you of our internal situation.

Pakistan is facing an extremely delicate situation; and in my opinion, it is the most delicate phase since 1971.

At this moment, our decisions may have far-reaching and wide repercussions. The expanse and span of these decisions are very wide...

The worst results, God forbid, may endanger our territorial integrity and our survival.

Our critical concerns may be harmed.

And, when I talk about critical concerns, I mean that our nuclear strength and our Kashmir cause may be harmed.

This is the worst case scenario.

The better side of it would be that we could emerge as a responsible and honourable nation and all our problems could diminish.

Neighbour's activities

Now let us see what are the designs of our neighbouring country.

They have readily offered all their bases, facilities, and logistic support to the United States.

They want the United States to side with them and to declare Pakistan a terrorist state.

They also want our strategic assets and our Kashmir cause to be harmed...

India does not have any border with Afghanistan.

It has no connections with Afghanistan...

In my view, they want a change in Afghanistan and the establishment of an anti-Pakistan government there.

What is regrettable that while the whole world is talking about this terrorist incident, our neighbouring country, with which we were talking about peace and cooperation, wants to harm and malign Islam and Pakistan.

If you look at their television, you will find that an anti-Pakistan propaganda is being carried out all the time - morning, afternoon, or evening.

I only want to tell them in English: Lay off.

The Pakistani forces and every Pakistani citizen are ready to sacrifice their lives for Pakistan's defence and its territorial integrity, and to ensure the safety of Pakistan's strategic assets.

Nobody should have any kind of illusion in this regard.

Four concerns

In my view there are four critical concerns.

First, ensuring the country's security and stability from external threat.

The second priority is our economy - and we are striving for its revival.

The third priority is our strategic assets: nuclear and missiles.

And the fourth priority is the Kashmir cause.

These are our four critical concerns. Our wrong decisions, God forbid, may cause harm to all these concerns...

Pakistan comes first, everything else is secondary.

Strategic decision

Therefore, on this occasion, we have to make a strategic decision.

It is not the question of weakness of faith or cowardice.

I am ready to sacrifice my life for Pakistan.

I have fought two wars and faced many dangers and, praise be to God, never showed cowardice.

However, we do not want to invite trouble for nothing.

The future of 140 million people cannot be jeopardized.

Even Islamic law provides that if we are faced with two difficulties and we have to select one of them, it is always better to choose the lesser trouble.

Arguing for Afghanistan

Some of our colleagues are very concerned about Afghanistan.

I would like to tell them that my government and I are much more concerned about Taleban and Afghanistan than they are.

What have I not done for Afghanistan and Taleban?

When the entire world is against them, I met leaders of every country - almost 20 or 25 leaders - and argued with them in favour of Afghanistan.

I told them that instead of imposing sanctions, we should follow the policy of engagement with Taleban...

Even now, we are trying our best to hold negotiations with them - I sent the director-general of Inter-Service Intelligence with my personal letter to [Taleban leader] Mullah [Mohammed] Omar.

He has returned home after spending two days there.

I have pointed out the gravity of the situation to Mullah Omar...

We are also telling the United States to show restraint and balance in whatever intentions they have.

We are also demanding from them the evidence they have about Osama Bin Laden.

However, I would like to ask how we can save Afghanistan and Taleban from being harmed or how we can reduce their losses.

Can we do so by isolating ourselves from the international community or by moving along with them?

I am fully confident that your decision will be that we can influence the decisions of the international community and bring some improvement in the situation only by moving along with them.

Pakistan above all

Dear countrymen, at this moment, I am only concerned about Pakistan.

As the commander-in-chief of Pakistan, I will defend Pakistan first of all...

I am also aware that some people, some elements are trying to take advantage of this occasion to carry forward their personal agenda, their parties' agenda...

I appeal to all the Pakistanis to show unity and solidarity and suppress and defeat the elements who are trying to harm the country for nothing.

At this moment, we have to foil the designs of the enemy and to protect the interests of the country.

Pakistan is considered to be the fortress of Islam and if this fortress is harmed, Islam will be harmed...

In conclusion, I would like to take your leave after quoting this prayer of Moses as cited in the Taha chapter of the Holy Koran:

My Lord, expand my chest, make my work easy, and open the knot of my tongue, so that the people can understand what I say!

May God protect us and help us all!

Long live Pakistan!

BBC Monitoring, based in Caversham in southern England, selects and translates information from radio, television, press, news agencies and the internet from 150 countries in more than 70 languages.

The BBC's Adam Mynott
"President Musharraf knew he was adopting a high-risk strategy by allying with the United States"
The BBC's Susannah Price
"Pakistan does not want to see any fighting"
See also:

17 Sep 01 | South Asia
On edge: Afghanistan's neighbours
18 Sep 01 | South Asia
Karachi protest against US
18 Sep 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Pakistan's tough choice
19 Sep 01 | South Asia
Kabul checkpoints stem refugee exodus
19 Sep 01 | South Asia
Bomb blast in Pakistan
19 Sep 01 | South Asia
Embassies act on Pakistan unrest
19 Sep 01 | Americas
FBI widens the net
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