Musharraf tells clerics that he won’t abandon Kashmir
18 January 2002
The Indian Express
Islamabad: PAKISTAN President Pervez Musharraf today warned religious leaders not to meddle in foreign policy and trust him to sort out Kashmir. ‘‘Let the government handle foreign (policy) issues such as Kashmir,’’ Musharraf told a conference of hand-picked clerics held to explain his actions to curb extremism in the country. ‘‘Trust me. We will take action in line with the interests of Pakistan and the aspirations of the people of Pakistan.’’ Musharraf assured the clerics that the ongoing crackdown was aimed at isolating extremists advocating a jihad against India. But the General’s tone revealed frustration even as he told the gathering that Pakistan had to steer a middle course between Westernisation and radical Islam. ‘‘The atmosphere of violence, terrorism, hatred, sectarianism and extremism has to be eliminated,’’ he said. Stressing that ‘‘we all value Islam’’, Musharraf declared that he rejected both the ‘‘ultra- modern’’ or westernised elite from the cities of Lahore and Karachi as well as the radicals who do not want to teach anything but religion in Koranic schools. ‘‘We don’t want Westernisation in Pakistan,’’ he reassured the clerics. ‘‘We should adopt the middle path.’’ Even as he complained in a separate interview that India was sending out ‘‘fluctuating signals’, Musharraf said he was confident in the defensive and offensive capabilities of his military. ‘‘I am fully satisfied that, God willing...there will be no war,’’ he told the delegation. ‘‘We don’t want war, we want peace, but if war is imposed on us then we are fully ready to face it with full might and power. For us, the guarantee of peace... rests on our own strong shoulders. The real guarantee is our own defence. While that is intact, no one can harm us.’’ Though Musharraf did not refer to two far-reaching decisions taken by his government this week — the ban on five militant groups including the Lashka-e-Toiba and Jaish-e- Mohammad and restoration of the joint electorate system — he stressed the need for Pakistan to educate its people and take its place in the modern world. In his speech in Urdu, littered with English phrases like ‘‘economic development’’, ‘‘transfer of technology’’ and ‘‘import substitution’’, Musharraf urged clerics to modernise madrassas. ‘‘We just want madrassas to include modern subjects into their curricula so that if a religious student wants a job in a bank, he should have the qualification for that,’’ Musharraf said. In a separate interview to a Lebanese journalist, Musharraf said, ‘‘There is fluctuation in the signals we are receiving from New Delhi. They are not consistent in their statements.’’ Pakistan cannot accept the Line of Control as the border, Musharraf told the newspaper. ‘‘It cannot be the solution to the problem. We have fought four wars over the LoC.’’ In outlining his approach to the Kashmir issue, Musharraf reiterated his old formulation that both countries should begin a dialogue followed by the recognition of Kashmir as a core issue. ‘‘The first step should be the resumption of peaceful dialogue. Second should be to accept Kashmir as a central issue. The third is to negate any solution which is not accepted to both the countries and the fourth is to apply the remains of solution and solve it according the wishes of Kashmiris,’’ he said.