Musharraf rails against 'extremism'

President Pervez Musharraf has called upon Pakistan's Islamic leaders to launch a nationwide movement to rid the country of "terrorism" and "extremism".

    Musharraf came to power through a military coup in 1999

    Musharraf made the appeal on Wednesday as he addressed a con

    vention of 2000 religious scholars and clerics from all Muslim sects

    from across the country.

    The president, who came to power through a military coup in 1999,

     called upon the participants to promote unity and harmony and

    to root out sectarian violence.

    "We are all Muslims and we should not indulge in highlighting

    differences between Shia and Sunni Muslim sects. We should not try

    to impose our views on others," he said.

    Condemning religious militancy, he said: "Islam is a religion of

    peace, it preaches harmony and peaceful co-existence."

    Nuclear proliferation

    Musharraf called upon the clerics and scholars to correct the image

    abroad that Pakistani society was dominated by "conservative" and "

    extremist" elements.

    "There is an impression being given abroad that Pakistan is

    involved in terrorism in Afghanistan and was also instrumental in

    nuclear proliferation.

    "The reality is totally opposite and we must take steps to

    remove this negative impression."

    Religious scholars should help the government in dealing with

    elements promoting violence, he said.

    "We are all Muslims and we should not indulge in highlighting

    differences between Shia and Sunni Muslim sects. We should not try

    to impose our views on others"

    Parvez Musharraf,
    Pakistani president

    Pakistan had to demonstrate it was a responsible nuclear state,

    he said, adding that "it has not and will not indulge in


    Sectarian violence

    Violence between militants from the minority Shia and majority

    Sunni communities has claimed thousands of lives across the country

    over the past decade.

    Musharraf, a key US ally in the region, himself escaped two

    assassination attempts in December.

    Authorities have arrested more than 500 al-Qaida suspects who fled

    Afghanistan in the wake of US led attacks that ousted the

    Taliban government in late 2001.

    A majority of the suspects handed over to the United States are

    in a US detention centre in Cuba.

    Rights abuses

    Moreover, human rights groups have condemned Musharraf for serial abuses since he came to power.

    In a recent report, Amnesty International said many of the abuses have been

     committed in the context of the US-led "war on terrorism".

    These include the arbitrary detention of hundreds of people suspected of having links with "terrorist" organisations and their transfer to US custody.

    In addition, Amnesty said torture, deaths in custody and extrajudicial killings continued, and a

    buses against women, children and religious minorities were often ignored.

    The rights group said preventive and protective measures to prevent such abuses

    were non-existent or inadequate.

    SOURCE: Agencies


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