In a rare interview with the BBC’s Newsnight programme, broadcast on Monday, Musharraf expressed concern about the action of radical groups in Britain and urged the government to act, such as by controlling the misuse of loudspeakers at mosques.
“I think they should [take action] in their own interest and in the interest of our fight against terrorism,” Musharraf said.
Asked whether he thought Prime Minister Tony Blair’s government had been too soft so far on such hardline organisations, he said,
“Yes, I think so, absolutely.”
Four British Muslims – three of Pakistani origin – are believed to have blown themselves up in a coordinated attack on London‘s underground trains and a bus on 7 July, killing 52 people along with themselves.
Mosques should not be used for
Musharraf said, despite their Pakistani roots, the bombers were radicalised in Britain and it was up to the government to clamp down on extremist behaviour.
“Radicalisation took place back at home where they lived in whatever condition and whoever they have been meeting and interacting with,” the president said, denying that trips to Pakistan by at least two of the alleged bombers would have made them extreme.
He said the government should stop radical clerics from preaching messages of hate in Britain, especially at Friday prayers – the main day of worship.
“It should be stopped. Nobody should be … talking of hatred, militancy or aggression,” he said.
“This kind of hate campaign against anyone – whether it is against the government or against another sect or other religion – should be stopped. That is not what the mosque is meant for.”
Pakistan role denied
Musharraf also said that publications containing extremist material should be banned.
“Pakistan has not played a pivotal role [in the London bombings]. There is no such evidence to prove that”
Blair on Friday had announced a large-scale crack down on Islamic extremism in the wake of the London attacks, including the banning of hardline groups, the possible closure of radical mosques and the prohibition of extremist clerics.
Musharraf denied that his country had played a pivotal role in the London bombings last month.
“Pakistan has not played a pivotal role. There is no such evidence to prove that,” said the Pakistani leader, whose country became a focus of a huge international probe into Britain‘s worst post-war attacks.
Musharraf acknowledged, however, that at least two of the four suspected suicide bombers visited Pakistan prior to their attack, and said investigations into their movements were ongoing.
“We have some clues on certain contacts of telephone numbers that they contacted,” he said.
Suspected terror network
“There were two of the bombers who came here (Pakistan) and when they came here who they contacted we are trying to find out and then we will be able to establish clearly linkages.”
The Pakistani president believes
Three of the four – Shehzad Tanweer, 22, Mohammed Sidique Khan, 30, and Hasib Hussain, 18 – were British Muslims of Pakistani origin. The fourth suspect was a 19-year-old Muslim convert born in Jamaica, Germaine Lindsay.
Musharraf said he strongly suspected that a network was behind the bombings.
“I personally feel that there ought to be, that there should be,” he said, while noting that this was his personal belief, rather than a suspicion backed up by intelligence reports.
“Certainly those four boys who killed themselves, committed suicide, were not experts in handling bombs and handling a complex operation like timing it so well so I am sure there must be a brain behind it,” he said.
After 7 July, Britain pressed Pakistan to move against radical madrassas following news that some of the British bombers had previously visited Pakistan and that one may have studied at a seminary there.
As a result, Musharraf ordered more than 800 suspects arrested in sweeping raids and told some 1400 foreign madrassa students to leave Pakistan, sparking widespread anger across the country.