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Extremism greatest threat: president

April 17, 2007

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RAWALPINDI, April 16: President Gen Pervez Musharraf has said that internal threat is posing the greatest challenge to the country’s integrity. Addressing a conference of formation commanders here, he alluded to the Lal Masjid episode and said the government was following a prudent course to deal with some misguided youths.

"Moderate forces must win and we must defeat extremism if Pakistan has to progress," he remarked.

He expressed the hope that moderate forces would unite to defeat retrogressive elements, adding that the country was currently faced with the menace of extremism, obscurantism and religious bigotry.

The 60th formation commanders’ conference, commenced on Monday at the General Headquarters, was attended by Chairman of Joint Chiefs of Staff Committee, General Ehsan Ul Haq, Vice Chief of the Army Staff, General Ahsan Saleem Hyat, Corps Commanders, Principal Staff Officers and Formation Commanders.

The president said that the country was passing through a difficult phase with turmoil in the region, which had a direct or indirect impact on Pakistan. He said because of its important geo-strategic location, Pakistan would continue to play its rightful role and contribute positively towards peace and harmony in the region. He said that with pragmatic policies and progressive approach to develop “our potential, Pakistan can play a significant role and become an important economic trade hub and an energy corridor.” He said with the country's armed forces stronger than ever before in conventional and non-conventional fields, Pakistan was fully capable of facing any external challenge.

"With nation's support we are growing stronger with each passing day," he said.

He said Pakistan had no offensive or aggressive designs against any country, but "we will safeguard our integrity and honour at any cost".

Eulogizing the role, efforts and sacrifices rendered by personnel of the army, the Frontier Corps, intelligence services and other security forces in operations against terrorists, the president said that Pakistan was a frontline state in the war against international terrorism, and had done the maximum. He said Pakistan was fighting this war for its own sake.

In the same context, he said the problem of Taliban lay in Afghanistan where they were fighting against Afghan security forces and coalition forces. Acknowledging that Taliban had some support in tribal areas of Pakistan, he said Pakistan was making sure that this support was effectively neutralised. "Our strategy in tribal areas is succeeding with positive results and we are encouraging others to follow the same.”

Referring to recent clashes between foreign militants and local tribesmen which left over 200 foreign militants dead, he said these operations by local tribesmen with the support of the army and the recent announcement by a Jirga of Ahmadzai Wazirs to fight foreign militants reflected the resolve of the tribal people to get rid of the menace of militancy and to bring peace to the area for development and progress.

The president said that sacrifices rendered by members of Pakistan’s security forces in the war against terror were unprecedented and deserved the highest appreciation.

He spoke at length on the Pakistan-India relations and expressed optimism on conflict resolution between the two countries.

“There is increase in trade and economic activity and CBMs are progressing well. There is also positive movement in resolution of issues of conflict, especially Kashmir,” the president said, and reiterated that Pakistan's national interests would not be compromised.

Highlighting economic progress of the country, the president said that with 7 per cent GDP growth, increasing FDI, expanding base of revenue generation and good agriculture output, Pakistan's economy was now taking off. He said the government had initiated unprecedented development projects with an outlay of Rs415 billion

The president also spoke about reforms in education and health sectors and women empowerment which, he said, would greatly help the country’s progress.

Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz also addressed the conference and spoke at length about economic progress of the country. He said improvement of Pakistan's economy was not the result of 9/11 but because of government's prudent economic policies.

"It is our far-reaching reforms in the financial, political and social sectors which have been acknowledged worldwide and have improved the country's rating," he said.