ISLAMABAD, Feb 12: Pakistan acknowledged on Thursday that suspected Al Qaeda and Taliban militants might be using its territory to launch attacks inside Afghanistan.
Speaking to military officers at the National Defence College, President Musharraf said Pakistan was trying to stem whatever was crossing from its soil into its western neighbour.
"On the western border, certainly everything is not happening from Pakistan but certainly something is happening from Pakistan," he said. "Let us not bluff ourselves...whatever is happening from Pakistan must be stopped. That is what we are trying to do," he added.
It was Pakistan's most explicit admission yet that Muslim militants were crossing from its territory to Afghanistan to wage a jihad on foreign forces there.
Pakistan, a staunch ally in the US "war on terror," has come under intense pressure from the United States to rein in Muslim militants who mount attacks inside Afghanistan from the Pakistan territory.
Western diplomats say Pakistan appears to be slightly happier to rein in the Taliban it once sponsored since a new Afghan constitution was drawn up last year that cemented the rights of Pashtuns, Islamabad's traditional allies in Afghanistan.
A large number of Al Qaeda and Taliban militants are thought to be hiding in Pakistan's rugged tribal region which borders Afghanistan. Afghan officials say fugitive guerillas have intensified attacks inside Afghanistan in recent months. More than 550 people have been killed in violence since early August, mostly in southern and eastern areas bordering Pakistan.
Tens of thousands of Pakistani troops have remained deployed along the porous border since early 2002 to stop infiltration of Al Qaeda and Taliban fighters into the country's tribal territory from Afghanistan.
Al Qaeda mastermind Osama bin Laden, accused of coordinating the Sept 11, 2001, attacks that destroyed the US landmarks, could be hiding along the porous Afghan-Pakistan frontier, US and Pakistani military officials say.
The US military has announced it will launch a spring offensive against Muslim guerillas in Afghanistan in what could be part of a concerted effort to find Osama.
N-PROLIFERATION: On the issue of nuclear non-proliferation, the President reiterated that Pakistan was committed to the goal of nuclear non-proliferation. He said that everything had not happened from Pakistan but from many other countries.
"Pakistan is a responsible nation and must not proliferate. Whatever the action and decision we have taken is in line with correcting the perception that we are not proliferating." Kashmir and nuclear programmes are Pakistan's vital national interests and these cannot be compromised," the President declared.
"We have to bring harmony to the region that would be beneficial to us, to India as well as to the region," he observed. Turning to extremism, the President said: "We are a moderate Islamic state and we are not extremist.
"Unfortunately, a small minority who are extremists and terrorists, are misusing the name of jihad and actually striking at our roots internally, causing destabilization inside the country. This group needs to be sorted out collectively," the President said.
"Nobody can change our Islamic identity. Pakistan came into being on the basis of a two-nation theory and on the basis of a separate homeland for the Muslims of the Subcontinent."
The President said that it did not mean that "we bring about intolerance and extremism in the society." -Reuters/AFP/PPI