Musharraf Says Pakistan Stands at Crossroads of War

  • From: "Muslim-News" <editor_@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • To: <submit@xxxxxxxxxxxxxxx>
  • Date: Tue, 28 May 2002 09:05:31 +0100

 I SLAMABAD/NEW DELHI (Reuters) - President Pervez Musharraf insisted
Monday Pakistan did not want war and would not start a fight, but tough
comments on disputed Kashmir risked aggravating tensions in a military
standoff with India.
 
``Pakistan does not want war. Pakistan will not be the one to initiate
war,'' Musharraf said in a live television address.

But he added that ``if war is thrust upon us we would respond with full
might.''
 
Musharraf repeated his condemnation of what he called ''terrorist
attacks'' on India's parliament and an Indian army base in mostly Muslim
Kashmir, which New Delhi blames on infiltrators from Pakistan. The raids
have brought the nuclear-armed neighbors to the brink of war.
 
But Pakistan's military president insisted there was no infiltration
across the line that divides Kashmir. He said he would not let Pakistan
be used as a base for terrorism.
 
He also expressed support for the ``liberation movement'' in
Indian-ruled Kashmir and condemned Indian ``tyranny and repression.''
 
With international pressure growing on Musharraf to act on Indian
demands to stop the militant attacks, Musharraf's speech contained no
new initiatives.
 
An Indian foreign ministry spokeswoman said New Delhi would give a
considered response to the speech Tuesday but said with Pakistan, ``what
you see is not what you get.''
 
Minister of State for External Affairs Omar Abdullah, whose father is
Chief Minister of Indian Kashmir, said the tone of the speech was likely
to make India ``very angry,'' particularly his words on Indian
repression.
 
Musharraf was speaking hours before the arrival of British Foreign
Secretary Jack Straw on a mission to pull the subcontinent back from
all-out conflict. Adding to the tension, Pakistan tested two missiles
over the weekend, possibly capable of firing nuclear warheads deep into
India.
 
The United States, which sees Musharraf as a key ally in its war on
terror and in its campaign against the al Qaeda network in Afghanistan,
has urged restraint on both sides but called on Pakistan to stop
infiltration.
 
INDIA WAITS FOR PROOF
 
Analysts in India said New Delhi would welcome Musharraf's comments on
infiltration, which they took as a commitment to end cross-border
attacks. But New Delhi was waiting to see concrete evidence.
 
``He has put the first substantive concession on the table,'' Indian
defense analyst C. Rajamohan told Star News television.
 
``Now we have to verify it in the first few days if it is actually
taking place.''
 
Close to a million men have been mobilized on the border since the
attack on India's parliament in December. The risk of war heightened
after a May 14 attack on an Indian army camp in Jammu and Kashmir state.
 
India says Kashmir is an integral part of the country, while Pakistan
says Kashmiris should vote on their future.
 
Musharraf's speech came at the start of a week of intense international
diplomacy.
 
The Pakistan president is under intense domestic pressure to take a hard
line on Kashmir. And the fear is that without Pakistani concessions,
Indian Prime Minister Atal Behari Vajpayee will not be able to back
down.
 
British Prime Minister Tony Blair phoned both Musharraf and Vajpayee
Monday.
 
India said Sunday it was running out of patience over the attacks by
extremists. But Vajpayee said India would wait to see if international
efforts to persuade Pakistan to crack down on militants worked.
 
The neighbors have fought three wars -- two over Kashmir -- since
independence in 1947.
 
VILLAGERS FLEE BORDER
 
Musharraf's speech balanced rhetoric about ``atrocities'' committed by
``Hindu extremists and terrorists'' against Muslims in Kashmir and in
the state of Gujarat with an appeal for dialogue to resolve differences
between the two nations.
 
Former Pakistani Foreign Secretary Tanvir Ahmed Khan said Musharraf was
trying to sound tough for a domestic audience but also satisfy an
international audience by effectively promising to prevent infiltration
across the Line of Control.
 
``It's a yardstick by which Pakistan's performance can be judged in the
days to come,'' he said.
 
Musharraf appealed for national unity in the face of the threat of war
and also promised to hold parliamentary elections between Oct. 7 and 11.
 
The army general took power in a 1999 military coup and won another five
years as president last month in a controversial referendum that
observers said was heavily rigged in his favor.
 
He has always promised to respect a Supreme Court ruling that demanded
he hold elections and hand over power to a civilian government by
October 2002.
 
Mortar and machinegun fire have caused daily civilian casualties along
the Indian-Pakistan border, which runs from the Himalayan mountains of
Kashmir south through scorching desert to the Arabian Sea.
 
Villagers are fleeing their homes, taking livestock and valuables with
them.
 
Pakistan and Indian officials said there were exchanges along the Line
of Control and the international border overnight.
 
Six Pakistanis were killed and at least 16 wounded by Indian mortar fire
over the border in Punjab province, Pakistani residents and officials
said.
 
Civil defense units were conducting exercises, including blackouts, and
Indian officials said Monday preparations were being made to evacuate
thousands more people if war broke out.
 
Some Western embassies have also told their nationals to avoid traveling
to India and Pakistan and advised those in the region to consider
leaving. 
 
Source: REUTERS 

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