Musharraf blames West for bringing in mujahedeen, extremism; optimistic on Kashmir

Pakistan's President Gen. Pervez Musharraf blamed the West for breeding terrorism in his country by bringing in thousands of mujahedeen to fight the Soviet Union in neighboring Afghanistan and then leaving Pakistan alone a decade later to face the armed warriors.

Musharraf told the European Parliament's foreign affairs committee Pakistan is not the intolerant, extremist country often portrayed by the West, and terrorism and extremism are not inherent to Pakistani society. 

``Whatever extremism or terrorism is in Pakistan is a direct fallout of the 26 years of warfare and militancy around us. It gets back to 1979 when the West, the United States and Pakistan waged a war against the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan,'' Musharraf told EU lawmakers.

``We launched a Jihhad, brought in mujahedeen from all over the Muslim world, the U.S. and the West and us together. We armed the Taliban and sent them in, we did it together. In 1989 everyone left Pakistan with 30,000 armed mujahedeen who were there, and the Taliban who were there,'' he said, adding that Pakistan ``paid a big price for being part of the coalition that fought the Soviet Union.''

Pakistan is a key counter-terrorism ally of the West but has also been plagued for years by Islamic militancy. A Briton arrested in Pakistan in August allegedly is a key person in the thwarted plot to blow up U.S.-bound jetliners from London's Heathrow airport.

Musharraf, on his first visit to the EU headquarters, also said he was optimistic about the chances of finding a solution to the decades-old dispute over the Kashmir region, saying Pakistan's relations with India ``have never been this good.''

Musharraf is to meet with Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at a summit of the Non-Aligned Movement in Havana, Cuba, later this week.

``My meeting with Mr. Manmohan Singh I hope will be substantive and will move this process forward. I feel the time is right and the opportunity for a solution is great,'' he told lawmakers.

He said the two countries have made progress in confidence building measures, but have stalled over the conflict resolution.

``We cannot allow the status quo. We have to find a solution, in accordance with the wishes of the people of Kashmir and India and Pakistan,'' he said.

Islamic militants have been fighting security forces in India's portion of Kashmir for the region's independence or its merger with mostly Muslim Pakistan since 1989. The insurgency has killed more than 68,000 people.

Kashmir is divided between India and Pakistan, with both claiming the Himalayan area in its entirety.

Musharraf was scheduled to meet with European Commission President Jose Manuel Barroso later Tuesday, before attending a working lunch on Wednesday with EU foreign policy chief Javier Solana.

[Source: The Hindu, 12Sep06]

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