Musharraf Blames 1979 US mission in Afghanistan for militancy in region.

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

Musharraf told the European Parliament’s foreign affairs committee on Tuesday that Pakistan was not the intolerant, extremist country often portrayed by the West, and terrorism and extremism were not inherent in 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 jihad, brought in mujahideen from all over the Muslim world, the US and the West. We armed the Taliban and sent them in; we did it together. In 1989 everyone left Pakistan with 30,000 armed mujahideen who were there, and the Taliban who were there," he said, adding that Pakistan had "paid a big price for being part of the coalition that fought the

Soviet Union."

Musharraf said that the scourge of terrorism had been eliminated from Pakistan and that efforts were underway to root out extremism, but this would take time.

Musharraf also urged Pakistani expatriates to invest in Pakistan and to send maximum foreign exchange to boost the country’s economy. The president stressed that they play a role in enhancing the dignity and prestige of the country. He said that Pakistan and Belgium had strong economic ties, which needed further expansion.

He added that Pakistanis living in Belgium should further the country’s development. Musharraf also stressed on the need for the Pakistani community to impart modern education to their children. He informed the Pakistani community about the steps taken by government to boost the country’s economy, to provide basic facilities and to counter regional instability.

Gen Musharraf met with Belgian Prime Minister Guy Verhofstadt later on Tuesday to discuss trade ties between their countries, and the situation in Afghanistan and Lebanon.

Mr Verhofstadt told reporters that Gen Musharraf had urged the EU to play a bigger role in finding a solution to the Middle East crisis.

European Commission President Jose Barroso announced after talks with Musharraf that Europe would increase development assistance to Pakistan from 2007.

[Source: Daily Times, Pak, Brussels, 13Sep06]

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