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December 27, 2001
0453 IST

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Lashkar and Jaish illegal outfits: Pak

K J M Varma in Islamabad

Within hours of the United States declaring Pakistan-based outfits Lashkar-E-Tayiba and Jaish-e-Muhammad as terrorist organisations, Pakistan Foreign Minister Abdul Sattar on Wednesday night termed them as 'illegal and unconstitutional armies' whose existence was unacceptable to his government.

In an interview to state-owned Pakistan Television, Sattar said one reality that has emerged in recent months was the need to focus on the mushrooming growth of private armies in the name of lashkar, jaish and sipha, which were illegal.

"This is not permitted under the constitution of Pakistan. Article 256 of the constitution declares any private outfit claiming to be an organisation of militant forces as illegal," he said.

Sattar said, "Another reality that has emerged in recent months is that of organisations and entities that assert claims that are unacceptable. I think we have to examine the situation in Pakistan itself more closely."

Sattar said that in the last few days he had three rounds of telephonic talks with US Secretary of State Colin Powell on the situation on the border with India.

He said Powell expressed concern over the situation and stressed on the need for de-escalation.

Saying that he suspected 'sinister designs' behind the 'massive' Indian military build up at the border, he said, "India is assembling its forces for launching air attacks on some parts of Pakistan. If India is doing so, such a step could trigger a chain reaction."

The foreign minister said both India and Pakistan have to initiate steps to de-escalate the crisis and in order to do that both the countries should take the first step of freezing their positions.

"Then both the countries should not take any step that aggravates the situation. The third step is to take steps to begin an unconditional dialogue to reduce the tension," he said adding Pakistan was ready for talks any where, any time and any level.

"This has been communicated to India through 'mutual friends'," Sattar said.

Referring to reports about India preparing for pre-emptive strikes against Pakistan's nuclear installations, he said, "We should not be excessively worried about such a possibility. Pakistan armed forces are prepared for all eventualities."

Sattar said India had made use of the present international environment against terrorism. "India has exploited the present environment to mis-project the freedom struggle in Kashmir as terrorism," he said.

PTI

Complete Coverage: The Attack on Parliament

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