Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf on Saturday night announced that Lashkar-e-Tayiba and Jaish-e-Mohammed have been banned and said that any group involved in terrorist acts like the attack on Indian Parliament or Jammu and Kashmir assembly would be dealt with a heavy hand.
India had demanded a ban on LeT, JeM for their involvement in the December 13 attack on Parliament.
"The Kashmir issue has to be resolved peacefully through dialogue in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people and the U N resolution," he said addressing the nation.
"We condemn the terrorist acts of September 11, October one and December 13," Musharraf said, adding any group involved in such terrorist acts would be dealt with a heavy hand.
He, however, said, "Kashmir cause runs in our blood. No Pakistani can snap ties with it. We will continue to provide moral, political and diplomatic support to it."
He also made a fresh offer for dialogue with Prime Minister Atal Bihari Vajpayee on Kashmir, but harped on the oft-repeated theme of resolving the issue through dialogue in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people.
Stating that he wants to give a message to Vajpayee, Musharraf said, "As President of Pakistan, I want to say that if one wishes to normalise Indo-Pak relations and bring harmony to the ties, the Kashmir dispute has to be resolved peacefully through dialogue in accordance with the wishes of the Kashmiri people. It has to be the responsibility of both."
Musharraf quoted Vajpayee's recent remarks that 'mindsets will have to be altered and historical baggage jettisoned'.
"I take you on this offer and let us start talking in this very spirit," he said.
Musharraf also ruled out handing over any Pakistani to India.
"If the government finds any evidence against them 'we will try them in our country," he said.
About non-Pakistanis, Musharraf said, "We have not given them asylum. We will take appropriate action."
He confirming receiving the list of 20 terrorists wanted by India.
Musharraf also warned India that any attempt to cross its border would be met with 'full force'.
"Till the last drop of blood, the forces would protect the country," Musharraf said.
"Don't try to cross border. Jawab puri takat se dengey (We will use our full might to give reply)."
He also vowed to come down heavily on those fanning religious extremism and lashed out at those acting against 'national interests' at this 'sensitive' juncture.
In his much-awaited address to the nation, televised live by international television networks, Musharraf said ever since he assumed office in October, 1999, he had taken a number of steps to firmly deal with sectarian violence and religious extremism. He said all Pakistanis were sick of sectarian violence and the 'day of reckoning' has come.
Speaking in Urdu with a generous mix of English, Musharraf said ever since the September 11 terror strikes in the US, the world has changed. Pakistan, he said, had taken the decision to join the international coalition's campaign against terrorism.
"It was a principled stand taken in national interest. Our decision was absolutely correct and was supported by an overwhelming majority of the people in the country," he added.
Musharraf said it was unfortunate that some parties and groups opposed this decision.
"It was sad more so because it was not based on principles at this sensitive juncture, but for serving petty partisan ends ignoring national interests. They tried to sway the public but their attempts failed. I am proud of the people," he said.
He said, "Sectarian terrorism has been going on for years, everyone of us is fed up of it... the day of reckoning has come."
Musharraf said fundamentalist forces had harmed Pakistan. He said the so-called religious scholars were misleading the people of Pakistan.
He declared, "We are tired of religious intolerance."
He said Pakistan has to take major decisions now as to what kind of a state it wanted to be.
"It is a day of taking major decisions. Do we want to convert it into a theocratic state? Can we run the country only through religious education or make Pakistan a progressive, modern and dynamic state?" Musharraf said.
Listing the steps taken by him since he assumed office after ousting Nawaz Sharif in a military coup, Musharraf said that he had worked hard to ensure that there was correct projection of Islam.
He recalled that in his first speech on November 17, 1999, he had stressed that Islam teaches tolerance, not hatred, peace and not violence.
As part of these steps, he had also spoken to the Ulemas for curbing elements trying to exploit religion and bringing a bad name to Islam.
The Pakistan president said that he subsequently started interacting with the Taliban in Afghanistan and advised them that terrorists sought in Pakistan and who had taken shelter in Afghanistan should be handed over.
He said religious bigots misled the people of Pakistan to go and support the Taliban and in the process thousands of Pakistanis were killed.
He said that in January last year he had ordered sealing of the border with Afghanistan.
Pointing out that mosques had been misused by religious fundamentalists, Musharraf said it was a matter of shame that police had to be posted outside these places of worship.
Stating that leaders of several groups had been arrested, he said they had sought to create a State within the State and challenged the writs of the government.
He said madrasas had been set up for teaching children but these too were misused to spread religious fundamentalism.
Some of these madrasas under the influence of some politico-religious parties were teaching hatred instead of brotherhood, he said.
These are the people who had turned Pakistan into a soft state, he said, and warned this would not be tolerated.
Musharraf said religious fundamentalism had harmed the international image of Pakistan and the people of the country were seen as illiterates, it hurt the country economically too.
He said fundamentalists never talked of peace and harmony in Afghanistan and neither did they advise tolerance to the Taliban and Northern Alliance. "They only thought of fighting, destruction and spreading hatred."
Musharraf said all madrasas in the country should be registered by March-end this year besides laying guidelines for foreign students wishing to study in these schools.
He said no new religious schools would be opened without the permission of the government.
He said foreign students would have to seek permission from their countries besides no-objection certificate from the Pakistani government to study in these schools.
Highlights of Musharraf's speech
Lashkar vows to continue 'holy war'
Musharraf discussed speech with Powell
Powell urges India to be patient with Musharraf
Bush waiting to hear Musharraf's speech
Musharraf himself writing speech
Madrassas raided in Karachi; 25 arrested
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