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Musharraf slams detractors; vows not to quit

Rezaul H Laskar in Islamabad | July 05, 2008 14:22 IST

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In a fresh salvo against his detractors, Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf [Images] has said he will not quit his post or leave the country because he still has a role to play, along with the political parties, in steering the country out of the 'present crisis'.

Criticising reports that he might attempt to flee the country or be arrested, Musharraf made it clear that he has no intention of going abroad.

Maintaining that the army still supports him, he said he would step down only if he thought such a move would solve the country's problems.

"Yes, I have been silent for the past three to four months under a well thought-out plan. But I am not afraid, I'm not afraid at all. You see, I never learnt what fear is. It was never taught to me," he told a gathering at a dinner hosted by the business community in Karachi late on Friday night.

Musharraf also said he had "been trained to respond both in offensive and defensive manner, especially while defending the national interest".

The President, who has been facing pressure to quit since his supporters were routed in the February 18 general election, said: "I have to play my role along with the political parties to steer the country out of the present crisis. So I am not leaving the country."

Flaying detractors who claimed that the army had turned against him, he said: "The army will never leave me alone. Those who said the armed forces are not with me are the worst hypocrites and rumour-mongers."

Insisting that he had committed 'no crime or sin', Musharraf said he would not "take a single day to resign" if he believed such a move would benefit Pakistan and solve its problems.

Musharraf called for dealing with separatists with force and for tackling terrorism, extremism and economic instability, which were affecting trade and industry and fomenting political turmoil.

"If we don't stop the flood of Talibanisation, you will see Lal Masjids all across Pakistan," he said, referring to the radical mosque in Islamabad where a large number of militants were holed up before being flushed out in a major military operation a year ago.

"We have to stop this. We can't let a few people impose their will and views on the majority," he said, adding that voters in the North West Frontier Province had rejected radical elements and supported moderates.

He emphasised that a dialogue from a position of strength would succeed.

Referring to the situation in the restive tribal belt and adjoining areas, he said a three-pronged strategy involving use of force, political dialogue and economic reconstruction is the only way out. The policy, which his government had initiated, is continuing, he said.

Expressing concern at rising separatist tendencies in Balochistan, Musharraf said a policy of appeasement towards such elements will not work and "It must be dealt with force."

The event also provided Musharraf with a platform to attack the ruling coalition. The dinner was attended by several top leaders of the pro-Musharraf Muttahida Qaumi Movement.

Representatives of the business community and industrialists too called on Musharraf to stand firm against his opponents.

Musharraf was of the view that the current uncertainty and instability had led to a flight of capital. Various problems had also been created because the political leadership had let the people down in tackling the real issues, he claimed.

Political stability could still be achieved through politics of reconciliation and by forgetting the past and looking forward, he remarked.

"I'll be very happy if the present coalition completes its five-year tenure and resolves the main issues by moving forward and frees itself of the politics of vendetta and rises above blame game," he said.

"Political stability could be achieved through reconciliation and by looking forward rather than being nostalgic," he said.

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