Musharraf plans tougher action on extremists

July 30, 2005|By NEWSDAY

RAWALPINDI, Pakistan - President Pervez Musharraf conceded yesterday that his crackdown on religious extremists had been restrained by his relative political weakness in past years, but he said he now feels strong enough to launch a far more effective campaign.

"I will have to admit that we are not going as fast" in breaking up extremist groups "as I would like it to go," Musharraf told reporters. At the start of his crackdown, in 2002, he lacked "a free hand," he said. A poor economy, tensions with India and weak international support for him personally meant that "if I had operated strongly, maybe I would have ... rocked the boat so much that maybe the boat would have capsized."

Now, Musharraf said, "I'm in a totally different environment," and the arrests of militants and the dismantling of their organizations in Pakistan will be pursued as "a continuous process."

In the renewed crackdown, foreign students studying at madrassas, or religious schools, in Pakistan will be ordered to leave the country, Musharraf said. About 1,400 foreigners study at Pakistan's roughly 12,000 madrassas, he said. Some of the schools are affiliated with extremist organizations and have served as training grounds for violent militants.

Baltimore Sun Articles
Please note the green-lined linked article text has been applied commercially without any involvement from our newsroom editors, reporters or any other editorial staff.