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Musharraf: Identify and Eliminate Terrorists - 2002-03-23

Pakistan President General Pervez Musharraf on Saturday renewed his pledge to rid the country of terrorism, a day after the United States ordered the families of all American diplomats to leave the country for security reasons.

In a televised speech marking Pakistan's National Day, President Musharraf said his government is utilizing all its resources and powers to "identify and eliminate those involved in terrorism." In order to achieve that goal, he said, Pakistan will have to improve the performance of government institutions responsible for public safety.

President Musharraf says that intelligence agencies should be warning of, and preventing terror attacks, instead of reporting on them after they happen. He says law enforcement agencies must be equipped with the latest weapons and better training. And the judiciary, he says, will have to play a key role in correcting the entire system.

President Musharraf says, "We must save Pakistan from terrorism and the menace of sectarianism, even if we have to pay a heavy price."

He also appealed to the country's Majority Sunni and minority Shiite communities to respect each other's differences. Militants from both Islamic sects are blamed for religious violence in Pakistan that claimed some 400 lives last year.

Pakistan's support for the U.S.-led war on terrorism, and its crackdown on Islamic groups has angered extremist forces at home.

The Pakistani government believes that hostility lay behind the kidnapping and murder of American journalist Daniel Pearl and Sunday's deadly attack on a Protestant church in Islamabad, in which five people were killed, including the wife and teenage daughter of a U.S. diplomat.

On Friday, the United States announced it was ordering the withdrawal of all non-essential employees and dependents of American diplomats in Pakistan. The move comes as the Musharraf government is making efforts to bring much needed foreign investment to Pakistan.