Saturday, March 9, 2002, Chandigarh, India


M A I N   N E W S

Pak amnesty for Islamic radicals

Islamabad, March 8
In a significant move, Pakistan has announced general amnesty for the arrested members of the five banned religious and political groups if they give an undertaking not to continue with their association with the militant groups.

The government will not take any further action against those activists of the banned groups who were arrested but had no criminal charges or having no FIR registered against them, Pakistan’s Interior Minister Moinudeen Haider said over the state radio broadcast here last night.

The amnesty move is significant as the Musharraf government has arrested over 2,000 activists of the five groups, including the Jaish-e-Mohammad and the Lashkar-e-Toiba blamed by India for acts of terrorism. Others include extremist groups of the majority Sunni and minority Shia sects accused of indulging in sectarian killings in Pakistan.

The announcement of amnesty followed recent assertions by Mr Haider that kidnapping and the murder of US journalist Daniel Pearl was a move by some banned militant groups to regroup and hit back at the government.

The Lahore High Court three days ago also admitted a number of petitions filed by the detained members contesting their arrests. The court also ordered the government to provide secret records on the arrested members maintained by the country’s intelligence agencies.

While the government has a host of charges levelled against sectarian groups, no such criminal charges have been levelled against the Jaish and Lashkar leaders.

In a move that could have far-reaching consequences in Jammu and Kashmir, the United Jehad Council has asked the banned (LeT) and the Jaish-e-Mohammad to “quietly join Kashmir-based groups to circumvent the clampdown on militant organisations based in Pakistan”.

NEW DELHI: India on Friday decried Pakistan’s decision to grant amnesty to about 2,000 hardened criminals, saying that the move raised serious questions about Islamabad’s sincerity to fight terrorism.

“It shows the attitude and approach of the Pakistani authorities towards the issue of terrorism and dealing with terrorist groups operating from its soil,” an External Affairs Ministry spokesperson said here. Agencies


Bush asks Pakistan to stop cross-border terrorism

Washington, March 8
US President George W. Bush has emphatically asked Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf to stop cross-border terrorism against India and create conditions for “meaningful dialogue between both the countries”, a senior US administrative official has said.

“Mr Bush has personally told General Musharraf and the US Ambassador in Pakistan also keeps telling him to stop cross-border terrorism before there can be any meaningful dialogue,” the official told Indian and Pakistani media here yesterday.

“We are in a new day. Pakistan has to make strategic changes, not tactical one. There is no place for cross-border terrorism and even General Musharraf had agreed to that”, he said.

Asked if General Musharraf does not heed US advice and continues with terrorism, the senior official said “we take him at his word. He is an important ally. We will be with him if he acts, if he plays games, then there will be a problem,”.

Recalling Mr Bush’s offer at a joint press conference with General Musharraf, to facilitate a meaningful dialogue between New Delhi and Islamabad, he said “both countries will have to engage and we will be sitting on the sidelines encouraging”.

Expressing happiness at Information and Broadcasting Minister Sushma Swaraj’s visit to Pakistan, the official said: “It shows that Prime Minister (Atal Behari) Vajpayee does not want to shut off contacts with Pakistan,”.

Indicating USA’s willingness to mediate between the two countries, the official said: “We continue to believe that mediation is not for us. But if we can be of assistance, if both want us to be, we will help”.

The official said a “mere meeting” between the heads of India and Pakistan will not help if it is followed by recrimination as was witnessed after the Agra summit.

He said the USA believed that both the countries should withdraw the army build-up along the borders as a confidence-building measure before resumption of talks.

He said the USA would like to see free and fair elections in Kashmir in which everyone, including the Hurriyat, participated.

On the recent communal violence in Gujarat, he said: “I regret the tremendous loss of life, but do not see any foreign policy problem,”.

Meanwhile, rich rewards from the USA have begun to flow for Pakistan and more are in the pipeline if Islamabad takes steps to end cross-border terrorism against India, a senior administration official has said.

President Bush has said Pakistan will get spare parts but no F-16s or other equipment, he said and lauded Islamabad for using the equipment provided by Washington for peacekeeping in Sierra Leone only for that purpose.

Another caveat is that Mr Bush has said “The USA has no interest in trying to increase the supply of arms right now while India and Pakistan are still too close to war.’’

In the current fiscal, the USA has already identified $ 600 million in economic support for the Pakistan Government so that they can carry out economic and educational programmes, the official said. PTI

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