Musharraf Calls for
Dialogue among Faiths
European Union Foreign Policy Chief Javier Solana,
Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf and New
York Times columnist Thomas Friedman
York: President Gen Pervez Musharraf on Wednesday termed
Pope Bennedict’s recent comments on Islam as unwarranted
and cautioned against opening new fronts.
“Pope’s remarks caused a lot of tension in the
Muslim world and at such critical times, it was most unwarranted.
This is the time to build bridges, not to burn bridges,”
the president said while speaking at the annual meeting
of the Clinton Global Initiative at a hotel here.
He was one of the four panelists invited to discuss “Urgent
Issues and Innovative Solutions.” Other panelists
included the presidents of Liberia and Colombia and European
Union’s foreign policy chief Javier Solana.
President Musharraf underscored the need for inter-faith
dialogue and resolution of political disputes involving
Muslims. He emphatically said that Palestine was at the
heart of extremism and terrorism and its resolution must
take precedence over all other issues, including Afghanistan,
Iraq and Lebanon. His remarks drew an instant round of applause
from the audience.
Going into the genesis of extremism and terrorism, the president
said 22,000 armed mujahideen had been sent to the region
to fight the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, adding that
Al Qaeda was a creation of that move.
“We got in the eye of the storm in 1979 and remain
in the eye of the storm,” he said. “For 27 years,
we have suffered fallout of militancy from east and west.”
He said that the focus had now shifted from Al Qaeda to
the Taliban and warned: “Taliban are more dangerous
because they have roots in the people of Afghanistan, Pakistan
and the tribal areas.”
He said it was wrong to assume that all Pukhtoons in the
region were Taliban. To fight extremism and terrorism, it
was important to adopt a multi-pronged strategy that was
not limited to military action alone. He added that Pakistan
was the only country that had examined and strategised all
aspects of extremism and terrorism. “We want the world
to also analyze it.”
The president said that Mulla Omar was somewhere in the
southern province of Afghanistan, in Kandahar or below,
as was the command echelon of Taliban.
When moderator Thomas Friedman, a noted New York Times columnist,
asked the president what would he ask for if he were granted
one wish by Mr Clinton for assistance, the President said:
“I would go for market access. Give us market access.
We want trade, not aid.”
Later, Mr Solana, who sat next to the president, supported
his call for market access and said he would also support
such a demand from the EU. His response was appreciated
by the audience.
Mr. Clinton presented the welcome remarks. America’s
first lady Laura Bush also addressed the gathering at which
more than 50 former and present world leaders were present,
besides religious and business leaders.
Prominent among them was Madeline Albright, former US secretary
of state, who was also seen exchanging greetings with President
The Clinton Global Initiative was launched by the 42nd president
of the US a couple of years ago to tackle major global challenges.