Zawahiri calls on Pakistanis to overthrow Musharraf

Saturday, March 27, 2004

ISLAMABAD Information Minister Sheikh Rashid Ahmed condemned the statement of Al Qaeda leader Ayman al-Zawahiri, in which he asked the people of Pakistan to overthrow the government of President Gen Pervez Musharraf, according to Pakistan's Dawn online newspaper.

The minister said being the official spokesman he would like to say that the statement of Mr Zawahiri was mischievous and aimed at creating divisions in the ranks of the Pakistan Army.

Sheikh Rashid said the army had launched an operation in the tribal areas in the larger interest of the country, and its target was foreign militants hiding in the region. He said it was the present government's policy that no terrorist activity would be allowed on the country's soil.

The minister said the Al Qaeda activists tried to kill President Musharraf at least on two occasions, and the government had evidence that the terror network provided gunpowder to the suicide bombers for the job.

After their failure, they were now trying to incite the people of Pakistan, he added. Describing tribal people as patriotic Pakistanis, the minister said the army had gone to the rugged mountainous areas to protect the country's sovereignty.

If Pakistan Army did not move to flush out terrorists from the country's territory, it was possible that some other country's force might enter the area for the purpose, but then the people would object.

He said opposition parties should realize the gravity of the situation and refrain from playing up the issue, as dozens of army soldiers had lost their lives in the ongoing operation.

He said the Muttahida Majlis-i-Amal should try to understand that these terrorists might escape from the area, leaving it in a difficult situation. When pointed out that these foreigners, whom the government was now dubbing as terrorists, were supported by Islamabad to take part in the Afghan jihad during the Soviet occupation, the minister said the situation had changed after the twin tower attack in the United States and should be realized as such.

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