Islamabad : Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf has described Islamist extremists bedevilling his regime as "an aggressive minority" that is "prepared to kill and prepared to die".
A small, extremist minority was trying to create "religious and political rifts" in Pakistani society and trying to create "an ever-widening gap between the rich and poor by instigating one against the other", Musharraf said Tuesday, shortly before a suicide bomber struck here killing 16 people and injuring over 60.
"Unfortunately, this minority of extremists are violent and aggressive, are prepared to kill and also prepared to die … this is more unfortunate," he said while opening the Heavy Industries Taxila Education City in the ancient educational hub of Taxila close to the capital.
Musharraf said these religious extremists preach selected Islamic tenets that suit their agenda.
"They ignore that part of Islam that does not suit them," the Daily Times newspaper quoted him as saying.
Musharraf said Islam gives no one the right to take anybody's life, nor their own.
"Suicide is forbidden in Islam," he said in a clear reference to the series of suicide attacks being carried out by highly trained and motivated youths from the training camps and seminaries.
Musharraf has himself been their target.
He said the extremists demanded an Islamic system in Pakistan, "though we already have an Islamic system in the country and under the constitution, no law can be imposed that is repugnant to the teachings of Quran and Sunnah".
He said the extremists talk of societal ills but noted that these have nothing to do with Islam because all societies have such problems.
This has been his riposte to the Lal Masjid clerics who carried out a campaign against massage parlours, music and video shops and places they allege were run as brothels.
One such attack on a parlour run by Chinese, six of whom were held hostage, prompted the government to launch a military operation this month to evict the clergy, hundreds of students, both boys and girls, and armed militants.
According to official figures, 103 people died in the operation.
The president said that despite the threat of extremists and terrorists, he was determined to realise Quaid-e-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah's vision of a moderate and progressive Pakistan, Pakistan Online reported.
Musharraf has been advocating "enlightened Islam" in his speeches as he prepares the country for general elections later this year.