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UK lacks counter-terror policy, claims Musharraf


London : Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf has claimed that Britain lacked a long-term counter-terrorist strategy and argued that Islamist extremism was a home-grown problem for Britain rather than his country’s responsibility.

Speaking to The Guardian newspaper published here Tuesday before meeting British Prime Minister Gordon Brown in Downing Street, and in response to persistent British criticism of his record on counter-terrorism, Musharraf set out the shortcomings he sees in the UK’s efforts to deal with militant young Muslims, pointing out that all the July 7, 2005, bombers were born in the UK.

“We have adopted a five-point strategy. You need to adopt a similar strategy to curb this kind of tendency in youngsters, who tend to become terrorists, because merely getting hold of them and punishing them legally does not solve the problem or get to the root of the problem,” he said.

Musharraf listed the five elements of Pakistan’s counter-terrorist strategy: curbing the propagation of extremism in mosques, restricting the publication of extremist literature, banning extremist organizations, stopping the teaching of militant Islam in schools, and bringing madrasas (religious schools) into the mainstream.

He singled out the radical Islamist group “Hizb ut-Tahrir.” “We have banned them in Pakistan, yet we are blamed and they say we are doing nothing,” he complained. “You haven’t banned them yet. So why blame us?” British officials say there is no evidence that Hizb ut-Tahrir in Britain is involved in terrorism.

A Downing Street source told the paper “We need to find the balance between freedom of speech and freedom of religion, and the need to prevent violence.” Musharraf met Brown for a working lunch yesterday, where the two discussed Pakistan’s elections on February 18 as well as a joint counter-terrorist strategy.

He said later he had taken the opportunity to explain “how we are trying to take a holistic approach” to the terrorist threat.”