Musharraf keen on taking centre-stage at OIC summit

ISLMABAD Oct. 13. The Pakistan President, Pervez Musharraf, is leaving for Kuala Lumpur tomorrow to participate in the summit of the Organisation of Islamic Countries (OIC). He intends to emerge there as a new icon of the Muslim world, in the post-September 11 scenario, with his thesis of `enlightened moderation'. Kashmir would also feature prominently in his address and engagements.

His keenness to take centre-stage of the OIC summit was evident here last week when he chose to invite Islamabad-based correspondents of Muslim countries for an interactive session on his ideas of the changed world realities and the message he intended to take to Kuala Lumpur.

Gen. Musharraf had been talking on the theme in vague terms since September 11 but it was articulated in concrete terms as `enlightened moderation' just before his visit to New York last month to participate in the United Nations General Assembly session.

He did dwell at length on the subject at the U.N. ``I believe the way forward is to adopt a two-pronged strategy, a double pincer to build harmony, promote moderation, oppose extremism and ensure justice. I call this strategy, the strategy of enlightened moderation,'' he told the U.N. General Assembly.

Gen. Musharraf told the U.N. that Muslim nations must assume responsibility for internal reform and renewal. He said that they were at the crossroads and must eschew extremism and confrontation. The Muslim world must embrace the march of human civilisation and address deficits of social and economic development.

However, the critics of Gen. Musharraf are of the view that he is not the best qualified candidate from the Muslim world to preach enlightened moderation. The biggest handicap of Gen. Musharraf is that he represents the institution of Army and is the President of Pakistan by virtue of that position.

The taunt by Pakistan's opposition parties that Gen. Musharraf was qualified only to address the U.N. General Assembly and not the Pakistan Nation Assembly best illustrated the opposition he faces on the domestic front.

The rise of sectarianism and the reputation of Pakistan as a country that gave fillip to jehadism also made it difficult for Gen. Musharraf to convince the rest of the world on his thesis of enlightened moderation. As for social and economic inequities, the less said the better about Pakistan.

While there is little doubt that the OIC would adopt the ritualistic resolution on Kashmir, several countries in the organisation do not agree with the Pakistan view comparing Kashmir with Palestine. Gen. Musharraf had told the journalists that Muslim countries should coordinate their efforts to combat terrorism.

He reiterated the need for restructuring the OIC. He wanted it to be made a vibrant body. He called for formation of a commission that should put forward concrete proposals for restructuring the OIC. He said the proposed commission should complete this task within the stipulated period.

In reply to a question, he said no decision had been taken to recognise Israel.

He asserted that unless a meaningful dialogue was initiated and positive signs surfaced about the resolution of the Palestinian issue, Islamabad would not reconsider its position about Israel. He called for a just resolution of the Palestinian issue.

On India-Pakistan relations, he told them that there should not be an arms imbalance in the region and the no-win situation between Pakistan and India should not be disturbed. Islamabad, he said, had proposed many measures to improve relations with New Delhi.

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