ISLAMABAD (Reuters) – Pakistan must unite to reject and defeat terrorism which poses a threat to the country”s independence, Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz said on Sunday.
Speaking at a ceremony to mark Pakistan”s Independence Day, Aziz also said a solution of Pakistan”s long-running dispute with India over the Kashmir region was vital for peace in South Asia.
"We have to send a message to the world that our society rejects extremism and is united against it," Aziz said.
The international spotlight has fallen on Pakistan after four young British suicide bombers, three of them of Pakistani origin, killed themselves and 52 others in blasts in London on July 7.
At least two of the bombers had traveled to Pakistan several times and investigators are trying to determine what they did and who they met.
"Pakistan itself has been suffered from terrorism. Terrorism is a big danger to Pakistan”s independence. We will fight this danger for the sake of independence of Pakistan and will defeat it at all levels," Aziz said.
Authorities have rounded up about 600 people in its latest crackdown on militants, launched after the London bombings.
Pakistan”s military, which has ruled the country for more than half its history since independence from Britain in 1947, backed Islamic militants fighting Soviet forces occupying neighboring Afghanistan in the 1980s.
But military ruler General Pervez Musharraf, a staunch U.S. ally, now promotes an ideology of "enlightened moderation" and has embarked on a tentative peace process with nuclear-armed rival India.
Aziz said the disputed Muslim-majority Himalayan region of Kashmir was key to peace.
"Kashmir is a burning issue. Its solution is indispensable for durable peace — a solution that is in line with the wishes and aspirations of the people of Kashmir," Aziz said.
India and Pakistan have fought three wars since 1947, two of them over Kashmir. They went to the brink of a fourth war in 2002 but agreed to a ceasefire in Kashmir in late 2003.
Since then they have restored diplomatic, travel and sports links but have yet to achieve significant progress on Kashmir, where separatist Muslim rebels are battling Indian rule.
India has along accused Muslim Pakistan of training and arming militants and sending them into Indian Kashmir to join the insurgency. Pakistan says it only gives political, diplomatic and moral support to what it calls a Kashmiri freedom movement.
There has recently been concern in India over reports that militants were congregating in Pakistani Kashmir, preparing to sneak into the Indian side, but analysts say the issue is unlikely to derail the peace process.
Aziz, citing Pakistan”s testing of its first nuclear-capable cruise missile on Thursday, also said Pakistan would bolster its defenses to maintain a balance of power in the region.
"We will keep on harnessing our nuclear and missile capabilities in line with the changing situation. We will add to this prowess whatever is needed to keep a balance of power and peace," he said.