Pakistan refuses to extradite killers to U.S.

Sunday, May 5, 2002

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- President Pervez Musharraf said Saturday he turned down a U.S. extradition request for the killers of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl so that their punishment at home could serve as an example to those defying his crackdown on violence and terror.

The military leader also suggested he wanted to see changes in the constitution giving the military a say in overseeing elected governments.

Musharraf, who ousted an elected government and imposed military rule in 1999, spoke for two hours with selected reporters and depicted himself as a reluctant leader whose place in history is to guide Pakistan to true democracy.

He said he would resist any U.S pressure to extradite British-born Islamic militant Ahmed Omar Saeed Sheikh, the chief defendant in the trial of those accused of killing Pearl.

The Wall Street Journal reporter disappeared in Karachi in January while researching links between Pakistan's militants and Richard C. Reid, the man arrested in December on a Paris-Miami flight with explosives in his shoes.

A videotape received Feb. 21 by U.S. diplomats in Karachi confirmed Pearl, 38, was dead. His body has not been found.

Saeed and three other defendants have pleaded innocent to charges of murder, kidnapping and terrorism. They face the death penalty if convicted.

'Punished in Pakistan'

"He's done a terrible act in Pakistan," the president said of Saeed. "He must be punished in Pakistan. I want the people of Pakistan to know that we will move against terrorism."

He spoke of creating a National Security Council giving the military chief of staff a shared role with the president and prime minister in exercising "checks and balances on all the power brokers" in a democracy.

Such a body would "encourage the government, if it was doing well," he said, but also would have "the power to check misdoing."

It was unclear how closely the proposal would be modeled on Turkey's National Security Council, which comprises the country's top military and civilian leaders and is the country's most powerful body.

The Turkish military has stepped into politics three times since 1960 and the council gained enormous power following the latest military coup in 1980. Generals on the council pressured an Islamic government to step down in 1997.

The Pakistan army also has played a significant role in the country's 55-year history: Musharraf is the third general to stage a putsch.

There are other parallels. Musharraf spent his childhood years in Turkey and has endorsed the role of moderate Islam in Pakistani politics.

Nawaz Sharif, the prime minister he ousted, tolerated radicalism and supported the Taliban. Although Musharraf banned five militant groups in January, violence has continued, including Pearl's killing and several deadly bomb attacks -- acts that threaten to undermine stability once parliament resumes work after October's scheduled elections.

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