[DEBATE] : Don't sack Musharraf, US and UK warn election victors!
Riaz K Tayob
riazt at iafrica.com
Thu Feb 21 16:59:17 GMT 2008
Don't sack Musharraf, US and UK warn election victors
By Andrew Buncombe in Islamabad and Omar Waraichin Lahore Thursday, 21
In a strategy some Western diplomats admit could badly backfire, the
Bush administration has made clear it wishes to continue to support Mr
Musharraf even after Monday?s election in which the Pakistani public
delivered a resounding rejection of his policies. ?[The US] does not
want some people pushed out because it would lead to instability. In
this case that means Musharraf,? said one Western diplomat.
Officials say the policy is driven by concern about possible instability
in the aftermath of the election in which the president?s parliamentary
allies were soundly beaten. In such circumstances US and its Western
allies are urging the election?s winners - the late Benazir Bhutto?s
Pakistan People?s Party (PPP) and Nawaz Sharif?s Pakistan Muslim
League-N (PML-N)- to quickly move forward and form a coalition that
includes all ?moderate? elements.
But along with Mr Musharraf?s future, the reinstatement of sacked Chief
Justice Iftikar Chaudhry and other Supreme Court justices - sacked by
the president when they refused to ratify his imposition of a State of
Emergency last November - has rapidly emerged as the most contentious
issues in the aftermath of Monday?s vote, as the PPP and PML-N negotiate
to form a coalition government. Mr Sharif, whose party secured the
second most number of seats, built his campaign around the reinstatement
of Mr Chaudhry and has repeatedly insisted Mr Musharraf should stand down.
Last night an aide to Mr Sharif, who is due to meet today (THURS) with
PPP leader, Asif Ali Zardari, confirmed there had been pressure to drop
its demand for Mr Chaudhry?s return. ?The suggestion has been there from
Western countries for some time. In fact it was raised by [a senior
British official] when he met Mr Sharif in London. [But] we are not
willing to compromise on our stance. We feel it would be against the
interest of the Pakistani people.?
This week senior US officials have already met with Mr Sharif and the
other leading players in Pakistan?s unfolding political drama, urging an
inclusive transition towards democracy. Yesterday morning, a US diplomat
based in Lahore spent two hours with Aitzaz Ahsan, leader of the lawyers
movement, laying out the US position.
Mr Ahsan, who has been under house arrest for three months, declined to
detail the contents of his conversation with the diplomat, but he said:
?There is no way other than to reinstate the judges?We are not going to
let this pass. We will not let it be accepted as a norm.?
Since the aftermath of 9/11, the Bush administration has pursued a
controversial policy in which it has given billions of dollars and
considerable political support to Mr Musharraf, who is considered a
vital ally in the so-called war on terror. The policy has been pursued
despite criticism of Mr Musharraf?s human rights record and amid claims
of hypocrisy over the US?s backing for a military dictator who seized
power in a military coup while purportedly promoting democracy.
Officials admit that in the aftermath of such a decisive election its
decision to stick by Mr Musharraf and its urging of his opponents to
work with him - even with him serving in a reduced role - could be seen
as interference and carried with it highrisks.
Yet they say the threat of instability and the over-present threat of
violence in Pakistan requires the various groups to form a coalition of
moderate parties rather than becoming ?fixated? on Mr Musharraf?s
immediate future or the restoration of the judiciary. Another Western
diplomat said: ?The important thing is that a stable government can be
The West?s approach has already drawn criticism. Ali Dayan Hasan of
Human Rights Watch, said: ?[How is it that] the US believes?Musharraf
can be the guarantor of any sort of stability when he is the source of
Mr Musharraf has insisted that he has no intention of resigning. His
spokesman, Rashid Qureshi, said yesterday that he intended to work with
the new government and that he would serve out his term that expires in
2012. ?The people on Monday didn't vote to elect a new president,? said
the spokesman. ?In fact, they participated in the elections to elect the
new parliament.? Query: Independent.co.uk The Web Go
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