Mar 14, 2009

Haqani seeks US assurance for democracy in Pakistan

As the country’s largest party inches closer to a political suicide, Pakistan’s ambassador in Washington, Husain Haqqani, spends his time either seeking assurances from the Americans that the Pakistan Army will not intervene in the Sharif-Zardari imbroglio or bad-mouthing the media.
In fact, while talking to him, it is difficult to guess what is more important to him: bashing the media or seeking assurances from the Americans that the Zardari government will be allowed to stay in power for as long as it wishes to.
Public statements by senior US civil and military officials indicate that Mr Haqqani has succeeded in keeping the Americans on the government’s side, at least so far.
But a closer look at the same statements indicates that ambassador has not been as successful as he claims. Both the State Department and the Pentagon – who have done most of the talking on the current Pakistani political situation – have stressed the need for adhering to the constitution and the rule of law.
But they have left enough room for the readers of those statements to draw their own conclusions.
‘We want to see the situation dealt with in accordance with the Pakistani constitution and the rule of law,’ said State Department’s spokesman Robert Wood. But in the same statement, he also said the United States desires ‘that violence be avoided, and that any impediments to peaceful and democratic activities not be put in place.’
The ambassador, obviously, wants the advice for adherence to the constitution and the rule of law to be interpreted as a clear signal to the Pakistani defence establishment that it should not interfere in what is basically a political dispute.
But in the same statement, others also see a warning to the government not to use unlawful or unconstitutional means to suppress political dissent.
At a Friday evening reception for Pakistani parliamentarians at the embassy, where the ambassador was explaining to a group of avid listeners why it was necessary for a democratic government to resort to undemocratic means, there were others who disagreed with him.
Only yards away from where the ambassador was entertaining his guests with Urdu couplets criticising the media, sat a PML-N supporter – Haji Mansha – on a token hunger strike to show that he does not agree with Mr Haqqani’s interpretation of democracy.
‘What is happening to our party,’ said a senior leader of the PPP USA. ‘It is a shame that the leader of a political party is acting like a military dictator.’

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