Mar 18, 2009

US says not telling Pakistan how to settle disputes

The US State Department has said that Washington is not going to tell Pakistani politicians how to end the governor’s rule in Punjab or to revoke the disqualification order against the Sharif brothers. ‘Well, look, that’s the decision that’s going to be left to Pakistani authorities. That’s not an issue for the United States to decide,’ said spokesman Robert Wood when asked if the US administration wanted Pakistan to withdraw the Sharifs’ disqualification. ‘So the US hasn’t expressed any opinion on that?’ he was asked. ‘We’ve expressed our opinion with regard to the importance of there being reconciliation in Pakistan and the importance of taking the necessary steps to move the country toward further reconciliation,’ said Mr Wood. ‘But that’s about as specific as I can get.’ At a regular briefing, Mr Wood was also asked if the US had a position on lifting the governor’s in Punjab. ‘That’s – again, you know, that’s something that’s going to have to be decided by the Pakistanis,’ said the US official. ‘So the US hasn’t made a statement on that or expressed its views to the parties involved?’ he was asked. ‘Not beyond what I’ve said,’ Mr Wood replied. He agreed with a reporter who said that Secretary of State Hillary Clinton and other US officials decided to urge Pakistani politicians to peacefully resolve their disputes because they feared that the crisis could have deterred the Pakistani government from the urgent needs of fighting terrorism, fixing the economy, and stopping the country from collapsing. ‘It is for some of the reasons you just stated was why the Secretary felt she had to make these phone calls over the weekend,’ said Mr Wood. ‘And (British) Foreign Secretary David Miliband was also involved in making calls to Pakistani leaders.’ Mr Wood said the US was concerned that those tensions were heating up and that they needed to calm down. And indeed, these tensions were diverting the government of Pakistan away from its principal enemies, al-Qaeda and the Taliban, he added. ‘We’re very pleased to see that the Pakistani leadership has taken some decisions that are moving the country at least back on a path towards reconciliation,’ said the US official. ‘Did part of that concern involve that perhaps Pakistan is moving towards military rule if the situation gets out of control?’ he was asked. ‘I have no way of knowing whether that was a possibility or not,’ he said. ‘What the secretary was concerned about was the fact that political tensions in the country were heating up quite a bit, and she wanted to make sure that the Pakistani leadership understood where the United States was on what was going on, and simply to try to reduce tensions.’ Mr Wood had earlier said that the US only explained to Pakistani politicians the need to reduce tensions and had not given them specific instructions on any issue. But later he indirectly acknowledged that the US did use its influence to get the chief justice reinstated. ‘In terms of the reinstatement of the Supreme Court justice, you must have told the Pakistani interlocutors that you support the rule of law, so you must have, at least indirectly, referred to the importance of having (the chief justice) reinstated?’ he was asked. ‘No, absolutely. Rule of law is something that we have been pressing in Pakistan … and that’s about as specific as I want to get on the subject,’ said Mr Wood.

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