Mar 14, 2009

US urges Pakistan not to impede peaceful demos

By Anwar Iqbal The department’s spokesman Robert Wood told a briefing that US special envoy Richard Holbrooke spoke with President Zardari and PM Gilani and conveyed this message to them. Wood said US ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, met the opposition leader Nawaz Sharif in Lahore on Wednesday and conveyed a similar message to him. ‘The point that Ambassador Patterson, as well as Ambassador Holbrooke, made is that we want to see the situation dealt with in accordance with the rule of law in Pakistan, that violence be avoided, and that any impediments to peaceful and democratic activities not be put in place,’ said Wood. When asked about the rounding up of lawyers and political workers, Wood said: ‘We’re still trying to formulate a good assessment, but obviously, the fact that these calls were placed means that we are concerned about the situation and we want to make sure that no violence takes place.’ Wood said that the US wanted to make sure and make clear to everyone that peaceful, democratic activity needs to take place. But he reiterated that: ‘Violence is something we don’t need.’
US expands contacts with Pakistani leaders ‘There were some additional contacts,’ said the state department’s deputy spokesman Gordon Duguid. ‘The United States is continuing our dialogue with the main actors, the political figures in Pakistan.’
US officials are refusing to say if the Americans have offered a deal or a formula for resolving the Sharif-Zardari imbroglio, although they confirmed that the United States wants the two leaders to end their dispute peacefully, and as soon as possible. Diplomatic circles in Washington, however, say that the Americans are upset with the Pakistani government for starting an ‘unnecessary crisis’ at a stage when both Washington and the Pakistani military want to focus on fighting the militants. The crisis has further highlighted the judicial issue, which is particularly embarrassing for the United States. So far the Americans have not supported the demand for the restoration of the pre-Nov, 3, 2007 judiciary. But Sharifs’ dismissal has further popularized the issue, making it more difficult for external or internal forces to oppose the restoration. This has prompted reports in the media that the Americans are now supporting the chief justice’s reinstatement, albeit with truncated powers. Diplomatic observers also say that while the Americans are not talking about their contacts with the Pakistani military, senior officials have stayed in touch with the Pakistani generals as well. The observers say that the United States and the Pakistani military establishment agree on one key point: the current political dispute cannot be allowed to continue. According to these observers, Washington will however continue to oppose a military takeover even if the situation worsens and instead would favor a constitutional arrangement for dealing with it. At least one senior US expert - Daniel Markey of the Council on Foreign Relations who also advises the State Department on South Asian affairs - has, however, urged Washington not to oppose a military takeover, should it happen. Instead, he suggested seeking a foolproof guarantee from the military that it will come only for a brief period and will return to the barracks after bringing yet another civilian setup, possibly a government of national consensus.

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