Washington: United States categorically said that Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf’s plan to lift emergency rule on 16December will be an essential step in steering Pakistan back to democracy, but for this he will have to step up his efforts substantially.
Denying that Washington forced Musharraf to announce that he would lift the state of emergency imposed on 3November, the White House and the State Department greeted the news from a frontline ally in the war on terror.
Sean McCormack, spokesman, State Department termed it as a crucial step among several others he has taken, such as his resignation as army chief Wednesday in order to be sworn in as a civilian president a day later.
On warnings that some of Musharraf’s political foes might shun the January elections, Perino urged the candidates and the people to fully participate in these free and fair elections.
Ensure free and fair polls
The U.S. has asked Musharraf to ensure that general elections promised for 8January are fair. Perino also urged the Pakistani President to ensure that his opponents are able to voice their opinions, and they get their rights to assemble and have the freedom of the press. However, she declined to say whether Musharraf’s decision met with Bush’s call to lift the crackdown “as soon as possible.”
McCormack said it would have been better for Pakistanis to have more time to prepare for elections. He was of the opinion that a fair vote is possible, “if there is a concerted and dedicated effort to ensure that elections are free, fair and transparent.”
Britain welcomes Musharraf’s decision
Britain welcomed Musharraf’s pledge, but said other restrictions also need to be lifted to allow free elections. “U.K. looks forward to the lifting of this state of emergency as also other restrictions,” said David Miliband, foreign secretary, U.K.