Washington: A comprehensive review of American assistance to Pakistan is now underway, the US on Wednesday said, but maintained that it would have to make sure that there was no undermining of its “counter-terrorism efforts” in that country.
Describing the imposition of emergency as a “mistake” and a “setback” to democracy in Pakistan, White House press secretary Dana Perino also said the US would like to try to get President Pervez Musharraf have free and fair elections and “take off his uniform”.
The US is “certainly a powerful country” and President George W Bush “feels very confident that his feelings are well known by Pakistanis, especially Musharraf,” she said.
“The aid review that you talked about that would be ongoing is interagency, and I don’t have anything more on it right now,” she told a media briefing.
“... We have to be mindful to make sure we do not undermine any of our counterterrorism efforts...the President has to protect the American people. Pakistan is a country where extremists try to take -- are trying to take hold and have a safe haven. And we have to deny them that.”
The US have been working on that with the Pakistani government through President Musharraf for the past several years, she said.
The allies of the US understand that “we have a problem here; it is difficult; the world is not tidy. It is certainly a difficult situation in Pakistan right now. But they also understand that we have counterterrorism efforts there.”
“I believe that the world community would understand that we would like to try to get him (Musharraf) back on the path to democracy, to have the free and fair elections, for him to take off his uniform. And that’s what we are going to continue to push to do,“ Perino said.
“The President (Bush) feels strongly that he and Musharraf have had a good relationship in the past. They have worked well together to help prevent terrorists, as well as the President has helped him on the way to establishing a free and fair Pakistan, one is that democratic,” she said.
“The United States is certainly a powerful country and the President feels very confident that his feelings are well known by the Pakistanis, especially President Musharraf,” the White House official said adding, Washington is “quite comfortable” with the leverage it has with Islamabad.
“...we are quite comfortable with where our leverage is....look.. we can be a powerful country. We can urge, we can provide aide. But Pakistan is a sovereign nation.”
The US disagrees with the decision to impose emergency and thinks “it’s a mistake”, she said adding, “We’d like to see them move to democracy, because ultimately, what they want is peace for their region and peace for their country, and that’s going to come from democracy. This is a step backwards in order to get to that peace that they say that they want.”
“Everyone has to remember that we’re in the early days of a crisis, looking at a country who had decided to try to move down the path to democracy, in establishing freedom of press, civil societies, improving the education system, public health system, allowing for freedom of expression and assembly.
“Democracies take time to develop. It is not easy. And this is certainly a setback,” she said.