US to stay neutral if govt is changed constitutionally

Published August 8, 2014
US Ambassador Richard Olson. - File photo
US Ambassador Richard Olson. - File photo

ISLAMABAD: The United States has been quietly telling Pakistani politicians that it would stay neutral if the threatened agitation in the country leads to a government change through “constitutional means”, but would be opposed to a coup.

This message from Washington has been delivered to government and opposition politicians and military leaders by US Ambassador Richard Olson ahead of next week’s planned agitation by the Pakistan Tehreek-i-Insaf and some other opposition parties amid worries that the situation could spiral out of control.

“Ambassador Olson has been discussing the political scenario,” said one politician who had recently met the envoy. He asked not to be named.

Mr Olson, who had held a series of meetings earlier, met JUI-F chief Maulana Fazlur Rehman on Thursday.

Another politician said the American ambassador had quite candidly conveyed the US concerns in his meeting with him and had categorically opposed a military takeover.

Speculations are rife in the country about an impending political change, as PTI’s long march and sit-in planned for Independence Day anniversary draws closer.

Foreign diplomats have been closely watching the developments. Mr Olson too has been meeting key leaders to keep tabs on the situation.

In a country where people believe in the myth of American influence over political developments, the words of the ambassador are seen as a bellwether of things to come. No-one could be a stronger believer of the myth than Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif himself, about whom a former US ambassador had noted: “The fact that a former prime minister believes the US could control the appointment of Pakistan’s chief of army staff speaks volumes about the myth of American influence here.”

In his conversations with political and military leaderships, Ambassador Olson has said the US would not take any position if a change in the government comes through constitutional means. He was quoted as having said that the test has been the country’s Constitution and that “Constitutional change would be perfectly legitimate”.

This message, it is said, has been conveyed across the political spectrum.

The second part of the American message being delivered to the army and the politicians is that a military coup would be unacceptable and could trigger suspension of assistance.

Published in Dawn, August 8th, 2014

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