WASHINGTON, Nov 6: The White House has made it clear that it is not willing to abandon President Pervez Musharraf but it does expect some clarification from him later this week about his decision to impose an emergency rule in Pakistan.
At a background briefing on Monday evening, a senior White House official told reporters that while the United States wants to use its influence to restore democracy, it will be careful about using sanctions because it may send a wrong signal to the Pakistani people.
“Look, on our judgment, President Musharraf, you know -- who is the leader of his country -- but in our judgment, he’s made a mistake,” the official said. “And the question is what do you do when someone makes a mistake that is a close ally?” he asked.
“You know, do you cut him off, hit him with sanctions, and walk out the door? Or do you try and see if you can work with them to get them back on track? And President Bush’s guidance to us is: see if we can work with them to get back on track.”
Asked if the White House was expecting a direct clarification from President Musharraf, the official said: “The clarification needs to come from the Pakistani government to their people. And, obviously, what the Pakistani people are going to want to look for at some point is, what the intention of their President is.”
The official recalled that in the 1990s, the United States had imposed sweeping sanctions on Pakistan, which disillusioned the Pakistani people.
He said that since Sept 11, 2001, when Pakistan joined the US-led war against terror, “one of the questions they have had is whether the United States was prepared to stand with the government and the Pakistani people through ups and downs, or whether at the moment something happened that we didn’t like, we would cut off the aid.”
The official added: “So this issue about the aid and assistance has a real resonance to them and that’s why it’s a card that has to be played fairly carefully.”
The official, however, said that in the 1990s, the United States had very little influence on Pakistan while now the situation was different and Washington could use its influence to persuade Islamabad to reconsider its decision.
The United States, he said, wants to use “carrots and sticks” it has to try and get the Pakistan government to move to back to a constitutional path.
The official, however, conceded that the declaration of emergency in Pakistan will also cause concerns on Capitol Hill and the US administration will have to see if there’re sanctions -- mandated by pro-democracy laws -- that need to be used against Pakistan.
“What we think we ought to be doing is using our various forms of influence at this point in time to help a friend, who we think has done something ill-advised,” the official said.
Asked if there would be consequences for Gen Musharraf’s action, the official said: “That’s going to depend heavily on what we hear, obviously, from the Pakistani government,” making sure to add: “And that is not a threat in any way.”
The official said it was difficult to say if the current crisis had weakened Gen Musharraf. “We are concerned about it; … but I think, you know, you don’t really know. And what you need to do is have a set of principles and have a set of policies that advance our interests, and then work with a strategy to try and achieve them. And that’s what we’re trying to do.”
The official also refused to say if President Bush regrets supporting Gen Musharraf and if the emergency was a setback to Mr Bush’s freedom agenda.
“We don’t know, because we don’t know how this story comes out,” the official said.
“It is important to both Pakistan and the United States to retain that partnership. But we also think it’s important for Pakistan to move on the democratic track. … I think it’s too soon to say. We’re in the opening days of this crisis.”
NANCY PELOSI: Speaker of the US House of Representatives Nancy Pelosi in a statement blamed the Bush administration for sacrificing democracy in Pakistan in order to fight terrorism.
Ms Pelosi said that the Bush administration enabled President Pervez Musharraf’s “delusion” by ignoring his undemocratic acts.
“For too long, President Musharraf failed to confront effectively his growing unpopularity,” she said.
“The Bush Administration enabled Musharraf’s delusion by ignoring his undemocratic acts and lack of internal support in exchange for his assistance in efforts against terrorism.” Ms Pelosi said that Pakistan would only be a reliable and capable ally against terrorism when its government was not seen as an enemy by its own people.
SHEILA JACKSON LEE: Congresswoman Sheila Jackson Lee, Co-Chair of the Congressional Pakistan Caucus, called for sending a special US envoy to Pakistan for talks with the Musharraf government for lifting the state of emergency.
Representatives from the departments of State and Defence should also accompany this envoy, she told a news conference in Washington.
HILLARY CLINTON: Senator Hilary Rodham Clinton has called on President General Pervez Musharraf “to cancel the state of emergency, restore the Constitution, release arrested opposition leaders, and hold free and fair elections on schedule”, adds Masood Haider from New York.
OBAMA: Senator Barack Obama condemned Gen Musharraf’s action and asserted “the United States must be clear and unequivocal: President Musharraf should reverse this declaration, respect the decision of the Supreme Court, and hold free and fair elections for parliament in January.