Parliament to decide key issues, top US officials told: Asif, Nawaz refuse to give any assurance about Musharraf
ISLAMABAD, March 25: The Pakistan People’s Party and the Pakistan Muslim League-N have refused to give any assurance to the United States about the future of President Pervez Musharraf, saying that every matter would now be debated in parliament.
In separate meetings with US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte and Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher on Tuesday, leaders of the two parties said they wanted to make parliament a sovereign institution and all policy issues, including the ‘war on terror’, would now be discussed there.
The US officials met PML-N chief Nawaz Sharif, Shahbaz Sharif, Chaudhry Nisar Ali Khan, Ishaq Dar and Ahsan Iqbal at Punjab House.
Later, a PPP delegation comprising chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, co-chairman Asif Ali Zardari, Makhdoom Shah Mehmood Qureshi and Rehman Malik visited the US embassy to meet the two officials.
Mr Negroponte also called on President Pervez Musharraf in the evening.
Political analysts said the US officials’ visit was aimed at defusing a possible confrontation between the new parliament and the presidency.
Another purpose of the visit, they said, was to seek commitment from the new coalition government about Pakistan’s role in the war on terror.
Anne W. Patterson, the US ambassador, was conspicuous by her absence from the meetings.
A US embassy official, however, said the ambassador did not attend the meetings because she was away from the capital.
Mr Sharif said at a press conference he had told Mr Boucher and Mr Negroponte that the Pakistani nation had given its verdict on Feb 18 and now there would be no more ‘one-man show’ in the country.
He said he had told the US officials that since Sept 11, 2001, only one man had been taking crucial decisions, but now the situation had completely changed.
“Now an individual has no right to make fundamental decisions. Now every matter will be brought to parliament,” he said, adding that soon a parliamentary committee would be formed to review the policies of President Pervez Musharraf.
Mr Sharif said the US officials had been told that there was no doubt in the minds of the people of Pakistan that President Musharraf used the war on terror only for his personal gains. He said as the president had never taken the parliament or the prime minister into confidence on the war on terror, he did not have the nation’s support.
“Pakistan wants to see peace in every country, including the US. However, to ensure peace in other countries, we cannot turn our own country into killing fields,” Mr Sharif said in categorical terms.
He said he would again advise President Musharraf to respect people’s mandate and step down. “Mr Musharraf should not become a burden on the shoulders of parliament and he should provide an opportunity to the new assemblies to elect a new president.”
The PML-N chief said he also told US officials that Mr Musharraf was an ‘illegal president’ and he should go.
In reply to a question, he said President Musharraf the only people left with President Musharraf now were his security adviser, Tariq Aziz, and spokesman Rashid Qureshi.
“The police, administration, parliament and the people of Pakistan are not with Mr Musharraf and it would be better for him to realise the situation.”
In reply to another question whether Washington had expressed concern over deposed judges, Mr Sharif said they were not looking at the US for the restoration of judges.
A PPP source told Dawn that the party’s leaders had informed US officials that they wanted to continue the “war on terror” because it was in the country’s interest, but a strategy would only be finalised in parliament.
According to a foreign ministry handout, US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte met President Musharraf and discussed “bilateral relations and the political situation in Pakistan”.
The president said that moderate parties had emerged victorious in the elections and the new prime minister and his government would enjoy his full support.
Mr Negroponte assured the president of Washington’s continued commitment to Pakistan’s endeavours for socio-economic development. He underscored the importance of Pakistan in combating terrorism and extremism.
The president said Pakistan would continue to pursue a comprehensive strategy to counter terrorism.