Pakistan on right track: Powell

Published October 20, 2004

NEW YORK, Oct 19: Saying that 'Pakistan is in danger', US Secretary of State Colin Powell said on Monday that Pakistan was moving in the right direction under President Pervez Musharraf.

In an interview with USA Today, he said: "A little bit of understanding is necessary as you watch somebody like President Musharraf go through this process, as you watch him deal with his economic problems, he has to re-do the Madressah system, fix his educational system, and a relatively free press in Pakistan, yet bombs are going off on a regular basis."

Responding to questions about President Musharraf's role and his imminent decision not to take off the uniform, Mr Powell stressed: "In the case of Pakistan over the last several years, we have seen a parliament start to function again, a prime minister, legislative action reflecting a more effective legislature, not quite what we would have wanted, and we see a nation that is still in danger. I mean Pakistan is in danger."

Underscoring that some perspective was necessary, Mr Powell noted: "There are people who don't want what Musharraf wants and they don't approve of what Musharraf's been doing. They've tried to kill him twice in the last six or eight months."

"And so this is not to excuse, but this is to say, if the trend is in the right direction and moving in the right direction, where we think they should have moved quicker on something, then let's talk about it and let's engage them and let them know what we think would be best for them. But at the same time, we have to be mindful of the historical change they're going through," he emphasized.

He said in case of a country like Pakistan "you also have to keep some perspective about where they were and where they are now and where they may be where you hope they are heading in the future".

Agencies add: Mr Powell claimed it was the United States that had scripted the historic telephone call between Pakistan and India that led to restoration of diplomatic ties last year.

As the potential for a nuclear war began to abate last year, Mr Powell said President Pervez Musharraf had called him to find out whether India would respond positively if his prime minister made a telephone call to his Indian counterpart.

"And I'll never forget the day that President Musharraf, in one of our conversations, as the conversation was ending and the crisis had started to abate about then, said to me, 'Do you think if my prime minister, the Pakistani prime minister, were to call the Indian prime minister, he would take the call?"

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