WASHINGTON Now that the political leadership is firmly in control, the United States does not want any ambiguities about ISI's role in the war on terror, a State Department official told Dawn.
In an exclusive briefing, the official also said the United States wanted President Pervez Musharraf to be treated with respect even after his ouster.
Since officials conducting such briefings are not named, Dawn cannot identify the official who explained in detail how the United States stayed engaged with Pakistani leaders throughout the process that led to a peaceful resolution of the impeachment dispute.
“I think it is going to be very important that every organisation, every institution, is completely lined up to protect the nation,” said the official while explaining how Washington expected Pakistan's political leadership to fight terrorism.
“That means there can't be any ambiguities about ISI anymore,” said the official. Asked if there were ambiguities about ISI's role in the war on terror, the official said “Sure, there have been for years.”
Asked if the United States made sure that Mr Musharraf was not arrested or tried for alleged violations of the Pakistani Constitution, the official said “I would not say we had made sure. We have always said he is a friend of ours and he needs to be treated with respect.”
Asked if the US would continue to use its influence to ensure that Mr Musharraf was not arrested or tried after his ouster, the official said “Our desire to see him treated with respect will always be the case. How it plays out, what exact deals they make, is up to them.”
The official said the United States also encouraged Britain and Saudi Arabia to get involved in the process that led to Mr Musharraf's resignation.
The Saudis sent their intelligence chief Prince Muqrin bin Abdul Aziz and the British sent their former ambassador in Islamabad, Mark Lyall Grant, to negotiate the terms for Mr Musharraf's departure.
“He is a free man, he can go where he wants,” said the official when asked if the US administration would allow Mr Musharraf to live in the United States, particularly because it might no longer be safe for him to live in Pakistan.
“Will you let him come to the US?” the official was asked again. “He is free to go where he wants,” he said.
“Will the US give him a visa?” “I don't see any reason why he would not qualify for a visa. I don't know where he wants to go,” the official said.
Asked if the US regretted that one of its closest allies in the war in terror was hounded out of power, the official said “I don't even know I would put it that way. Pakistan has faced a lot of trouble over the last year, whether it is the end of them, I don't know. We have to see what the government is able to do now.”
“But you did try to prevent him from going to this slippery slope that ultimately led to his departure?”
“We have always encouraged people to respect democracy. We advised him not to impose a state of emergency on Nov 3. He made a lot of decisions ... and he is living with the consequences of making those decisions.”
The official explained that instead of getting directly involved in the impeachment dispute, the US administration “let events play out”.
The United States, however, “encouraged” everyone to respect the democratic process, “and let it take its course,” the official said.
He claimed that while the US did not give any advice to the conflicting parties, it kept in touch with the players.
According to the official, the US Embassy in Islamabad played a key role in these negotiations because Washington avoided direct contacts with the players.
“There were no conversations between Washington and Islamabad since Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani's visit” to the US capital last month.
The official also rejected media reports that President Musharraf telephoned President Bush twice during the impeachment crisis but Mr Bush refused to take his calls. “I don't think it is true that he called twice,” he said.
The US official noted that the Feb 18 elections in Pakistan brought a moderate government which now had to deal with the problems of terrorism, a weak economy and had to build democratic institutions.
“They have to make sure that they will not allow themselves to be distracted by their politics,” the official said.
“We are concerned about what Pakistan is able to accomplish in the war on terror,” he said. “It is important to Pakistan. It is important to Pakistan's neighbours. It is important to us.”
He said that no senior US official was planning to visit Pakistan in the near future but the US ambassador in Islamabad would stay in touch with all political players.