Bush pushes Musharraf on democracy and Al-Qaeda
UNITED STATES: US President George W. Bush urged Pervez
Musharraf to move toward democracy after the embattled Pakistani leader
pulled back from declaring a state of emergency.
At the same time, Bush renewed US calls for full cooperation from its
key anti-terror ally in the hunt for Al-Qaeda leaders believed to be
holed up in remote tribal lands along the Pakistan-Afghan border.
Bush’s comments at a White House press conference late Thursday came
after Musharraf, against the advice of his aides, decided not to impose
a state of emergency despite rampant instability.
Any such move would have automatically extended the current
parliament for another 12 months, meaning a delay in elections due by
US Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice had earlier spoken to
Musharraf by telephone to press home Washington’s concerns amid talk of
possible emergency rule and following his decision to pull out of a key
tribal council in Kabul aimed at ending Taliban and Al-Qaeda-sponsored
The United States has consistently pushed for elections which it sees
as a way to enhance the legitimacy of the government of Musharraf, who
seized power in a bloodless 1999 coup and is also the army chief.
Bush said he had called on Musharraf to move toward democracy. “My
focus in terms of the domestic scene is they have a free and fair
election,” he said.
“That is what we have been talking about, and hopefully, they will.”
The Pakistani leader had earlier huddled with key aides worried about
the threat of violence from Islamic extremists as well as a series of
other issues which have left him facing the greatest challenge yet to
Mass protests over the attempted suspension of the country’s chief
justice and efforts by rivals to return from exile to contest an
election come on top of criticism of his handling of militants along the
But he decided against a state of emergency because of the looming
polls, Information Minister Mohammad Ali Durrani told AFP.
“President Musharraf has decided not to impose the state of emergency
in the country as suggested by some political parties and others,”
“The decision was taken because the priority of the president and
present government is to have free, fair and impartial elections in line
with the constitutional requirements.”
Bush in Washington paid tribute to Musharraf’s cooperation with the
United States in the US-led “war on terror,” and was also careful to
express respect for Pakistan’s sovereignty.
Musharraf has been angered by accusations that his government is not
doing enough to deal with the supposed Al-Qaeda haven in the tribal
belt, as well as hints by officials here of possible unilateral US
“I have made it clear to him that I expect that there be full
cooperation in sharing intelligence” and “swift action” against Al-Qaeda
inside Pakistan if solid intelligence emerged about their whereabouts,
“We spend a lot of time with the leadership in Pakistan talking about
what we will do with actionable intelligence.”