‘Pakistan PM’s US visit tipped scales against Musharraf’

August 19th, 2008 - 3:36 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Aug 19 (IANS) Pakistan’s ruling coalition used Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani’s visit to Washington last month to “convince” US President George W. Bush to stop supporting his “old ally” Pervez Musharraf, a media report Tuesday said.In a dispatch from Washington, Dawn quoted diplomatic sources as describing Bush as Musharraf’s “last holdout” in the US capital.

Others in the Bush administration - including Vice President Dick Cheney and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice - had long given up on Musharraf, but Bush “remained faithful to the person he considered a close ally and a personal friend”, the newspaper said.

The article was headlined “How Bush was persuaded to let Musharraf go”.

The one person who played a key role in persuading Musharraf’s supporters in the Bush administration to stop backing the Pakistani leader was US ambassador in Islamabad Anne W. Patterson.

Patterson “argued that if Washington continued supporting Musharraf, it would end up stoking massive anti-American feelings in Pakistan”, Dawn said.

She also held a series of meetings with coalition leaders, particularly Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) co-chair Asif Ali Zardari, and received assurances from them that Musharraf’s departure would not undermine primary US interests in Pakistan and that Islamabad would continue to fight Al Qaeda and Taliban militants as it did before.

Admiral Mike Mullen, chairman of the US Joint Chiefs of Staff, also stayed engaged with the Pakistanis, making three trips to Pakistan after the Feb 18 general elections, including a secret visit in July.

In his meetings with Pakistani Army chief General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani, Mullen sought, and received, a direct assurance that Musharraf’s departure would not reduce Pakistan’s role in the war on terror, Dawn said.

In Washington, Pakistan’s Ambassador Husain Haqqani “used his contacts on Capitol Hill and in the US administration to win over influential lawmakers and key officials”, the newspaper added.

Haqqani received considerable support from his friends on the Hill and in Washington’s think tanks “in convincing Americans that no hell will break loose if Mr Musharraf goes”, a think tank expert who worked with him told Dawn.

“The Pakistanis argued that the US should not be seen as interfering in Pakistan’s domestic political disputes as it would hurt America,” the expert said.

“And they succeeded in mustering enough support on the Hill and in the administration to counter Musharraf sympathizers,” he added.

By the time Gilani met Bush July 28, Pakistani lobbyists were satisfied that they had neutralised the pro-Musharraf lobby in Washington.

“President Bush was the last holdout,” said the expert, adding: “But after a good luncheon at the White House with people who had their hearts in the right place, Bush also realised that he can no longer save Musharraf.”

The prime minister took a team of “Musharraf experts” with him to the luncheon and they played a key role in persuading Bush to stop supporting the Pakistani leader, Dawn said.

“Once this was done, the Pakistanis knew that the Americans will no longer try to save Musharraf, so they made their move,” the expert said.

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