US thanks “friend” Musharraf, asks new regime to maintain war on terror

August 18th, 2008 - 10:28 pm ICT by IANS  

Washington, Aug 18 (IANS) Calling former Pakistani president Pervez Musharraf “a friend to the US” and one of the world’s “most committed partners in the war against terrorism”, Washington Monday asked the new government in Islamabad to redouble its focus on stemming extremism.”We strongly support the democratically elected civilian government in its desire to modernise Pakistan and build democratic institutions,” said Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice in a statement on the resignation of the former military ruler who last year shed his army uniform at America’s behest.

Striking a balance between a studiously hands off approach to the new Pakistani government’s move to impeach a key ally and the need to keep his successors on its side, Rice expressed “our deep gratitude” to Musharraf while vowing to “continue to work with the Pakistani government and its political leaders”.

But manifest in her statement was the US concern how the war on terror would shape up now that Musharraf is gone. “President Musharraf has been a friend to the United States and one of the world’s most committed partners in the war against terrorism and extremism,” she said.

He “made the critical choice to join the fight against Al Qaida, the Taliban, and other extremist groups that threaten the peace and security of Pakistan, its neighbours, and partners throughout the world,” she said. “For this, he has our deep gratitude.”

“The United States supported the transition to democratic government in Pakistan and respects the results of the election,” Rice said. “We believe that respect for the democratic and constitutional processes in that country is fundamental to Pakistan’s future and its fight against terrorism.”

“We will continue to work with the Pakistani government and political leaders and urge them to redouble their focus on Pakistan’s future and its most urgent needs, including stemming the growth of extremism, addressing food and energy shortages, and improving economic stability,” she said.

The US, she said, will help with these efforts to see Pakistan reach its goal of becoming a stable, prosperous, democratic, modern Muslim nation.

Earlier, in an interview Sunday with Chris Wallace on Fox News, Rice had said the US was not considering giving asylum to “good ally” Musharraf to bail him out.

“This is an issue that is not on the table and just want to keep our focus on what we must do with the democratic government of Pakistan,” she said.

Asked if it would it be in the best interest of Pakistan for Musharraf to step down and avoid a long and bitter impeachment trial, Rice said: “This is a matter for the Pakistanis to resolve.”

“And we have been supportive of the democratic elections that took place in Pakistan; in fact, advocated for them,” said the top US diplomat.

The US, she said had been supportive of Pakistan’s new democratic government, as witnessed by the President George W. Bush’s meetings with Pakistani Prime Minister Syed Yousaf Raza Gillani. “So this is a matter for Pakistan to determine.”

Avoiding taking sides in the brewing crisis in Pakistan, Rice said: “President Musharraf has been a good ally. And everyone knows that we disagreed with his decision in terms of the state of emergency that he declared. But he kept to his word, he took off the uniform.”

But “it’s now a democratic government in Pakistan,” she said. “Pakistan and the United States have a joint interest in fighting terror, because these terrorists are not just after the United States and after Afghanistan.”

“They’re also after Pakistan as demonstrated by the fact that they killed (former Pakistan premier) Benazir Bhutto,” she said.

“That’s what we’re concentrating on, that and helping Pakistan to sustain its economy, to build its schools, its health. We have a broad Pakistan policy,” Rice said.

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