US credits Pakistan for defusing crisis; denies arm twisting

March 17th, 2009 - 10:35 am ICT by IANS  

Nawaz Sharif By Arun Kumar
Washington, March 17 (IANS) A relieved US has credited Pakistani leaders for defusing the growing crisis over reinstatement of the former chief justice, downplaying its own role in the compromise and denying any arm-twisting over aid.

“Well, of course, the Pakistanis themselves resolved the difficulties that were manifest over the last several days,” Secretary of State Hillary Clinton told reporters Monday, parrying a question whether she had linked continued US aid to a deal.

However, Clinton who had Saturday telephoned both President Asif Ali Zardari and his rival, former prime minister Nawaz Sharif, said that the decision to reinstate Iftikhar Chaudhry as chief justice was a first step for much-needed reconciliation and political compromise in Pakistan.

“I believe that the resolution that they have agreed upon is the first step of what has to be an ongoing reconciliation and compromising of political views that can stabilise civilian democracy and the rule of law,” she said.

Both of these “are essential to the efforts that the Pakistanis themselves see as so critical; namely, preventing extremism and violence from stalking the Pakistani people and the country,” Clinton added.

The US is “going to continue our very close working relationship with the government and a number of Pakistani leaders in the days and weeks ahead,” she said, noting that another trilateral meeting among US, Pakistan and Afghanistan would be held in a few months.

“So there will be an ongoing effort to make our services available and to help the Pakistanis fight against our common enemy,” Clinton said.

“Well, I think they understand what’s at stake,” she said when asked if she was worried that the political turmoil was distracting Islamabad from taking on the militants.

Clinton did acknowledge that her conversations with Zardari and Sharif as also the role played by US Ambassador to Pakistan, Anne Patterson, and US Special Representative to Afghanistan and Pakistan, Richard Holbrooke was “very helpful in both working with the Pakistani leaders themselves and in keeping our government informed.”

Like Clinton, State Department officials too credited Pakistani leaders for the compromise, but said: “clearly, more has to be done in terms of getting a real substantive political dialogue back on track in Pakistan.”

“Frankly, what brought Pakistan back from the brink was, basically, decisions made by the Pakistani leadership. So this was basically decisions made by Pakistanis for Pakistanis. And they deserve all the credit,” said State Department spokesman Robert Wood.

Asked if Clinton had made any specific demands or any threats, like withdrawing US aid or stepping up attacks with drones, he said: “The secretary made no demands at all.”

She made “no threats at all. The secretary was expressing the views of the US government on how we wanted to see the crisis resolved, and that’s exactly what happened.”

“But the important thing is that these decisions were taken. And now we have to try - the Pakistanis need to move forward in terms of further political reconciliation,” Wood said.

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