US wants new Pakistan government to work with Musharraf

February 20th, 2008 - 2:23 pm ICT by admin  

A file-photo of Pervez Musharraf
By Parveen Chopra
Washington, Feb 20 (IANS) If President George W. Bush can continue to head the US government after his Republican Party lost the majority in Congress in 2006, Pervez Musharraf can retain his position as the president of Pakistan even though his party has lost the polls, a White House spokesperson said. Acknowledging that Musharraf’s party has conceded defeat in the elections, the Bush administration now hopes that the new government will continue to work with Musharraf, its ally, and continue to partner the US in its war on terror.

“We hope that the new government, once it’s formed - whatever form that process takes - will continue to work with us as partners in counter-terrorism,” spokesperson Dana Perino said Tuesday, adding that the threat from extremists was grave and immediate for the people of Pakistan as evidenced by some of the violence there recently.

The White House also believes the elections in Pakistan have been “largely fair” and that people were able to express themselves, and that they can have confidence in their vote, Perino said.

Musharraf was asked by the Bush administration to oversee elections that could help restore Pakistanis’ confidence in their government and it appeared he did, Perino added.

Echoing the White House statement on Pakistan, State Department spokesman Sean McCormack Tuesday said: “What we will urge is that those moderate forces within Pakistani politics who now have a seat at the table, so to speak… should band together, should work together for a few goals that are in the interest of Pakistan.”

Those goals should include moving forward with economic and democratic reforms and fighting against violent extremists and terrorists on Pakistani soil, McCormack said.

Musharraf has been one of Washington’s most important allies in the war on terrorism, but his crackdown on opposition groups, the media and democratic institutions have generated protests across the country.

Musharraf’s Muslim League-Quaid (PML-Q) finished a distant third in the election, capturing only 38 of the 272 contested seats in the National Assembly.

The Pakistani Peoples Party (PPP), the party of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, who was assassinated Dec 27, was the biggest victor, winning 255 seats. McCormack expressed confidence the PPP is committed to fighting terrorism.

“That party, more so than any other political party in Pakistan right now, feels acutely the threat from violent extremists and terrorism, having had their party leader recently assassinated,” he said.

“You have a number of different political parties that have in one form or another expressed a deep interest and abiding commitment to fighting violent extremists and fighting terrorists,” he added.

McCormack refused to comment on the speculation that the opposition parties, when they come into power, will try to impeach Musharraf.

“Let us let the government be formed. Again, we will look forward to working with President Musharraf and whatever government flows from these elections,” he said.

When asked whether the US would strongly urge the opposition parties to work with him, McCormack said: “We have and will continue to urge moderate political forces within Pakistan’s political system to work together to strengthen and broaden Pakistan’s democracy.”

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