Amid Pakistan’s crackdown on opposition activists and ban on rallies, the US said political parties should refrain from violence but said Islamabad must respect freedom of speech, expression and assembly.
Conceding that it is a difficult situation in Pakistan, State Department’s acting spokesman Robert Wood told reporters that the US stand has been that it supports freedom of speech, of expression, and of assembly in Pakistan.
“What we think is important is that the various parties try to resolve their differences within the political system of Pakistan in accordance with its constitution with respect for the rule of law,” Wood said in the backdrop of massive crackdown of those supporting the ‘long march’ from Lahore to Islamabad.
When asked why the US is not condemning the crackdown by the Zardari government and the restriction imposed on assembly and march, Wood said: “I’ve said to you about what our views are with regard to freedom of expression and assembly. That’s pretty clear.”
A top US diplomat and British Foreign Secretary David Miliband telephoned Pakistani leaders on Thursday, amid growing political agitation in the volatile nuclear-armed country. “US special envoy to Pakistan and Afghanistan, Richard Holbrooke, called Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani today and discussed with him matters of mutual interest,” the government said in a brief statement. Miliband also called embattled President Zardari and discussed “matters of mutual interests,”spokesman Farhatullah Babar said.
Scores of opposition activists and lawyers were lathicharged and detained at the start of their ‘long march’ here to Islamabad ignoring a ban, as the government offered to hold talks with a defiant Nawaz Sharif to resolve the political crisis but the former premier rebuffed the plea.
As the crisis over the demand for reinstatement of sacked judges deepened, Sharif, leader of the PML-N, accused the government of plotting to kill him.
“Threats to my life come from high-ranking government officials, certain topmost people in the government, my sources say,” the former premier told The Guardian.