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US pushes Musharraf to do more for democracy in Pak

The US describes Musharraf as a good friend and a staunch ally in the war on terror.
IANS | By Arun Kumar, Washington
UPDATED ON MAR 17, 2007 11:25 AM IST

The United States says while some progress has been made towards Pakistan's democratic development under president Pervez Musharraf, there is absolutely more to do.

The United States is encouraging Pakistan's democratic development, state department spokesman Sean McCormack said on Friday. "Changes ... have been made. And President Musharraf has made progress in that regard.

"Is there more to do? Yes, there is. Absolutely," he said.

McCormack described Musharraf as "a good friend and ally in the War on Terror," who "has a vision for Pakistan in terms of political and economic and social reform." He added that Musharraf is "acting in the best interests of Pakistan and the Pakistani people".

Musharraf also believes cooperation in the War on Terror is important, and that terrorists "pose as great a threat to Pakistan's future as anything else," he said.

Telling reporters Musharraf has escaped two assassination attempts from terrorist groups, McCormack said the Pakistani leader "understands what's at stake not only for the rest of the world, but for Pakistan itself".

Asked if protests in Pakistan following the suspension of chief justice Iftikhar Muhammad Chaudhry had made Musharraf more vulnerable, McCormack said, "I'm not going to try to play a political analyst standing up here."

"But the ability of a free press to operate in a developing democracy and the ability to freely express oneself in a developing democracy are important to the development of that democracy and that in the end (it) only serves to strengthen the country rather than weaken it."

McCormack said President Musharraf addressed the Pakistani police action raid against independent


, in which the station was prevented from broadcasting news of the protests.

"[H]e has said that those actions should not have taken place and that the journalists and TV media should be able to be free to report on events that are transpiring in their country."

McCormack said US has urged Pakistani authorities and protesters to "exercise the utmost degree of restraint" in the wake of violent clashes following Chaudhry's Mar 9 suspension by Musharraf.

The dispute between President Pervez Musharraf's government and the Pakistani judiciary over the judge's removal "needs to be worked out within the confines of Pakistani law, tradition and their constitution."

It would be helpful if the process is done in a "completely transparent and aboveboard" manner, and the Pakistani government explains its actions, he added.

"[C]learly, there was a confrontation between the police and the protesters that led to the use of tear gas and other actions by the police. We would just urge both sides to exercise restraint. Protesters should be able to exercise their right to freely voice their opinions with respect to political matters, and the police have a job to do as well," McCormack said.

"We would just urge that in doing that job, they allow for the free protests and that neither side takes actions that would deliberately provoke the other into a violent confrontation. That's the way that this needs to work," he continued.

McCormack said Secretary of State Condoleeza Rice had not talked to anyone in Pakistan, but "she of course is being updated on the situation as she would be on other world events."

US Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Aaffairs Richard Boucher had met with Pakistani officials Mar 15 to discuss the situation and the events proceeding it and US Ambassador to Pakistan Ryan Crocker also has spoken to officials "to better understand the situation."

The spokesman said he hoped that "in the days ahead," further clashes "could be avoided".

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