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US to pursue own national interests in Pak

US State Department spokesman says, "We are going to continue to pursue our national interests with respect to Pakistan, involving working on fighting the war on terror."
IANS | By Arun Kumar, Washington
UPDATED ON MAR 11, 2008 10:54 AM IST

The US says it will continue to pursue its national interests in Pakistan largely involving working on fighting the war on terror, while leaving it to the Pakistanis to work out their new power-sharing arrangements.

"We are prepared to work with the government as it goes forward on issues of mutual concern," State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said on Monday when asked to comment on reports that Pakistan's main opposition parties had demanded restoration of judges sacked by President Pervez Musharraf.

"And certainly, we are going to continue to pursue our national interests with respect to Pakistan and it's no secret that those involve, in large part, working on fighting the war on terror," he added.

In US view, however, "their success in fighting extremists, violent extremists and terrorists, whether they're in Pakistan or the border regions along the Pakistan and Afghanistan border, is furthered by having a stable, prosperous, more democratic Pakistan," McCormack said

He defined such a Pakistan as "one that is back on the pathway to democracy, one in which the people have confidence in their government that is working for them and one in which they have confidence in the institutions of Pakistan, including the judiciary".

The spokesman came out in support of a democracy after first insisting "I'm not here to be a lawyer for either side. That's not my job".

"My job is to talk about what US policies are and, you know, it is our view that these are issues that need to be handled solely by the Pakistanis, they need to be decided on only by the Pakistanis. You know, we don't have a vote in this nor should we," he said.

McCormack said: "it's completely their prerogative to put forward a political initiative. I think they are on the pathway to forming a government now and are likely discussing the platform for that government.

"And those decisions, what's in the platform and who's in the government and what sort of power-sharing arrangements there are within the Pakistani political system, entirely up to the Pakistanis within the confines of their law - their laws and their constitutions."

When a reporter suggested that the US did not want to call for the restoration of the judges as it feared they would declare key ally Musharraf 's selection to be illegal, McCormack said: "No. Look, those are entirely their decisions to make."

"This is Pakistani democracy and these are Pakistani laws and the Pakistani constitution and we're not in the business of interpreting their laws or their constitution for them," he said. "Any of the actions that they take within their political system and any of the outcomes of those actions are going to be generated entirely by Pakistanis, not by us."

Asked if it wouldn't be a good idea to have an independent judiciary in Pakistan, McCormack said: "If you're in Pakistan, there are two sides to that question that you have. As a general matter, an independent judiciary that upholds the application of the rule of law? Absolutely.

"But again, you will get within the Pakistani political system, as I have read about it in the newspapers, a dispute as to the interpretation of Pakistani laws and the Pakistani constitutions."

Meanwhile, the White House said Monday it was closely watching Pakistan's political wrangling but wouldn't comment except to say that it hoped for continued "good relations".

"We obviously watch the situation with interest but I will tell you that this is the Pakistanis working through their democratic process," spokesperson Dana Perino told reporters.

"Obviously we've had good relations with Pakistan in the past several years, we fully expect that to continue but we are not going to comment on what they should or should not do as they work through their process," she said.

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