Clear Signal for Musharraf from the US: A Timely Comment
BBC June 13, 2007
The opposition Pakistan People's Party has welcomed remarks by US officials regarding President Musharraf's future.
The US state department said on Tuesday it believed Gen Musharraf would seek re-election from parliament after, not before, elections due later this year.
PPP spokesman Farhatullah Babar said it was an endorsement of the party's view. Other parties were more cautious.
The US remarks coincide with talks between a senior US official and election organisers in Pakistan.
We have been saying this all along, and the State Department comments are an endorsement of our view
Pakistan People's Party
Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher also met Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri in Islamabad on Wednesday.
In recent months Gen Musharraf has faced the most serious challenge to his rule since his 1999 coup.
Protests over his suspension of the country's chief justice have escalated into a pro-democracy movement by the opposition.
Many observers have suggested that President Musharraf wants to be re-elected by the current parliament, rather than a new one which may be more hostile towards him.
BBC correspondents say much significance is being attached to Mr Boucher's meeting with Pakistan's chief election commissioner.
They say the purpose of the talks may have been to discuss American reservations over efforts to make the elections free and fair.
Comments by US state department spokesman Sean McCormack on the eve of Mr Boucher's visit made headlines in Pakistan on Wednesday.
A central issue in Pakistan's political crisis is Gen Musharraf's dual role as president and head of the army.
As well as offering his thoughts on the possible timing of a presidential election, Mr McCormack said the US hoped that if Gen Musharraf continues in political life, "he will put aside the uniform".
Mr Babar of the PPP told the BBC that the state department comments suggested US officials had "realised that the political temperature is rising in Pakistan".
We want the people to rise in their own right, and make their own decisions instead of looking to the Americans
Qazi Hussain Ahmed,
"Questions like Musharraf's re-election from the outgoing assembly or his insistance to remain army chief as well as president have become explosive issues."
He said it also showed that "unqualified" US support for Gen Musharraf, a key ally in the US-led "war on terror", was now "untenable".
The Pakistan Muslim League faction of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif said the state department seemed to be adopting a different stance from the White House.
"There is no clear policy line here," one the party's senior leaders, Ahsan Iqbal, told the BBC. "I would wait a little longer before concluding that the US policy has changed for the better."
Qazi Hussain Ahmad, a leader of the six-party Islamic opposition, said the Americans were not to be trusted.
"They would say one thing today, and a completely different thing tomorrow. We don't take them seriously," he said.
"We want the people to rise in their own right, and make their own decisions instead of looking to the Americans."