US warns Pakistan's Musharraf over military aid: diplomats
November 17, 2007: AFP
ISLAMABAD (AFP) — A top US envoy warned Pakistan's President Pervez Musharraf Saturday that Washington will its review military aid to the country unless he lifts a state of emergency, diplomats said.
John Negroponte, number two in the US State Department, met Musharraf for two hours of talks Saturday which diplomats had said he would use to send "a very strong message" to end the two-week-old emergency rule.
Western diplomats said Negroponte told Musharraf "military aid would be under review" if he did not quit the army, hold elections on time, lift curbs on the media and release political prisoners.
"Both sides gave their views very clearly," one diplomat said.
But the military ruler told Negroponte that he could only restore the constitution when the security situation improved, a senior presidential aide told AFP.
"President Musharraf made it clear to the visiting US envoy that the emergency can only be lifted once the situation regarding law and order improves," the aide told AFP.
The talks came a day after Negroponte spoke by telephone with opposition leader Benazir Bhutto, who has scrapped power-sharing talks with Musharraf and urged him to quit.
Since 2001 the United States has given 10 billion dollars in aid to Pakistan, most of it in military assistance to combat Al-Qaeda and Taliban militants.
The United States has previously held off warning Pakistan over military aid, saying threats to cut it could hinder efforts to counter extremism.
Negroponte, the most senior US official to visit Pakistan since the crisis erupted, flew here amid growing US concern at the turmoil in its key ally in the "war on terror."
He also met General Ashfaq Kiyani, Pakistan's deputy army chief of staff under Musharraf and his successor if he hangs up his uniform as promised.
The Pakistani leader, who seized power in a coup in 1999, insists he was right to impose the emergency against Islamic militancy and a meddlesome judiciary.
Musharraf has vowed elections by January 9 but indicated they will be held under emergency rule, angering the opposition who fear it will render any vote a sham.
Pakistan's election commission said it would announce a date for elections next Wednesday.
The Supreme Court meanwhile is set to resume hearing a case on the legality of Musharraf's re-election on Monday. If it gives a positive verdict, Musharraf has said he will hang up his uniform.
Bhutto is in talks with other opposition leaders to try to build a united front that may involve boycotting the polls.
She was heading Saturday to her stronghold of Karachi to ponder her next move, a party official said.
Musharraf, meanwhile, came under pressure from a different source when the party that has kept him in power also urged him to end the emergency.
Mushahid Hussain, secretary general of the Pakistan Muslim League-Q, told Dawn television it would be "appropriate and internationally welcomed" for the emergency to end before elections.
Earlier, authorities moved to shut down two of Pakistan's biggest private television news channels, Geo and ARYOne, which had been broadcasting out of Dubai.
After the shutdown, Geo showed a continuous animated loop of its blue and orange logo being tossed about on a stormy sea, with the words "Please inform them" flashing up.
Media authorities in Dubai said they were considering whether to allow the channels to resume broadcasting.
Elsewhere, the army announced it would launch a major operation "any time from now" to clear militants loyal to a pro-Taliban cleric from the northwest Swat Valley.
POSTCARD USA: A just man in Washington — Khalid Hasan: Daily Times, November 18, 2007
OP-ED: Democracy at gunpoint — Ahmad Faruqui: Daily Times, November 18, 2007