|HOME | US EDITION | REPORT|
October 14, 1999
Most Pakistanis In US Back Army Action
A P Kamath in New York
"It does not matter what Clinton or others say about what has happened in Pakistan," says Azeem Siddiqui, an editor of Pakistan, the weekly Urdu language newspaper published here. "Most of Pakistanis here are happy with the action of the army. I am sure it is the same situation in Pakistan."
He says the number of telephone calls his office has received is an indication of the support for the army action. He did not have the numbers. "Within a few hours dozens of people have called," he says.
"Many people look at it as something that was unavoidable," he continues. "Nawaz Sharief asked for it. What the army has done is a reaction to his action, his efforts to destroy democracy, and his betrayal of people's sacrifice in Kargil.
"Come to the mosques on Friday," he adds. "You will see and hear how much support there is for the army."
He knows several high profile Congressmen want to make sure that arms embargo against Pakistan is not lifted. He says Pakistanis are least worried whether their country gets arms from America. "We have survived all kinds of embargoes," he says with a sigh.
Across New York's Jackson Heights, the home for hundreds of Pakistani businesses, and in pockets of New Jersey, many people welcomed the army action in the name of Allah and Kargil; there are an estimated 70,000 Pakistanis in and around New York city.
Siddique says he is somewhat heartened to read that America has not called the army action a coup.
News agencies in Washington quoted a state department official saying the United States called for a restoration of Pakistan's democracy, but refused to term the military ouster of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief as a "coup".
"We want to see the earliest possible restoration of democracy in Pakistan," a senior state department official said, adding however that the country's constitution was open to interpretation and leaving open the possibility that Washington might support the next government.
"We are not in a position to support extra-constitutional action," the official said, speaking on condition of anonymity. "Having said that, the circumstances of the current confrontation are not yet clear...."
Those who were gingerly expressing their dislike for the army action, blamed Bill Clinton for forcing Sharief to order "the freedom fighters" off from Kargil.
"If Clinton had not intervened, there would not have been so much of bad blood between the army and Sharief," says a student who asked for anonymity. "Clinton asked too much from Sharief, but gave him nothing in return. Had America offered big financial aid, Sharief could have saved face. Bill Clinton brought army rule in Pakistan," he says.
He says many Pakistanis will feel sad that once again their country has come under military rule. "Many Americans think we cannot be ruled by civilian government, we cannot have democracy," he continues. "But it is better for a few months to have a clean government led by the army than a so-called democratically-elected government which is corrupt and arrogant."
He pauses for a moment. "But like many other Pakistanis, I too hope that democracy returns soon, and new leaders emerge."
Some Pakistani businessmen in Chicago and New York said America had no moral strength to demand democracy in Pakistan.
"We too want democracy in Pakistan," asserts one businessman who says he has been long been disenchanted with Sharief and Bhutto -- and with American attitude towards Pakistan. "First there should be democracy in India-occupied Kashmir," he says. "America forced Sharif to call off freedom fighters from Kargil but what has America done to help Muslims in India-occupied Kashmir?
They were clearly upset that several prominent Congressmen including Benjamin Gilman, chairman of the House International Relations Committee, and Sherrod Brown, member, HIRC and co-founder, Congressional Caucus on India, had come out strongly against the military coup in Pakistan.
"These congressmen always do what the Indian government wants them to do," said cabbie Mohammad Khan.
In a press release issued yesterday, Gilman had said: "Today's news regarding Pakistan only reinforces my view that the Congress should not provide authority to the President that allows for the resumption of military assistance to Pakistan. The Fiscal Year 2000 Defense Appropriations conference report should be modified to delete this language before the House considers the measure".
Brown also asked for the current embargo on US arms sales to Pakistan be retained. Benazir Bhutto's supporters said while they did not want to justify the coup, they felt Sharief had been usurping power.
"If the army decides to hold elections, and makes sure that there is no corruption or force during the voting, it will be good for Pakistan," said grocery store owner Akbar Khan.
Many of Sharief's supporters refused to speak.
"We all have friends and relatives in Pakistan," said one. "We are going to wait and see what will happen in the next few days."
A few who spoke did so on the condition their names or occupations would not be revealed.
"Benazir is happy, some in India must be happy to see Pakistan in a difficult position," said one Sharief supporter. "But let them not forget that if things become too difficult in Pakistan, there could be thousands more Kargils."
ELECTION 99 |
SINGLES | BOOK SHOP | MUSIC SHOP | HOTEL RESERVATIONS | WORLD CUP 99
EDUCATION | PERSONAL HOMEPAGES | FREE EMAIL | FEEDBACK