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October 15, 1999
US may rap Pakistan with fresh sanctions
The Clinton administration may impose a fresh dose of economic sanctions on Pakistan for toppling the elected government.
Assistant Secretary of State for South Asian Affairs Karl Inderfurth, during a Senate panel hearing Thursday on the political crisis in Pakistan, drew attention to section 508 of the Foreign Operations Appropriations Act.
The Act, he said, ''contains a prohibition against a broad range of assistance for a country whose democratically elected head of government is deposed by military coup or decree. We are now in the process of making the legal determination that such sanctions should be applied,'' he said.
He, however, hastened to add: ''As a practical matter, most forms of assistance were already prohibited for Pakistan under the Glenn Amendment and other statutory restrictions.''
Inderfurth had earlier agreed with Senate Panel Chairman Sam Brownback's assessment that what had happened in Islamabad on Tuesday was a military coup under any normal definition. ''Indeed, the definition does meet that of section 508, and as I said in my [written] testimony, we are preparing the formal legal determination of that now.''
Indications in Washington are that the US would formally decide on the sanctions only after hearing from its Ambassador in Pakistan, Bill Milam, who is scheduled to meet coup leader General Pervez Musharraf some time Friday in Islamabad.
He will deliver to General Musharraf a message from the US government that democracy and civilian government should be restored as early as possible.
''He will also make clear that we expect that prime minister [Nawaz] Sharief and all other detainees will be treated properly," Inderfurth said. ''We understand that Prime Minister Sharief, his brother, the chief minister of Punjab, Shahbaz Sharief, some cabinet members and General Ziauddin, head of the intelligence services, remain under house arrest.''
The US called upon the military authorities to ensure their safety.
Inderfurth said it was unclear whether General Musharraf intended to remain in political control even in the short term.
While Indian forces had gone on alert, this appeared to be only a precaution. ''There does not appear to be a heightening of tensions between India and Pakistan. The official Indian reaction, as expressed in statements of Prime Minister A B Vajpayee and others, has been cautious and low-key,'' he added.
''With respect to foreign policy, February's euphoria, the good will at bus diplomacy and the historic summit meeting in Lahore between Prime Minister Sharief and Vajpayee, had dissipated by this summer. The reason was Kargil,'' he added.
Inderfurth said the "serious and deadly" fighting in the region ended only when Sharief, in a meeting with US President Bill Clinton at Blair house in Washington on July 4, made the ''wise and courageous decision to take steps to encourage the intruders to withdraw.''
He said Sharief's decision engendered strong opposition in Pakistan. Some argued that it was a mistake to withdraw. ''We could not disagree more. It was the right thing to do. The mistake was to launch the incursion in the first place. Civilian and military leaders alike, at the highest level of government, share responsibility for that grave error which set back the prospect of reconciliation with India, which had seemed so promising at Lahore, and also raised the prospect of a larger war between two nuclear-capable adversaries,'' he added.
He said the US was consulting key states regarding the situation and had a great many important issues to address with Pakistan. These included contributing to the development of stable, peaceful relations with India, averting a nuclear arms race in South Asia and stabilising the situation in Afghanistan.
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