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US should reward Pak: Musharraf
Simon Denyer in Rawalpindi |
June 16, 2003 09:18 IST
Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf said he will be going to Washington later this month to tell the US government it should do more to reward Pakistan for its cooperation in the war on terror.
Musharraf told Reuters in an interview on Sunday that many Pakistanis feel short-changed by Washington, even though Islamabad has received over a billion dollars in debt forgiveness and hundreds of millions in aid since throwing its weight behind the US-led 'war on terrorism'.
Musharraf faces a vocal Islamist opposition at home which has often criticised him as a US stooge.
"I don't think the issue is that alarming that I have to achieve something before I come back otherwise the government has had it," he said.
"(But) the United States should also realise that Pakistan, as a member of the coalition, as a partner in the coalition which has done so much on the anti-terrorism front that has been recognised, needs to be given assistance which is more visible."
Musharraf, who took power in a bloodless 1999 coup, reversed Pakistan's support for the Taliban regime in neighbouring Afghanistan following the September 11, 2001 attacks on the United States.
Musharraf is due to meet President George W Bush on June 24, and said he would be asking for more market access for Pakistani goods, further debt relief, an end to military sanctions and the chance to buy military hardware.
Pakistan hopes Washington will forgive the remaining $1.8 billion in bilateral debt after writing off $1.0 billion in return for Islamabad's support after the September 11 attacks.
Musharraf said many Pakistanis had still not forgiven Washington for refusing to deliver 28 F-16 fighters in the 1990s because of concerns over the country's nuclear programme.
The planes had already been paid for, but it took eight years for the money to be refunded.
"The F-16 factor is known by any man walking in the street, that we were supposed to get them, and we have still not got them," he said.
"Other than that, on the economic assistance package there is a general feeling we need to get more, but we are dealing with that."
Musharraf said he enjoyed an excellent understanding with Bush and other members of the US administration.
He dismissed reports of a rift with the administration over allegations that Pakistan had leaked nuclear weapons secrets to North Korea, or over allegations that it supported Islamic militants fighting Indian rule in the disputed region of Kashmir.
"They have total understanding of the reality of all the issues -- you've named North Korea, you've named cross-border terrorism," he said.
"Whatever we are doing, they know what we are doing, they believe what we are doing. Credibility and mutual understanding is total, completely irrespective of what is being said in the media."