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US paper warns Bush against Musharraf
March 02, 2006 20:05 IST
In a strongly worded editorial ahead of President George W Bush's Pakistan visit, a leading American daily Thursday warned him against banking on "unreliable" President Pervez Musharraf who has "suppressed secular democratic parties in the country while striking deals with Muslim extremists."
Bush is being "a lot more credulous" than most Pakistanis who have long ago stopped believing the public pledges of a leader who has broken them on more than one occasion, The Washington Post said.
"Despite Gen. Musharraf's many promises, Pakistan remains a deeply unstable country where the threat of Islamic extremism is great and growing. Though the General may be a tactical ally of the United States against that threat, his refusal to restore democracy in his country has only made it worse," the daily said.
Musharraf has been promising to restore democracy since his coup, yet throughout his years in power he has sought to suppress Pakistan's secular democratic parties while striking deals with Muslim extremists, the editorial said two days before Bush's day-long visit to Pakistan.
"It's time for the United States to stop banking on this unreliable general and start planning for the democratic government that should succeed him," it said.
President Bush paid a surprise visit to Afghanistan yesterday to show support for its emerging democracy, which he rightly said is being watched by "people all over the world," the paper noted.
Then Bush flew to India, where his visit centers on the rapidly growing common interests the United States shares with the world's largest democracy. It's hard to ignore the contrast with the third stop on Bush's foreign tour this week.
The daily then makes the point that surrogates of the General have now begun suggesting that Musharraf will not postpone the elections scheduled for next year.
"In short, Gen Musharraf clearly hopes to prolong his military regime indefinitely, while continuing to enjoy heavy political and economic support from an American president who has dedicated his administration to advancing democracy in the Muslim world," the daily said.
However, the Post said that Bush appears to understand the general's game and is making at least a modest effort to head it off.
In a speech to the Asia Society before his tour, Bush said "the United States and Pakistan understand that in the long run the only way to defeat the terrorists is through democracy," that "Pakistan still has a distance to travel on the road to democracy" and that "the United States and Pakistan both want the elections scheduled for next year to be successful."
The editorial said that when Bush visits Islamabad this week he should also make clear to Musharraf that his alliance with the White House and the Pentagon cannot preclude American support for building democratic institutions in his country.
"That must include efforts to help secular Pakistani political parties get back on their feet and prepare for a genuinely free election in 2007".