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Bush to ask Musharraf to shed uniform
Sridhar Krishnaswami in Washington
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Emergency imposed in Pakistan

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November 06, 2007 03:26 IST

Turning on the heat on Pakistan President Pervez Musharaff for declaring emergency in his country, United States President George W Bush [Images] will ask him to "take off the uniform".

The US also said that holding general elections under the emergency cannot be considered free and fair.

"The President will call on President Musharraf to take off his uniform as he said he would do," said White House Press Secretary Dana Perino.

In the first elaborate enunciation of its views and forthcoming policy towards Pakistan in the aftermath of the declaration of emergency, the White House made it clear that emergency was not needed in the name of fighting terror and ruled out a trade-off between "less democracy" and American assistance in the war on terror.

"The government of the United States is deeply disturbed by the proclamation of emergency in Pakistan....We cannot support emergency rule or the extreme measures that are being taken by President Musharraf. Such actions are not in Pakistan's best interests", Perino said.

He said Musharraf had "taken Pakistan well--pretty far long the path to democracy and this is definitely a setback".

Perino said the US has been currently reviewing its aid to Pakistan and "President (Bush) has been following this issue very closely".

The White House spokesperson added, "You obviously have to get back to civilian rule so that you can have free and fair elections. So, there is a whole package that comes -- it all has to happen at the same time".

Perino said while the US has been reviewing aid to Pakistan, "Pakistan is a strong fighter against terrorists and we have to keep that in mind as we move forward".

"We will review all our assistance programmes. And we are going to be mindful that we should not undermine any of our counterterrorism efforts there either. Pakistan has a difficult situation with many terrorists operating in the northern region.

"President Musharraf had helped to fight against them. These terrorists are the enemy of all innocent people, not just Americans but the Pakistanis as well", Perino said.

The White House spokeswoman said the US would not indulge in give-and-take with Pakistan on the issue of emergency and fighting terror.

"We are not in a give-and-take situation. We want democracy to work. We know that democracy had been working in Pakistan....I think that if they can return quickly -- as Secretary Condoleezza Rice said -- return quickly to the rule of law, they can get back on that path to democracy and we won't face that situation -- an either/or situation" Perino said.

Asked to comment on former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto's [Images] contention that actions against the judiciary,the constitution and civil society amounted to an act of terror, Perino said, "We can only support constitutional measures, measures that are within the constitution.

"These extra-constitutional measures that President Musharraf has undertaken starting late Friday night are deeply disappointing and not something that we can support," she said.

The White House also made it clear that restricting constitutional freedom in the name of fighting terror is unacceptable.

"We do not believe that any extra-constitutional means were necessary in order to help prevent terrorism in the region. That's why we are deeply disappointed with the actions and we asked him not to do it," the White House press secretary said.

Perino said last week Bush had directed Rice to call Musharraf to explain America's deep concern about the possibility of a state of emergency.

"Now that this has taken place, we are going to continue to urge them to end that, get back to civilian rule, to declare that the elections that were scheduled for January are actually going to take place in January, on time. We want the freedom of the press to be restored. We want anyone who has been detained to be released," she said.

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