Go soft on Musharraf, US tells Sharifs

Nawaz rejects Army action in Fata; Boucher confirms US troops’ presence in Pakistan

By Babar Dogar

LAHORE: The US has advised the Sharif brothers to adopt a lenient view on the impeachment of President Pervez Musharraf and let him determine his own future, said the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) on Tuesday.

In a briefing to the media after a meeting between US Assistant Secretary on Foreign Affairs Richard Boucher at Raiwind, PML-N Parliamentary Secretary Ch Nisar Ali Khan said: “Nawaz Sharif apprised the US official that President Musharraf’s policy on the war on terror should be reviewed. He said President Pervez Musharraf was conspiring against the process of democracy and the restoration of judges in Pakistan. He said the situation could not improve in Pakistan in the presence of President Pervez Musharraf. He apprised the US official that the nation wanted the restoration of the deposed judges and gave a mandate to the government in the February 18 elections.”

Ch Nisar said Nawaz protested against US-led coalition attacks on Pakistan’s tribal areas and termed the attacks against the sovereignty of the country. “He also conveyed his reservations to Boucher that it was a strange coincidence that whenever the visit of a US official was expected in Pakistan, there was a loss of precious human lives in sudden operations,” he added.

Nawaz categorically stated that the military operation in the tribal areas was not acceptable to his party which wanted to resolve the issue through talks. He said the US should let Pakistan settle its issues by itself. He said if the US could not facilitate Pakistan, it should not, at least, interfere in its internal affairs. He told the US official that during the 48-hour military operation in the tribal areas, they had not received any information of resistance from local people. “The war on terror should get the approval of parliament,” he added.

APP adds: During the meeting, which was also attended by Punjab Chief Minister Shahbaz Sharif, Boucher said US troops were present in some areas of Pakistan. He apprised the media the PML-N would convey its concern over the ongoing operation in the tribal areas to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and PPP Co-chairperson Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday (today).

“The US official told Nawaz the US had a policy of developing friendship with the people of Pakistan, instead of individuals,” he concluded. Boucher also called on Punjab Governor Salman Taseer at the Governor’s House, with a five-member delegation and discussed matters of mutual interests, including the political and economic situation in the country.

The governor told the US team that Pakistan was fighting the war on terror for its own national interest, not for any country. He said few elements with negative thinking could not hold the whole country and nation hostage, adding that those challenging the writ of the government would be dealt with an iron hand. “The government will continue using force and negotiations simultaneously for the elimination of terrorists,” he added.

The governor said terrorism was the biggest threat to world peace and economic development, and Pakistan would not allow terrorists to use its soil for their activities. He said Pakistan had supported the world community wholeheartedly in combating terrorism. “It is a matter of pride for the people of Pakistan to live according to religious values and they consider terrorism against Islam,” he observed.

The governor said the PPP was supporting the PML-N government in the province and allied parties were enjoying a good working relationship. Boucher said Pakistan and the US were important allies in the war on terror, but the basis of their friendly relations was much wider. He said Pakistan’s role in the war on terror was praiseworthy and reiterated that the US would continue to provide all possible assistance to Pakistan.

Source: The News, 2/7/2008

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