The US administration has praised Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf for his support for the US "war on terror". More and more, observers are wondering about the US' role in Pakistan's domestic political scene.
Pakistani President Musharraf and US President Bush -- observers wonder why they're still so close
In recent days there has been a whole series of meetings between US officials and Pakistani politicians. Washington has conveyed the message that it wants President Musharraf to stay in power and indicated that they would like the new parliament, when it is formed, to co-operate with him.
But the winning parties -- the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) and the Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) -- are still in negotiation and have not laid out a clear agenda.
The US has influenced the Pakistan’s foreign policy for decades but this time observers think the US is trying to influence domestic matters more than usual.
“They have done it in the past but they have never been so openly involved in Pakistan’s domestic politics,” explained retired General Hamid Gul, the former head of the Military Intelligence Service.
“Arm-twisting, pressurising, trying to manipulate their way -- I don’t really know why they are doing it. Why are they interested in the murder of the judiciary in Pakistan? Why are they so interested that the media should remain muzzled under Musharraf and why do they want to support one man against the nation. It is a murder of a nation of one 165 million people and their wishes, their desires, their pains.”
Afghanistan and domestic matters
But Tanveer Ahmed Khan, a former ambassador to the United States, explained why the US is getting so involved:
“The reasons are two-fold: the major reason is the deteriorating situation in Afghanistan where there is a NATO force and American forces. Pakistan’s intelligence input for the struggle in Afghanistan is of vital nature.”
“The second is that the Americans have in the past one year or so (together with Britain) brokered behind-the-scene deals, which brought Benazir Bhutto back to Pakistan and which persuaded Musharraf to give up his military rank. Therefore, they feel that they are entitled to continue to take some interest.”
Insufficient political awareness
Tanveer Ahmed added that US officials did not have enough contacts with other politicians in Pakistan apart from President Musharraf and are not sufficiently aware of their policies. He thinks this could be a problem.
“The Americans are not entirely sure as to where the political parties stand on the “war on terror”. They are also not sure how far the political leaders will be able to secure the co-operation of the armed forces of Pakistan. It is a way of thinking which most of us don’t share. The “war on terror” is also Pakistan’s war -- no government in Pakistan can ignore it.”
The meetings between US and Pakistani officials are continuing as speculation rises that the two main opposition parties could form a coalition government but experts say it could days before a new parliament is formed in Pakistan.