WASHINGTON: Any impeachment of Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf is unlikely to hamper US “war on terror” efforts, experts say, as Washington quietly hopes the military will remain on the fringes amid political tensions in Islamabad. The US State Department reacted cautiously to the move Thursday by Pakistan’s ruling coalition to impeach Musharraf, saying it was an “internal” matter, underlining however the rule of law and democracy.
“We have consistently said the internal politics of Pakistan is an issue for the Pakistani people to decide,” said State Department spokesman Gonzago Gallegos, pointing out that Washington and Islamabad “remain close allies in the war on terror.” He said that any action taken against Musharraf, the former military head and a key US ally since he seized power in a 1999 coup, should be “consistent with the rule of law and the Pakistani constitution.”
Even though Musharraf maintained close links with the Pakistani military after stepping down as army chief in November last year, experts said his possible removal would have little impact on the counterterrorism campaign. “I don’t think Musharraf is indispensable, neither to the war on terror nor Pakistan’s role in the war on terror,” said Bruce Riedel, a former CIA officer now with the Washington-based Brookings Institution.
Since September 11, 2001, when Al-Qaeda attacked the United States, the terror networks “safe haven and sanctuary in Pakistan grew enormously under General Musharraf’s watch,” he pointed out. “It came much more dangerous during the years of his military dictatorship, so I don’t think he can be seen as critical” to Washington now, Riedel said.
He said that while there was still “tremendous sympathy” for Musharraf in the White House, “I don’t think that extends beyond that, to the Congress.” Musharraf should just resign, Riedel said. “I think that Pakistan needs now to focus on the very many different difficulties it faces politically and economically and the best way to speed that process and remove the uncertainty would be for Musharraf to make a graceful exit,” he said.
A three-way power struggle among the two ruling coalition parties and Musharraf which entered its fourth month has distracted the fledgling Pakistani government from dealing with rising economic and terrorism challenges, experts said.
While The European Union on Friday termed the impeachment of President Musharraf by the ruling coalition as Pakistan’s internal matter. A spokesman for the European Union said that the issue be resolved according to the constitution and law, saying that all legal ways be adopted during the impeachment process. He said the EU was keeping a close eye on the situation.-SANA