"Let there arise out of you a band of people inviting to all that is good enjoining what is right and forbidding what is wrong; they are the ones to attain felicity".
(surah Al-Imran,ayat-104)
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User Name: mohsin814
Full Name: Mohammad M Ansari
User since: 21/Jan/2008
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US overcomes Musharraf phobia to support new set-up
Several key policy messages will be delivered next week to Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani and his coalition partners, including a firm assurance that Washington had got over its Musharraf phobia and was willing wholeheartedly to politically and economically support the new government.

"We have been told in very clear terms that the Bush administration wanted the political government to take charge of all national policies, take decisions and organise itself without fear or what others may be thinking or saying and Washington will back them," a senior diplomat in Washington said on Wednesday.

The timeframe to test out the new leadership in Pakistan and to give them political space is broadly being mentioned as six months to one year in which the Americans will patiently try to work with the civilian government, modifying their habit of issuing orders to military rulers who in turn would issue orders and get things done.

But the administration would emphasise that decisions regarding the war on terror should be taken keeping the interests of Pakistan's allies, their views and goals in view and every party must be consulted and taken into confidence on these decisions.

While top US military, intelligence and government leaders are repeatedly making their positions clear, including their annoyance at failure of Pakistan to deal with the Taliban and al-Qaeda in Fata, and press for more military action, there is a sort of resigned acceptance that if a dialogue with the militants can produce positive results, the new government should be provided the space to try this option.

"Washington is telling us clearly that they are not interested in Pakistan's domestic affairs but there is a growing expectancy that the new government should exercise its authority over major domestic issues, including the economy and domestic terrorism," Pakistani sources here say.

"We have been told that President Musharraf will not be mentioned at any level by the Bush administration and neither should the Pakistanis do so," one Pakistani official who will be part of Gilani's team said.

To reassure the new Pakistani leaders that Washington had shifted gears and changed its Musharraf-centric policy, an important list of goodies has been prepared by the US officials, which will be revealed during the talks.

On top of the list is the Biden-Lugar aid bill which provides $1.5 billion annual economic aid for five years followed by clearing up several pending projects, including delivery of remaining F-16 aircraft and some war equipment to fight terrorists in the next few days, signing of a bilateral investment treaty and money for setting up of Reconstruction Opportunity Zones or ROZs in the tribal belt.

These specific measures are to be backed up by support for pushing larger policy initiatives, including improvement of ties with India and Afghanistan and stabilising the political system, diplomats say.

While all of these messages are being conveyed privately to Pakistani leadership through diplomatic channels, publicly the US agenda is loud and clear with priorities set in the order: that first al-Qaeda has to be sorted out, then Fata Taliban and then Pakistan's nuclear programme.

These priorities were listed by a senior intelligence official at a briefing at Brookings Institute some days ago and he was more than specific in stating that Washington will pursue these priorities.

Diplomats expect that the same priorities will be spelled out in detail when Prime Minister Gilani meets President Bush, Vice-President Cheney, Condoleezza Rice and others. While President Bush will talk in general terms, the riot act will be read to Gilani by Cheney and Rice while Negroponte and Boucher will spell out the details of what the US expects in return for the full backing and support to the political government.

One positive result of the Gilani visit will, however, be the fading away of Gen (retd) Pervez Musharraf from the US radar as everyone says he is now a thing of the past and should be allowed to disappear into history.

"We have been told Musharraf will not be mentioned at any meeting," a Pakistani diplomat said. Others handling the logistics and lobbying arrangements for Pakistan privately say Musharraf will be out of the scene within weeks, latest by September and Washington will not shed any tears for him. The only question now is whether he would be allowed a peaceful and safe exit or will he be dragged into troubled times, like he did with his political rivals for years.
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