The Telegraph
Since 1st March, 1999
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Delhi prods US for Pak minus Pervez

New Delhi, Sept. 16: India has been urging the US to look for democratic alternatives to Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan, saying it could be more effective in the global war against terror.

During talks between the Indian leadership and the Bush administration in Washington and New York, one of the main focuses of discussion was the volatile situation in South Asia and Pakistan-sponsored terrorism in Jammu and Kashmir.

Apart from infiltration across the Line of Control, India has been highlighting the lack of democracy in Pakistan in its talks with key members of the West in general and the US in particular. India feels that Musharraf, taking advantage of his closeness to the US, is not only encouraging violence in Kashmir but also trying to alter Pakistani laws to perpetuate his rule.

The Human Rights Commission of Pakistan has expressed apprehensions about the shape of things to come after the October 10 general elections. It alleged that the new laws governing the conduct of the elections and other measures were undertaken by the Musharraf regime “to secure pre-determined results”.

Expressing serious reservation on steps such as “ignoring the views” of an overwhelming majority of the people, political parties and civil society groups, the panel said the Constitution must not be altered in any way other than the procedure prescribed in the basic law itself.

“The regime has carried out changes to the 1973 Constitution to an extent that the basic features of the federation based on parliamentary form of government have suffered erosion,” the panel chairperson Afrasiab Khattak was quoted by Pakistan daily Dawn as saying.

“The HRPC is of the opinion that the post-election dispensation will further polarise society and create new difficulties in the management of state affairs.”

The article, frontpaged in the newspaper, is a clear indication that despite Musharraf’s rising stock in the West, there are large sections in Pakistan who have reservations about his attempts to tamper with the laws of the land to continue in power.

India has argued that the epicentre of the al Qaida has shifted to Pakistan from Afghanistan since the ouster of the Taliban. Though the Taliban and the al Qaida continue to hold pockets in Afghanistan, most of their activities have shifted to safer havens in Pakistan.

The recent arrests of Ramzi Binalshibh and Khaled Sheikh Mohamed — two senior members of the al Qaida’s military wing — and other activists from Karachi indicates how deep the al Qaida has penetrated inside Pakistan. India feels much of this has taken place with the complicity of Pakistani authorities and there is little chance that Musharraf is ignorant of it.

South Block feels the US is in a bind. On one hand, it knows the serious threat that the al Qaida poses to the Americans in particular and civil society in general. On the other, it does not have a choice but to stick around with Musharraf since he is their best bet at the moment. Questions are, however, being raised in the US on the extent of Musharraf’s cooperation in the terror war.

India feels that Musharraf is aware of the American dilemma and is taking advantage of it. Delhi has all along doubted Musharraf’s intention to fight terror. It is of the view that Washington and its western allies should start focusing on his blatant violation of democratic norms and look for leaders who have been elected by the democratic process.

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