| Pervez Musharraf salutes before a speech during a dinner at the Los Angeles World Affairs Council in Beverly Hills on Friday. (AFP)
Los Angeles, June 28 (Agencies): Pakistan’s President Pervez Musharraf today urged the US Congress to approve a proposed $3-billion aid package for his nation without attaching conditions for its use.
Musharraf said Pakistan intended to use much of the five-year aid package proposed this week by President George W. Bush to invest in areas such as education and health care and could be trusted not to divert funds for a military buildup against India.
“Whatever aid one gets, I have told President Bush that we prefer our aid to be free of encumbrances. “In other words, please don’t do micromanagement,” Musharraf told the Los Angeles World Affairs Council on on the fourth day of his visit to the US.
“Our focus is very clear. It is for the economic revival of Pakistan. It is for the social sector of Pakistan. We want to carry the fruits of the economic revival of Pakistan to the people of Pakistan,” he said.
Musharraf has been one of Washington’s most valuable allies, both against the Taliban in neighbouring Afghanistan and against hundreds of members of the al Qaida guerrilla organisation in Pakistan.
Some of the proposed US aid, which still must be approved by Congress, is expected to be used to back an important debt rescheduling for Pakistan.
Musharraf said his government had not set final terms for how it proposed to use the aid package but added that a more detailed announcement would be made shortly.
Musharraf also said Pakistan was poised to benefit if a more stable government could be brought to outlying areas of Afghanistan and said that an international peacekeeping force should remain there for as long as that took to achieve.
Pakistan stands to attract pipelines and communications lines that would connect the Arabian Sea port of Karachi and a new deep water port in Gwadar to the oil and gas-rich Central Asian republics via Afghanistan, Musharraf said.
“I see this as a future for trade and commercial activity in Central Asian republics,” he said.
But at the same time, he said, foreign investment in Pakistan has been scared off in part by the perception that it is a dangerous place, adding he had raised the issue of scaling back US government travel warnings in his meeting with Bush.
Musharraf challenged Muslims to choose moderation, and the US to play a key role forging peace in the world. “All conflicts involve Muslims,” Musharraf said in the speech.
“This has two negative fall outs: Muslims of the world have started thinking that Islam is being targeted, and non-Muslims of the world perceive Islam as a religion of intolerance, extremism, fanaticism,” he said.
“Muslims should choose enlightened moderation over extremism,” Musharraf said.
The US can help with that process, and has “a key role to play in bringing peace to the world,” Musharraf said.
The Pakistani leader, wrapping up a week-long visit to the US, described George Bush as extremely sincere, frank, and easy to get along with.