View Full Version : Bush Makes Effort To Salvage Rule By Musharraf

11-16-2007, 09:32 AM
Bush makes effort to salvage rule by Musharraf


By Paul Richter and Laura King
Los Angeles Times / November 16, 2007

WASHINGTON - Fearing the collapse of a friendly government, the Bush administration has begun a concerted public effort to salvage the presidency of Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf by pushing him to compromise with political opponents and abandon emergency rule, US officials said yesterday.

US envoys intend to warn their longtime ally that they believe his power is ebbing, that he must lift the two-week-old emergency decree and work with former prime minister Benazir Bhutto and other opposition figures to stabilize the country.

Underscoring the warning will be an implied threat that if he doesn't take such steps, Washington is ready to deal with others who will, officials said.

The new tack reflects the Bush administration's belief that the weakened Musharraf remains their best bet, but that greater pressure and appeals to others within Pakistan are needed to elicit his cooperation. As part of their efforts, the Americans might appeal directly to Pakistan's all-powerful military, calculating that influence from Musharraf's officer corps is vital to ending the widening political chaos.

Deputy Secretary of State John D. Negroponte, who is scheduled to arrive in Pakistan today to deliver the tough new message to civilian and military leaders, said yesterday that the political process in Pakistan has been "derailed."

"Our message is that we want to work with the government and the political actors of Pakistan to put the political process back on track as soon as we can," Negroponte said in Mali, at the end of a four-nation African tour.

In addition to meeting with Musharraf, Bhutto, and Foreign Secretary Riaz Mohammed Khan, Negroponte will see Ashfaq Kiani, the number two military official.

Hours before Negroponte's scheduled arrival, authorities freed Bhutto from house arrest, canceling a detention order issued three days earlier. The order was intended to prevent her from leading demonstrations against Musharraf's emergency decree.

Bhutto has called on Musharraf to step down and said she would form pacts with other opposition political parties. But US officials said that with the political opposition divided, such combinations would be weak and any workable government would need support from the army.

At the same time, some US officials acknowledge that even if he remains in office, Musharraf is unlikely to regain his prior political standing or influence.

US officials prefer to convince Musharraf to lift emergency rule before parliamentary elections scheduled for Jan. 9 and to give up his leadership of the army. But if that fails, they said, they could build pressure by withdrawing aid to Pakistan or appealing directly to the military.

Convincing Musharraf might prove difficult. He repeatedly has refused to surrender military power or to collaborate with Bhutto, and he has shown signs of a growing resentment of US influence. The Pakistani Army appears to remain loyal to him, although the emergency order has caused unease in the ranks.

As the crisis has stretched through a second week, questions about Musharraf have begun emerging. Western diplomats in recent days have been alarmed by the combative and even erratic tone taken by Musharraf, whose popular support has been ebbing since the spring. In a recent televised speech, Musharraf was sweating heavily and his tone was hostile and defensive.

In Washington, officials affirmed their support for Musharraf, even while insisting that it is up to Pakistanis to choose their leaders.

President Bush believes Musharraf has been "a very good ally" to the United States, said Dana Perino, the White House press secretary. She added that there are other "moderate forces in Pakistan" who also want a better future for the country.

US officials said they expect Negroponte's visit to be tense.