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Pakistan handling contempt crisis legitimately: US

Publication Date : 04-05-2012


Pakistan is tackling the crisis generated by the Supreme Court’s verdict against the prime minister in a "legitimate and democratic fashion" and within its judicial system, the US State Department said .

The department’s views, expressed at a news briefing in Washington, appear carefully crafted to convey its support to the Gilani government without belittling the judiciary.

Throughout the crisis, the US State Department has maintained a careful approach towards the verdict which the opposition claims has disqualified the prime minister. The government maintains that it has not affected the prime

minister’s legitimacy and Syed Yousuf Raza Gilani will complete the rest of his tenure.

In earlier briefings, US officials avoided making explicit comments on the situation, reminding the questioner that it was Pakistan’s internal issue.

But in the latest briefing, State Department’s deputy spokesman Mark Toner was forced to respond when a reporter accused the US administration of backing the prime minister.

"He is taking the country to a point where the army would be forced to take over. Why are you so quiet, why don't you have any concern?" the reporter asked.

"Well, I would dispute the premise of your question," Mr Toner replied.

"I think we’ve been very clear that we view this as an internal domestic issue but one that is falling on a clear democratic track."

He noted that the dispute was "progressing within the Pakistani judicial system and is being addressed in a legitimate and democratic fashion by the Pakistani judicial system."

When the reporter argued that as a convict Gilani could no longer continue as prime minister and yet the US and its other western allies were not using their influence to force him to step down, Toner disagreed.

"I'm not an expert on the Pakistani Constitution. All that I can say is this case has moved forward through the Pakistani judicial system in a way that we view as consistent with Pakistan's democratic values and in a transparent manner," he said.

"And we don't have any real comment on what is a domestic political issue."

Responding to another question on US-Pakistan relations, Toner noted that the two countries had held several rounds of talks for improving bilateral ties.

He noted that US special envoy Marc Grossman was in Islamabad last week, "building on some of the momentum that we've seen over the past months."

Toner also noted that earlier this month, Pakistan completed a parliamentary review of its ties with the US.

"The Pakistanis have made clear on a number of areas how they want to see the relationship move going forward. We've talked before about the fact that terrorism is an existential threat for Pakistanis," the US official said.

Thousands of Pakistanis, he pointed out, had lost their lives to terrorism.

"So this is a shared struggle. We recognise that. We're committed to working through the problems that we’ve had in the past, because it’s in both our national interests to do so," he said.


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