These critics seem to have no clue as to the dangers Musharraf faces if he were to support even more the US war against terrorism by clamping down further on Islamists in Pakistan. Even now he may be overthrown because of his handling of the mosque affair. His troubles are just beginning.
Bushites grilled over Musharraf allianceArticle from: Agence France-PresseFont size: Decrease Increase Email article: Email Print article: Print July 13, 2007 09:43am
US President George W. Bush's administration has come under intense grilling in Congress for its unconditional support for Pakistan leader Pervez Musharraf.
Just days after the military strongman ordered troops into an Islamabad mosque to flush out Islamic militants in a daring assault that left 86 people dead, lawmakers doubted his ability to take strong action to reign in the problem and called for a re-evaluation of US policy towards Pakistan.
They accused Mr Musharraf of thwarting democracy, turning a blind eye towards the growing ranks of the Taliban and Al-Qaeda militant groups and lacking the ability or will to crack down on terrorist training camps in his country.
A lawmaker cited reports which he said confidently spoke of Osama bin Laden hiding in a training camp near the Pakistan-Afghan border, not far from Peshawar, the capital of Pakistan's North West Frontier Province and a base of support for the Red Mosque stormed into by military commandos this week.
"Yet somehow President Musharraf has not been able to find it,'' remarked Christopher Shays, a ranking lawmaker from Bush's Republican party.
"How de we in Congress justify to the American people writing checks for billions of dollars to a regime that may not be the partner against terrorism the US needs it to be, but may actually be hurting national security interests of the United States and our allies?'' he asked at a Congressional hearing.
"Our support cannot be conditional,'' Mr Shays told the hearing, where US Assistant Secretary of State Richard Boucher, the Bush administration's pointman on Pakistan policy, was pounded with questions.
There is a "growing chorus'' calling for a significant reevaluation of US policy toward Pakistan, said Democratic lawmaker John Tierney, head of a House of Representatives panel on national security and foreign affairs.
He accused Mr Musharraf of extending only "tepid'' co-operation in controlling extremism and disrupting terror networks.
"The Red Mosque is merely a stark symbol of a deeper and more pervasive problem in Pakistan, where there are far more jihadists, extremist madrassas, Al-Qaeda operatives, Taliban safe havens and international terrorist camps than Pakistani government officials are willing to admit,'' he said.
Mr Boucher replied that Mr Musharraf was striving to turn Pakistan into a modern, open, prosperous, democratic state, was a moderate voice in the Islamic world and that it was "strongly in the US national interest that Pakistan succeeds in realising this vision.''
He said despite the charges leveled against Mr Musharraf's administration in the fight against extremism, "its contribution has been significant.''
There are 85,000 Pakistan security forces stationed on the rough terrain of the Afghanistan border region while more than 450 of them have died in support of anti-terror efforts, Mr Boucher said.
Even though there were parts of Pakistan where the government did not hold sway, he said Islamabad had in recent months been arresting an increasing number of militant leaders.