Pak's internal politics will influence US aid

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Washington, Oct 4: Two senior US senators have warned Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf in a letter that future US aid will be
influenced by Pakistan's progress toward democratic, civilian-led rule. Democrats Joe Biden and Patrick Leahy, who chair key Senate committees on
foreign policy and foreign aid, sent the letter last week as Pakistan prepared for an election set for this Saturday that is expected to return Musharraf as president.

Biden and Leahy cited recent decisions on the election's conduct -- including Musharraf's standing for re-election while remaining as army chief -- that they said could discredit the political process and tarnish results. They were also concerned the president will be chosen by the current parliament and assemblies, rather than an electoral college due to be constituted after upcoming parliamentary and assembly elections.

''We have watched events of recent weeks with considerable unease,'' Biden, of Delaware, and Leahy, of Vermont, said in the September 28 letter obtained by Reuters yesterday.

The senators described themselves as ''friends of Pakistan'' who looked forward to ''promoting significant support'' for it. But they warned, ''The degree to which we will be able to do so will be directly influenced by the political developments of the coming weeks.'' Biden chairs the Foreign Relations Committee and Leahy chairs the State and Foreign Operations Appropriations subcommittee.

Pakistan, an important ally in the US war on terror, this year received about 700 million dollars in US economic and military aid. In 2008, it is  expected to receive more than 800 million dollars.

Congressional aides estimated Pakistan also has received some 10 billion dolars in US counter-terrorism aid in the last six years, as Washington has enlisted Musharraf's help to root out al Qaeda and the Taliban in the wake of the September 11 attacks.
But US lawmakers have become more vocal about their expectations of Musharraf, a general who took power in a 1999 coup. Last summer Congress passed a measure tying US aid to Pakistan to its progress in cracking down on al Qaeda, the Taliban and other militants.

That legislation also called for Pakistan to implement democratic reforms, including allowing ''free, fair and inclusive elections.'' Musharraf has been trying to reach a power-sharing deal with Pakistan's former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, but she said yesterday that the talks had stalled and she expected her party's members of parliament to resign.

Bhutto, who plans to return to Pakistan on October 18 after eight years of exile, accused Musharraf of failing to deliver on promises of a return to
democracy.


Reuters>

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