US urges Pak to lift of emergency

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Washington, Nov 10: The Bush Administration has called for a quick end to the emergency rule in Pakistan and the release of political prisoners, putting the country back on the a democratic path.

''President Bush joins the Pakistani people in their continued concern about the state of emergency (imposed on November 3) and the curtailment of basic freedoms,'' US National Security Council Spokesman Gordon Johndroe said yesterday.

In a statement, he said, ''We urge Pakistan's authorities quickly to return to constitutional order and democratic norms. All parties in Pakistan agree that free and fair elections are the best way out of the current situation there. Free and fair elections require the lifting of the state of emergency. We therefore, continue to call for an early end to that state of emergency and the release of political party members and peaceful protesters who have been detained.'' Apparently, under the US pressure President Pervez Musharraf had agreed to hold parliamentary election in mid-February and step down as head of the military once the country's Supreme Court ratifies his re-election.

Johndroe said those promises were notable, and President Bush expected the General Musharraf to uphold those commitments.

Later, State Department Spokesman Sean McCormack described as a positive step the Pakistani authorities' decision to release former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto who was put under house arrest to prevent her from addressing a protest rally.

He called upon ''all the responsible members of the Pakistani political class, those forces who want to take Pakistan in the political direction to maintain an atmosphere of calm.'' ''We believe and others believe that it is important that those forces that have a positive vision for Pakistan work together to get Pakistan back on the road to democracy,'' Spokesman McCormack said.

Washington considers Pakistan a key ally in the United States' war against terrorism and it has given to Islamabad more than 10 billion dollars in aid since 2001. the aid is intended to enable Pakistan fight al-Qaida terrorists and Taliban militants.

When asked about the update on the status of the aid review, McCormack said, ''I don't have a timeline for you, but it is ongoing. We are looking at our aid programs with respect to our legal obligations. And then once you perform and complete that task, of course, you have to make a decision about those programs up against where we stand on our bilateral relationship with Pakistan.

And obviously, events in Pakistan will influence that.

UNI

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