Washington, Feb 10 : The United States should support President Pervez Musharraf, but with some reservations, the Washington Times has said in its report.
To deal with these reservations, Musharraf should continue to be persuaded and even somewhat pressured and coerced toward reforms more in line with American democratic beliefs.
The US has already acknowledged that the February 18 election will be imperfect. Our goal now must be to pressure Musharraf to make changes in course toward the next elections by opening freedom of assembly and freedom of the press.
Musharraf, himself imperfect and perhaps with some self-serving motivations, is the only man available and capable of holding together the diverse and conflicted society that is today's Pakistan, the paper said.
The Pakistan Army and security services remain loyal to Musharraf and some segments of the people even see the necessity of his "emergency" suspension of democratic institutions and human rights, it added.
Under Musharraf today we see three peoples of Pakistan: Those violently opposed to any restrictions on democracy; those somewhat understanding and tolerant of Musharraf's limitations and "emergency" measures; and the terrorism-inclined fundamentalists.
Meanwhile, Musharraf and his government must be encouraged, persuaded and perhaps somewhat coerced (by selective and targeted withholding of US funds) to eliminate corruption and restore more trustworthy, open and honest media, judiciary, voting and other values, the report said.
On the issue of corruption, the paper said despicable as it is in Pakistan, it is not better or worse than in Iraq today or in past US involvements like Vietnam.
On the issue of Pakistan's nuclear weapons, the report said that Americans need to be aware that the US has been and remains a strong supporter of Musharraf's and all Pakistan Governments in the committed efforts to ensure the safety and security of these national assets at all times and in all circumstances.
This assistance needs to remain and may even be bolstered in any eventuality in which that may be required (though there is no foreseen likelihood of such a need to increase this already robust programme), it added.
The Washinton Times said that the tribal areas are hotbeds of dangerous people and situations that may even harbour Osama bin Laden, his followers and believers. The tribal areas are the current nexus of the worst form of anti-Western terrorism.
Pakistan Army continues to be engaged here and its success varies. Musharraf maintains that US troops are unneeded and unwelcome. Yet there are many other US support operations such as that which eliminated Afghan al Qaeda leader Abu Laith al-Libi in Pakistan at the end of January, it said.
And in late January, Pakistan's government troops clashed mightily with terrorist troops headed by Waziristan insurgent commander Baitullah Mehsud. After that fighting, Pakistan has taken control of Darra Adam Khel, a town that has served as an illicit arms bazaar for about 100 years.
But we still see an eventual possible future need for US troops in the tribal areas. The US needs to be ready to enter if summoned by Pakistan.
Finally, the entire international community seems united in persuading Musharraf to restore and enlarge democratic institutions and principles. His control of the press and judiciary stifles not only terrorists but also needed democratic discourse.
There is great hope in and for Pakistan. Without continued U.S. assistance and support, that hope would be diminished or lost. An imperilled Pakistan is not in the best interests of most Pakistanis, the American people or the rest of the Western world, it concluded.