US silence on judges' reinstatement questioned

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Washington, Mar 1: US Senators have criticised the US administration for backing away from its insistence on an independent judiciary in Pakistan and for siding with President Pervez Musharraf in his refusal to reinstate the suspended judges.

They also questioned the Bush administration's continued silence over the issue. Senator Barbara Boxer, a Democrat, claimed that the Bush administration remained wedded to a policy that would keep the embattled Musharraf in power despite his weakness and lack of support. US Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte asserted that the country didn't have any concrete policy over the issue of reinstatement of judged in Pakistan. "We have not -- we have been silent on the subject," the Dawn quoted him as saying when asked if the US administration had a policy regarding the reinstatement of judges in Pakistan.

Speaking at a congressional hearing, he added: "This is something that we believe the Pakistanis themselves are going to have to sort out. And I think that it's something will be taken up in their legislature and we will watch that discussion with interest."

He further said that the US was "certainly not trying to block any changes of any particular kind, nor do we have some kind of prescription or formula for how they should go about reforming or improving their own judicial system".

Democrat Senator Robert Casey noted that instead of siding with the suspended Pakistani judges, the Bush administration was pressurising the new Pakistani leadership to stop their calls for reinstatement of the judges.

Similarly, Senator Barbara Boxer, another Democrat, said that she felt "very disturbed" by the US administration's seeming ambivalence on the issue. She said that while Washington was spending billions of dollars in Iraq to set up a judiciary, it was not trying to help a country which already had one. "Imagine what would happen if President Bush went to the microphone and said: 'Today I'm firing the Supreme Court and all the judges can go home!'", she added.

She recalled that the recent sacking of an attorney had caused uproar in the US while the Bush administration remained silent on the purge of the entire judiciary in an allied nation.


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