US downplays Pak political crisis' impact on war against terrorism

Written by: Anita Nair
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Washington, Jan 4 (ANI): Downplaying the impact of the ongoing Pakistan political crisis on the war on terror, the US State Department has said it is closely watching the "political challenge" within the coalition government, "but meanwhile we're focused on our long-term partnership with Pakistan."

In a daily press briefing, when asked if the US had "absolutely no opinion on what - no concern at all when the government is in crisis and this is your top - you need this government, you need this country as an ally," spokesman Philip J. Crowley replied: "We continue to work closely with this government on the issues that we've outlined as part of our strategic partnership."

In a follow-up question, Crowley was asked that if "you weren't concerned, it would appear that that's some kind of a dereliction of duty if you didn't have any concerns."

"We understand that the government is dealing with a political challenge within its coalition. We're watching it closely, but meanwhile we're focused on our long-term partnership with Pakistan," the spokesman replied.

Earlier during the briefing, he was asked whether the US was concerned "about the situation in Pakistan and what's happening with the coalition government there and especially the timing of it, because it seems like it's very much a big distraction over there when the U.S. would really like to focus on militants."

Crowley responded that it was "about internal politics within Pakistan, which has a parliamentary system, and you have a coalition government, and there are - there's activity within that coalition, and the government is working to clarify what their support is. We'll continue to work with the Pakistani Government. We're building a strategic relationship with Pakistan."

Replying to a question whether he found that the ongoing political wrangling in Pakistan was "diverting attention away from where the US would really like it focused, which is the battle against militants," Crowley said: "Well, I mean, a civilian government, we think, is essential to the future of Pakistan and to building institutions of government that can transform the relationship between the Pakistani people and the government. So we continue to support the Pakistani Government."

"I can't say at this point that the fact that they have this current political situation necessarily distracts them from what they're - what else they're doing," he added.

Regarding a question over the US asking the Pakistan Government to do things that are not necessarily very popular in Pakistan, like fight against militants involving drone attacks, economic reforms and particularly tax reforms, Crowley said that that these were "decisions for the government to make, and these are decisions that are in the long-term interest of Pakistan."

"So we're not asking Pakistan to do something that we do not feel is in Pakistan's interest. Fighting extremists within its borders that is a threat to Pakistani civil society is definitely in Pakistan's interest. Getting its financial house in order is definitely in Pakistan's interest," the spokesman said.

"Building and expanding the capacity of civilian-led government in Pakistan is definitely in Pakistan's interest. But the government obviously has - is confronting a challenge within its coalition. That - these things happen in parliamentary systems all the time," he added. (ANI)

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