Musharraf to keep democracy going: Pakistan envoy

By Arun Kumar, IANS

Washington : Pakistan’s Ambassador to the US, Mahmoud Ali Durrani, says former prime minister Benazir Bhutto’s assassination has only firmed up Islamabad’s resolve to fight extremism and terrorism and “keep democracy going”.

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“This has been done by terrorists, and this should firm up Pakistan’s resolve to fight extremism and terrorism. And we will, god willing, keep democracy going in Pakistan,” he told reporters here Thursday.

He had spoken to Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf, “and he also expressed his shock and condemnation. And he says we strongly condemn this terrorist act,” said Durrani.

“You know, we have no solid information, but I am almost 90 percent sure that it is the extremist terrorists who have been hitting other innocent people that hit former prime minister Bhutto, too,” he said “But I’m sure there will be an investigation, absolutely.”

Denying any Pakistan government responsibility “for not protecting her as well as perhaps she should have been”, Durrani said, “Well, I personally don’t think so, because the government has done its best.”

“But this was a large, large rally (at Rawalpindi). It was in a big – what we call Liaquat Bagh. It’s a big rallying area. There have been political rallies before. And I recollect many, many years back one of our political leaders was also assassinated here.

“She has addressed rallies. This is a big place, and there are masses of people moving around. So in those circumstances, I think the world’s best security can have limitations,” he added.

Durrani also assured “the American public that Pakistan has gone through many crises before. It’s gone through war. It’s gone through assassination attempts. It’s gone through, you know, natural calamities.

“And our people are resilient, tough. And I think, god willing, we will come out of this crisis too with flying colours. This will only improve the Pakistanis’ resolve to fight extremism and terrorism,” he said.

Asked if the election process would continue, Durrani said: “To the best of my knowledge, it will continue.” But added, “This depends a lot on the opposition leadership in Pakistan.”

“Absolutely, Pakistanis have hope for democracy because Musharraf is committed,” he said in response to a question.

Musharraff, who recently shed his general’s uniform at Washington’s bidding, he said “had three phases for democracy: first time when he was chief executive or more or less military ruler; then he as a military president, with a parliament; and now his hope that he is as a civilian president, a full-fledged democracy.”

“So I think Pakistanis, by and large, want democracy, and I think this is what they’ll get,” he added.

Asked how confident he was that those who are trying to promote democracy in Pakistan are going to be able to do so without putting their lives or their families’ lives at risk, he said: “…the simple answer that I have is that the overwhelming majority of Pakistanis are liberal, and they want democratic (dispensation).”

“And I think irrespective of the threat to their lives they are going to stick with democracy, and I think that should – in the long run democracy will flourish in Pakistan,” he added.

On Bhutto’s legacy, Durrani said: “…I think her legacy as I see it – there are other views – I think it is a liberal democracy, a moderate Pakistan, a progressive Pakistan.”