Senators, Pakistanis Talk Democracy
ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (AP) - The first U.S. legislators to visit Pakistan since the military staged a bloodless coup and took power three months ago will seek a timetable for a return to democracy, a U.S. Embassy spokesman said today.
The four Democratic senators _ Minority Leader Tom Daschle of South Dakota, Christopher Dodd of Connecticut, Harry Reid of Nevada and Daniel Akaka of Hawaii _ are to arrive Thursday for a two-day visit.
Discussions with Pakistani officials will try to determine when this poor country of 140 million people will return to democratic rule, said Mark Wentworth of the U.S. Embassy.
The United States was muted in its criticism of the military takeover of Oct. 12, limiting its criticism to demands for a timetable for a return to democracy.
Gen. Pervez Musharraf has refused to set a date, saying his agenda is a lengthy and difficult one. According to the general, his priorities are to try to heal the country’s ailing economy and clean out a deeply corrupt system.
With an annual per capita income of barely $400, Pakistan is one of the poorest countries in the world. It also is heavily indebted to international lending institutions.
Musharraf accused deposed premier Nawaz Sharif of driving the country toward economic ruin.
Musharraf’s military-run government has welcomed the visit of the American lawmakers, although it wasn’t immediately known whether the general would meet them.
According to a Pakistan foreign ministry statement issued today, the four senators will meet ``the Pakistani leadership,″ with whom they will discuss ``important bilateral and multilateral foreign policy and security issues.
``The U.S. Senate delegation’s visit is important as it would be the first congressional visit after the change of government last October,″ said the foreign ministry statement.
``It will provide the Senators an opportunity to obtain a better understanding of the Pakistan government’s policies and priorities and the measures being taken for economic revival, rebuilding of institutions, democratization and establishment of rule of law.″