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October 12, 1999
Cautious US calls for early return to democracy
The Clinton administration appeared to be uncertain of the motive of the army in Pakistan and asked for the earliest possible restoration of democracy, "if there has been a coup" there.
Reacting to the fast-paced developments in Islamabad, state department spokesman James Rubin said it was not yet clear if the army action was a coup. But "if there has been a coup we would obviously seek the earliest possible restoration of democracy in Pakistan", he said.
Official sources said the administration is awaiting details from the US embassy in Islamabad. In the fluid situation in Islamabad, it is difficult to find out who is in charge, they said.
Democratic Congressman Gary Ackerman, in a statement, expressed concern at the reports emanating from Islamabad and said any further setback to the democratic process would not be welcomed.
"The democratic wishes of the people of Pakistan must be respected. We are monitoring the situation very closely with a great deal of concern," he added.
Rubin said, "It is our view that the Pakistani Constitution must be respected in word and spirit. If there has been a coup, we'd seek a return to democracy. Meanwhile, we couldn't continue relations as usual if there had been a coup."
Relying on reports from the US embassy in Islamabad, Rubin said military units had been deployed around airports and radio and television stations. Military units also surrounded Prime Minister Nawaz Sharief's residence.
Rubin said, "The situation is clearly fluid. The country is now in a political crisis."
On the issue of nuclear weapons in the hands of the Pakistani military, Rubin said, "There are no fears at the moment. That doesn't mean the situation can't change."
He said the United States had no advance knowledge of the crisis. But a US official said there had been clear indications that a crisis was brewing and the United States tried to send signals warning against a military coup and martial law.
Rubin said the prime minister had the right to dismiss his military chief, even though he had reappointed him only two weeks ago.
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