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Crisis brewing in Pakistan worries US

By Lalit K Jha in Washington
March 12, 2009 00:01 IST
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Amidst deepening political crisis in Pakistan, the United States on Wednesday conceded that it is a difficult situation in Pakistan but said that Washington supports freedom of speech and expression.

As reports of massive crackdown, arrest and detention of the opposition leaders supporting the march came out, the State Department asserted that it supports freedom of speech, expression and assembly in Pakistan.

State Department's Acting spokesman Robert Wood told media persons at his daily press briefing that the US stand has been that it supports freedom of speech, of expression, and of assembly in Pakistan.

"What we think is important is that the various parties try to resolve their differences within the political system of Pakistan in accordance with its constitution with respect for the rule of law," Wood said.

With stakes very high, the Obama Administration would closely monitor the situation. "But at this point, we want to see all parties refrain from violence and act in accordance, as I said, with Pakistan's constitution," Wood said.

"What we want to see happen on the ground in Pakistan is that the opposition parties, the government act in accordance with Pak constitution. As long as the various parties are refraining from violence, acting in accordance with the rule of law, that's what we'd want to see happen," Wood said.

When asked why the US is not condemning the crackdown on opposition leaders by the Zardari government and the restriction imposed on assembly, the State Department spokesman said: "I've said to you about what our views are with regard to freedom of expression and assembly. That's pretty clear. But it's important that all of the parties, as I've said, act in accordance with Pakistan's laws, the Constitution, and resolve these differences that they may have within the political sphere and not use violence."

Despite repeated questions from reporters, Wood also refrained to give a direct reply in "yes or no" if the US would like to have reinstatement of the judges dismissed by former President Pervez Musharraf.

"That is something that's going to have to be determined by the Pakistanis in accordance with their laws and their constitution. I can't go beyond that," Wood said.

Asked if this new position be interpreted as support for the Zardari government, he said: "I wouldn't give you that interpretation. What I'm saying is there's a difficult political situation on the ground in Pakistan. What we don't want to see is further violence. We want to see the rule of law respected. We want to see freedom of expression and assembly carried out. And that's where we are."

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Lalit K Jha in Washington
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