Pakistan gives US short shrift

Government says "nothing new" in Negroponte's call to lift emergency rule.

    Negroponte called on Musharraf to end a crackdown on opponents and lift the emergency [AFP]
    'End emergency'
     
    In a news conference before departing Pakistan, Negroponte said he hoped that Musharraf would listen to his appeal to end a crackdown on opponents before legislative elections scheduled for January.

    Special report

    "I urged the government to stop such actions, lift the state of emergency and release all political detainees," Negroponte told reporters at the US embassy.

    "Emergency rule is not compatible with free, fair and credible elections."

     
    But Musharraf has appeared intent on setting his own pace despite warnings from Washington, which has been hesitant to match criticism with actions such as cutting military aid.
     
    Gains by fighters have raised US concerns about Pakistan's ability to combat militancy and flush out remnants of al-Qaeda and the Taliban believed to be sheltering in the country's rugged northwestern tribal areas.
     
    Pakistani army helicopters strafed positions in the northwest on Sunday, hitting a valley where fighters loyal to a pro-Taliban cleric have been battling security forces for months, the army said.
     

    Gains by fighters have raised US concerns
    about Pakistan's ability to combat militancy

    Soldiers also fired artillery and mortar shells at fighters in Swat, inflicting "many casualties", the army said.
     
    Fighters loyal to Maulana Fazlullah, a rebel cleric who wants to impose Islamic rule, have steadily advanced down the Swat valley since July, taking over towns and driving back government forces.
     
    Musharraf has insisted he will only lift the emergency if the national security situation improves, and strongly hinted that such a move was unlikely before parliamentary elections scheduled to be held by January 9.
     
    US nuclear security
     
    His government's response to Negroponte's remarks came on the same day that a US newspaper reported that the US was helping Pakistan keep its nuclear weapons secure in a top-secret programme that has cost Washington almost $100m.
     
    The US programme was reportedly created after the attacks of September 11, 2001 when the US Musharraf as a key ally in its "war on terror".
     
    The New York Times, citing unidentified current and former senior officials, said that for six years, the US has provided equipment and training to ensure that security remains tight for Pakistan's nuclear arms.
     
    It said it had know about the programme - buried in secret portions of the federal budget - for more than three years but had held off publication on a request from the Bush administration, which feared repercussions for national security.
     
    But Pakistani media reports have shed light on the programme and the White House withdrew its demand against publication last week, while remaining unwilling to discuss details of it, the paper said.

    SOURCE: Agencies


    YOU MIGHT ALSO LIKE

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    Interactive: How does your country vote at the UN?

    We visualised 1.2 million votes at the UN since 1946. What do you think are the biggest issues facing the world today?

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    'We were forced out by the government soldiers'

    We dialled more than 35,000 random phone numbers to paint an accurate picture of displacement across South Sudan.

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Interactive: Plundering Cambodia's forests

    Meet the man on a mission to take down Cambodia's timber tycoons and expose a rampant illegal cross-border trade.