Pakistan's Ambassador Says Musharraf Resignation Returns Nuclear-Armed Nation to Democracy

Diplomat sends message of reassurance to Washington about Pakistan's commitment to counterterrorism.

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The resignation of Pervez Musharraf as president means "an opportunity for Pakistan to build a democratic system," Husain Haqqani, Pakistan's ambassador to the United States, said Tuesday in Washington. From now on, said Haqqani, "Pakistan's future will be determined by those who are elected."

Haqqani, who spent several years in Washington as a think tank analyst, characterized the announced departure of Musharraf, a close Bush administration ally who as Army chief took power in a military coup, as a historic, direction-changing event in the strategically sensitive, nuclear-armed state. "For the first time, Pakistani politicians are united in the goal of making Pakistani democracy work," he said. "Pakistan has made a transition."

The ambassador predicted that the young, civilian-led elected government would press the fight against Islamic militants in the troubled tribal border districts of the country and that recent Army operations against extremists would spread to additional areas. His remarks appeared designed to assuage the concerns of some U.S. officials, who have quietly worried that Pakistan's ruling parties will try to distance themselves publicly from the United States when it comes to counterterrorism cooperation. But Haqqani also predicted that the United States would not undertake unilateral strikes against purported terrorist targets inside Pakistan.

Haqqani, speaking at the New America Foundation, said that Pakistan's powerful military establishment did not play any political role behind the scenes of Musharraf's resignation. However, he said, military chiefs did refuse to block impeachment moves against Musharraf that had been gaining strength in Pakistan's parliament—a rebuff to Musharraf and a sign that the coup-prone Pakistani military may be accepting a new role for itself.

Said Haqqani, "The military doesn't want to be blamed for the political decision of any individual."