Source AP ©

United States more concerned about terrorists than democracy flourish in Pakistan

President Gen. Pervez Musharraf's legal team member thinks that the United States is more worried about fighting terrorists than about seeing democracy flourish in Pakistan.

Ahmad Raza Khan Qasuri, a senior advocate at Pakistan's Supreme Court, also warned the United States, which has criticized Musharraf's recent crackdown on political opponents, that "we expect from our friends advice, not dictation. We are a sovereign country."

"Do we ask for a checklist from the United States: `Why did you go to Iraq?' `Why did you go to Afghanistan?"' he said at the Middle East Institute. "The United States, instead of dictation, they should give us friendly advice."

Musharraf suspended Pakistan's constitution Saturday after assuming emergency powers. He has since ousted independent-minded judges, put a stranglehold on the media and granted sweeping powers to authorities to crush dissent.

The United States has pressed the general, who seized power in a 1999 coup, to hold elections on time and to end the emergency. Other foreign powers also are urging Musharraf to keep a promise to quit his powerful army post.

Asked whether he expected the United States to cut back aid it provides Pakistan because of the state of emergency, Qasuri said: "I think the U.S. is more interested in the security of the region rather than the democratic values."

"We are helping the United States to curtail terrorism," he said.

Qasuri said he had no plans to meet with lawmakers or the Bush administration. He said he came to the United States to participate in meetings at the United Nations.

Musharraf says he suspended the constitution because the courts were hampering his country's efforts against extremism. Opponents accuse him of mounting a last-ditch maneuver to stay in power.

Musharraf purged the Supreme Court just before it was to have ruled on the legality of his contested re-election as president last month.

Qasuri said the public and political parties have not taken to the streets in protest - only lawyers, who he said are complaining because they have a professional stake in the system.

"A massive silent majority of the people of Pakistan" support Musharraf, he said, and feel that "the integrity and solidarity of the country is much more important than the holding of elections."

Others have said that Pakistan's poor are reluctant to protest because being arrested would cause their families to go hungry.

Thousands of people have been rounded up and put in jail or under house arrest. Opposition leader Benazir Bhutto is urging her supporters to rally against emergency rule.

During his comments Wednesday, Qasuri bristled at suggestions that Musharraf is a dictator. Someone in an army uniform who has a "democratic attitude," he said, "can much more positively serve the people of his country than a democrat who is from inside a dictator."

"When the democrats come into power, they are not satisfied with their constitutional power, they want to exert extraconstitutional power, and they behave like a dictator, and when the army takes over the country ... they behave like a democrat," he said.

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