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Public Statements

Hearing of the House Foreign Affairs Committee - Democracy, Authoritarianism and Terrorism in Contemporary Pakistan

Interview

By:
Date:
Location: Washington, DC

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REP. ENI FALEOMAVAEGA (D-AS): Mr. Secretary, thank you again for coming to testify before this committee, and I want to say that we dearly appreciate your service to our nation.

As you know, Mr. Secretary, Section 508 of the sanctions law, under the foreign operations act, stipulates that whenever a military coup takes place in any country, our government places sanctions against that country, and we make demands that that country should return to democracy and have elections.

Two recent examples were the military coups that took place in Fiji and Thailand, and we immediately placed sanctions against these two countries and demanded that they return to democracy and calling for new elections, et cetera.

I visited recently with the leaders of Thailand. Let me tell you that they were so disappointed when we did this to them. And given the fact of their own unique and their own political way, they were able now to make plans to hold elections.

And yet after eight years we've not made such demands against General Musharraf. I want to quote from an article written former Prime Minister Bhutto that appeared in today's New York Times. She quoted President Bush and said -- in his second inaugural address and saying, "All who live in tyranny and homelessness can know that the United States will not ignore your oppression or excuse your oppressors. When you stand for your liberty, we will stand with you." End of quote.

My question is, do you believe we're applying a double standard here? Do you believe we should revisit Section 508 of the sanctions law and establish a more equitable and fair process, so that we can be more consistent with our basic fundamental values, principles of freedom and democracy, and not just for us but for the world?

MR. NEGROPONTE: Congressman, Pakistan has been under -- I guess they call them coup sanctions -- since President Musharraf came to power in 1999. But as you know, in October 2001, Congress recognized the urgent need to provide assistance to Pakistan to respond to the terrorist threat, and it passed the Pakistan Waiver Act. And so that provided the president with the authority to waive the coup restrictions, to enable United States -- the United States government to provide assistance to Pakistan.

And this is really the balancing act that we're involved in here as we speak, which is, on the one hand, we want to show our concern for democracy and political developments in that country. And on the other hand, there's the criticality of providing Pakistan with assistance because of the fact that it neighbors Afghanistan; that is a critical partner in the war on terror. And I think that this is just something that -- a situation that we're just going to continue to have to manage going forward.

DEL. FALEOMAVAEGA: My concern, Mr. Secretary, is that it's been eight years since this gentleman took over the government. He ousted two former prime ministers. Osama bin Laden, by the way, who was responsible for 9/11, is still not captured. And I believe, as long as he lives, that it's going to create a much greater participation and willingness of those extremists that believe in the same things that -- that they want to do in destroying our national security.

And I just kind of wanted to ask you, we're making that exception, so you're saying then that let's just forget about democracy and freedom for now.

MR. NEGROPONTE: No.

DEL. FALEOMAVAEGA: Let's continue having this gentleman continue to be the military dictator that he is.

MR. NEGROPONTE: By no means.

By no means are we saying, let's just forget about that aspect of the situation. In fact, I just was passed a note. Our own president at a press conference just a few moments ago said -- this was a message to President Musharraf -- you cannot be the president and the head of the military at the same time. President Bush just said that at his press conference with Mr. Sarkozy.

So I think that, you know, we're all pushing the democracy message. And while it may not be the optimal moment to defend the political record of the government of Pakistan, I would like to make one point, which is that in those years that you've referred to, Congressman, there have been some improvement in the human rights and civil society situation. For example, the press is freer. There are more radio and TV stations and so forth. But again it's hard to make that case at this particular moment in time. I recognize that.

DEL. FALEOMAVAEGA: Thank you, Mr. Secretary.

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