US knew Musharraf planned to institute emergency rule: report
John Byrne
Published: Friday November 23, 2007
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The Bush Administration knew that Pakistani strongman Pervez Musharraf planned to institute emergency rule but did not act or speak out about the plan, according to officials with knowledge of the discussion who spoke anonymously in Friday's Wall Street Journal.

"In the days before the Nov. 3 announcement, the general's aides and advisers forewarned U.S. diplomats in a series of meetings in Islamabad, according to Pakistani and U.S. officials," the paper said.

Because the US response was "muted," Pakistan interpreted American silence as a green light to instituting martial law, quickly deposing an intransigent Supreme Court, which had ruled against the general in the past.

"One of Gen. Musharraf's closest advisers said U.S. criticism was muted, which some senior Pakistanis interpreted as a sign they could proceed," the Journal said. "'You don't like that option? You give us one,' the adviser says he told his American interlocutors. 'There were no good options.'"

A U.S. official "familiar with the discussions" told the paper the talks were part of "'intensive efforts' to dissuade Gen. Musharraf from declaring a state of emergency."

"There was never a green light," the U.S. official told the New York daily.

On Friday, Pakistan also denounced the Commonwealth's suspension of its membership -- the British-led organization of former colonies -- while an opposition party said its exiled leader was taking key steps to return to the emergency-ruled country.

The government condemned the banishment from the Commonwealth as "unreasonable and unjustified" and said the 53-nation body, composed mainly of Britain and its former colonies, had failed to appreciate Pakistan's "serious internal crisis" in demanding that it immediately restore democracy.

The Journal also provided background to the country's 2002 election, in which there were widespread claims of voter fraud and election tampering by the military.

"The Bush administration didn't raise a fuss, signaling to the military leader that Washington wasn't going to push him for democracy, a former CIA official said. "An ambitious U.S. aid program to reform Pakistan's political and education systems largely served to strengthen Islamabad's military and counterterrorism operations, say current and former U.S. officials."

Also Friday, Saudi Arabia signaled it might abet an opposition candidate's attempt to return to power.

The return of former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif from Saudi Arabia could bolster opponents of President Gen. Pervez Musharraf ahead of Jan. 8 parliamentary elections.

Sharif's plan was announced Thursday hours after the Supreme Court, packed with pliant judges, swept away the last legal obstacles to Musharraf's new five-year term as president.

On Friday, the handpicked court also declared Musharraf's seizure of emergency powers was legal.

"All acts and actions taken are also validated," Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar said.

With wire reports.