WASHINGTON (AFP) – US Senate majority leader Harry Reid on Tuesday asked President George W. Bush to slash aid to Pakistan if upcoming elections in the troubled Asian nation are not free and fair.
He made the call after talks with Pakistan cricket legend Imran Khan, the leader of a marginal opposition party, who told the Senate leader that the February 18 parliamentary polls could be rigged by President Pervez Musharraf.
“I believe that the United States needs to look closely at the assistance we send to Pakistan,” said Reid, the Democratic leader in the Senate.
“If President Musharraf does not allow full and free elections and does not restore freedoms, we need to consider reducing non-development aid to Pakistan,” he said in a statement.
Reid recently sent Bush a letter urging him to consider cutting off non-development aid to Pakistan unless Musharraf reinstates the previous Supreme Court, restores all freedoms and allows a full investigation into the recent assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
Bhutto, Pakistan’s main opposition leader, was killed in a gun-and-suicide-bomb attack last month.
Khan, who leads Pakistan’s Tehreek-e-Insaf party, expressed “deep concern” about the Pakistani judiciary, saying Pakistan could not have true democracy, or free and fair elections, without reinstating the head of the Supreme Court and the rest of the judges whom Musharraf had dismissed.
“Today’s meeting made it even clearer that the United States must support the people of Pakistan rather than individuals in that nation’s government who oppose democracy,” Reid said.
Musharraf pledged during a visit to France Tuesday that the elections would be “free and fair” and “peaceful.”
The meeting Tuesday also discussed US development assistance to Pakistan and the importance of ensuring that US taxpayer dollars helped the Pakistani people in areas like education and healthcare, the statement said.