Great Seal

U.S. Department of State

Daily Press Briefing


1-3Update on Situation/General Musharraf's Speech on Sunday/Whereabouts of Former Prime Minister/Prospects of US Acceptance of New Pakistan Ambassador/Sanctions

DPB #132
TUESDAY, OCTOBER 19, 1999, 1:05 P.M.

MR. FOLEY: Good afternoon. Welcome to the State Department. I don't have any announcements, so I'll go right to your questions. Do the wires have a question?

QUESTION: Do you see any signs that the Pakistani military is preparing to genuinely create a transition towards democracy, or do you think that is just a way of disguising what they're doing?

MR. FOLEY: We have welcomed Chief of Army Staff Musharaff's pledge, in his speech to the Pakistani nation on Sunday, to work for a return to democracy, and his promise that the armed forces would not stay in charge any longer than necessary. So that is what he has pledged. We do not, of course, believe that military takeovers are the appropriate method for resolving the problems that democracies face -- in Pakistan or anywhere else around the world. And we've been very clear that that is a principled position that we take in Pakistan, and that we take around the world.

As we indicated, following his speech on Sunday, we expressed disappointment that General Musharaff did not offer a clear timetable for the early restoration of constitutional, civilian and democratic government, and we continue to call upon him to do so. We are not conducting business as usual with the military authorities. As I said, we are looking for concrete progress on return to a constitutional, democratic civilian government. We would like that to begin soon, and we're going to continue raising this issue with the Pakistani authorities.

As I indicated, we are disappointed that a timetable has not been set, but we do note that General Musharaff, himself, has pledged to work for a return to democracy, and that the armed forces would not stay in charge any longer than necessary. That remains to be fleshed out. I think it's premature to judge the answer - or to formulate the answer -- to your question at this stage, either positively or negatively.

As I indicated last week, the jury is still out, in terms of the ultimate intentions of the military authorities in Pakistan. They've indicated, again, that they don't intend to stay in charge for longer than is necessary, and that they want to see a return to democratic government. But the timetable is unclear; it has not been spelled out, and that's what we're looking for.

QUESTION: Do you have any idea of the whereabouts of the former prime minister, Sharif?

MR. FOLEY: I have no information to share with you about his current whereabouts. We remain concerned that Prime Minister Sharif and his advisors receive fair treatment, and that the upcoming efforts that have been indicated to restore accountability protect the rights of those under investigation.

QUESTION: Does this mean that the US is going to accept the new ambassador that the Pakistanis have - that they are going to replace with the old one that they've just recalled?

MR. FOLEY: That's a premature question. I don't know if we've been informed yet, and whether the process of requesting agrement has been begun. That would be something I can look into, to see if they've come to us, through diplomatic channels, to request agrement for a new ambassador.

QUESTION: Can you be more elaborate about what you said: that you are not doing a kind of business as usual context with the Pakistani regime?

MR. FOLEY: Well, I think we made this clear over the weekend: that because a democratic government was overthrown by military authorities, US legislation - namely, the Foreign Assistance Act, in its Section 508 - requires that the US Government prohibit a broad range of assistance, again, to countries where a democratically elected government has been removed by the military. And so, the invocation of Section 508 of the Foreign Assistance Act has taken effect, and we are prohibited from providing a broad array of assistance.

As a practical matter, however, there was very little assistance in the pipeline, given that Pakistan has been subject to other sanctions previously for other reasons. Most forms of assistance were already prohibited under other statutory restrictions.

QUESTION: (Inaudible) the usual contacts are still there with the military government?

MR. FOLEY: We are maintaining diplomatic contact with the authorities in Pakistan. As we have stated, we have important areas on which we need to work with Pakistan, including promoting a meaningful dialogue between India and Pakistan, and continuing to pursue our all-important nonproliferation agenda.

We also need to continue to work with Pakistan on issues involving Afghanistan, and terrorism and other issues, and that diplomatic contact will continue. When I referred to business as usual, I was referring to the fact that the United States is prohibited by law from providing assistance to countries in which democratic governments have been overturned by military action.

QUESTION: Are you considering other kind of sanctions against Pakistan? Would you act within the IMF, for example, to suspend credits or loans to this country in case of necessity?

MR. FOLEY: In terms of US law and the Foreign Assistance Act that I referred to, that piece of legislation does not affect US support for lending by the international financial institutions. As a practical matter, we are unaware of any steps that the IMF Board itself has taken, in response to these recent events in Pakistan.

In terms of what the United States may choose to do in the case of future proposals for lending, we're not going to prejudge that question at this stage. We're going to make a decision when, and if, future lending comes up before the IMF Executive Board.

QUESTION: Have you dealt with Indonesia yet?

MR. FOLEY: No, we haven't.


[end of document]