By Ali Imran
WASHINGTON – As the Parliament completed its constitutionally mandated five-year term, the United States expected Pakistan to hold timely, free and fair polls for a historic democratic transition. “As you know, the Pakistani parliament is planning to complete its term (Saturday). We look forward to timely, free and fair elections that’ll result in the first civilian, democratic transition in Pakistan’s history,” State Department Spokesperson Victoria Nuland said.
The State Department comments came as the government and the opposition in Islamabad struggled to find a consensus candidate, who would oversee elections as interim prime minister. At the daily briefing, the spokesperson had no comment in response to an Indian journalist’s question that sought U.S. position on Pakistani parliament’s resolution this week denouncing New Delhi’s secret hanging of Afzal Guru, a Kashmiri man, in what has been widely seen as a political trial. The spokesperson, however, reaffirmed Washington’s desire for the two South Asian nuclear neighbors to carry forward their direct dialogue to sort out outstanding disputes that continue to mar regional environment and also extend their negotiations to security issues.
“I have to say, that I didn’t see what happened in the Pakistani parliament yesterday with regard to India,” she said. “I think you know how strongly we’ve been supporting, both on the Indian side and the Pakistani side, direct dialogue between them and improvement in their relationship. They’ve already made some good strides on the economic side, on the visa side,” the spokesperson added. “We want that to continue. We want it to be expanded to some of these security concerns that they have with each other,” Nuland noted.
Nuland’s remarks indicated support for Islamabad’s emphasis on resolution of security issues that impede any worthwhile progress towards detente in relations between two uneasy neighbors, who, despite having made some progress in a few areas, saw their tensions escalate with cross-LoC firing in the disputed Kashmir region.