Washington, DC—Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid sent the following letter to President Bush today, urging him to pressure Pakistani President Musharraf to restore the rule of law, fight extremists and terrorists in his country, and investigate the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto. The text of the letter is below:
January 10, 2008
The White House
Washington, DC 20500
Dear Mr. President:
I am writing out of continued deep concern about the current situation in Pakistan and your Administration’s policy toward this critical country. In early November 2007, shortly after President Musharraf declared a state of emergency and postponed previously scheduled elections, I wrote to you urging a full review of your policy toward Pakistan as well as your overall policy to counter terrorist groups such as al Qaeda. I believed then, and still believe, that your Administration’s strategy in Pakistan and the fight against terrorist groups has failed to produce the results we seek. Your administration has chosen to provide President Musharraf billions from U.S. taxpayers even as he undermined the institutions of democracy in Pakistan and fell short in his actions against al Qaeda and other terrorist groups operating in his country. This strategy has failed to produce a more democratic Pakistan and, just as importantly, has not reduced the threat that terrorists operating in Pakistan pose to the United States and our interests abroad. The recent tragic assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, only days before scheduled elections, has raised further questions about Pakistan’s democracy.
Over the past six years, the United States has provided Pakistan with approximately $10 billion in assistance. During this same time, Pakistan made little tangible progress toward reducing terrorism and extremism, expanding development assistance in key regions of the country, and enhancing the commitment to democracy and the rule of law. This dismal record of performance has raised serious questions about whether U.S. funds have been spent effectively to support democracy and defeat al Qaeda. These concerns caused Congress to place some restrictions on aid to Pakistan in the recently passed appropriations bill which we expect the administration to fully implement.
However, the record is so disturbing and the implications for our security so great that I believe additional pressure on President Musharraf to take the right steps is warranted. I also believe his failure to do so should be met with real and significant consequences, including consideration of a cutoff of non-development funding. Therefore, I urge your Administration to press President Musharraf on several fronts including:
- Restoring freedom of the press and full freedom of association;
- Freeing all political prisoners jailed during the recent crackdown;
- Reinstating the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, and the other dismissed Justices, to power;
- Requesting, and fully supporting, an independent United Nations inquiry into the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, similar to that established to examine the assassination of Prime Minister Hariri; and
- Allowing independent international election monitors to monitor the upcoming parliamentary elections.
In addition, the media reported last weekend that your Administration is now reassessing your counterterrorism strategy regarding Pakistan, given that Osama Bin Laden and other key leaders remain at large and al Qaeda operates a safe haven along the Afghan-Pakistan border. I urge that this review look not only at improving the effectiveness of counterterrorism operations, but also how support for extremism can be undercut through a commitment to democracy and the rule of law in Pakistan.
Pakistan is critical to the security of the United States and the world. As a nuclear armed country, the status of Pakistan’s government affects us all. Unfortunately, the war in Iraq distracted the United States from its counterterrorism strategy in the tribal areas in Pakistan, and in Afghanistan. The mastermind of the 9-11 attacks, Osama bin Laden, remains free and, according to the recent national intelligence estimate, al Qaeda has regrouped in Pakistan.
The United States should not continue to provide billions in assistance to Pakistan while democracy in Pakistan is eroded and the terrorist threat in Pakistan grows. I urge you to make it clear to President Musharraf that Pakistan will not continue to receive high levels of unrestricted aid from the United States unless he takes steps such as those outlined above to restore democracy and investigate the assassination of former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
Thank you for your attention to this important issue and I look forward to your prompt response to this letter.