Pakistani Envoy: New Government Building Strength

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Protests calling for the reinstatement of judges fired by President Pervez Musharraf are the first major challenge to Pakistan's new coalition government. Pakistan's new ambassador to the United States, Husain Haqqani, says there is consensus that the judiciary should be restored, but disagreement on how to do it.

Host Renee Montagne talks with Haqqani, a regular guest on Morning Edition as an expert on Pakistan, about pressing issues there, including why Musharraf hasn't stepped down, even though his critics — including Haqqani — make up the new government.

"He's still president because he says that he was elected before the election of the new parliament," Haqqani says. "It's a disputed election; but what we are seeing is a consensus in Pakistan on the need for a change in the office of president, a consensus on the fact that there should be a restoration of the judiciary as it existed before the state of emergency was imposed, but a disagreement over how it should be done."

Regarding pressure from the U.S. to wage peace among tribal leaders on the Pakistan-Afghanistan border, Haqqani says the government "will not negotiate with the terrorists, they will not negotiate with al-Qaida or those who are associated with the extremist groups there, but they will negotiate with the tribal people."

NATO's outgoing commander in Afghanistan, Gen. Dan McNeil, has said that every time Pakistan negotiates with tribal leaders on the border, violence goes up in Aghanistan. But Haqqani says McNeil is making the "classic mistake of thinking of the government of Pakistan as a monolith, not recognizing the huge transformation and transition that comes from an authoritarian military leader relinquishing power or sharing power with an elected leadership."

Haqqani says Pakistan's new government, whose leaders believe in fighting terrorists, is building strength. "They lost their leader Benazir Bhutto to terrorism, and so there is greater clarity in policy, but its implementation is going to take a few more days than people have given this government."

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