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Pakistan to Seek More US Financial Assistance - 2003-06-16

Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf says he plans to seek more financial assistance from the United States when he visits Washington next week.

President Pervez Musharraf is slated to leave Tuesday for a tour of Western nations, including a visit to Washington to meet with his U.S. counterpart, George W. Bush.

In an interview with the Reuters news agency, President Musharraf said the average Pakistani feels short-changed by the United States.

Mr. Musharraf says his administration is under pressure at home to show more visible benefits for Pakistan as a reward for the country's role in the U.S.-led anti-terrorism coalition, and he hopes to secure further assistance from Washington.

He says this could include greater market access for Pakistani goods and an easing of restrictions on military sales, as well as more debt forgiveness.

The United States has already written off about $1 billion in Pakistani debt following the country's help in fighting al-Qaida, and providing other assistance after the September 11 terror attacks. Pakistan is seeking further forgiveness on its remaining $1.8 billion in bilateral debt.

But leading Pakistani political commentator Ayaz Amir says many observers think President Musharraf will receive new requests rather than new assistance. "The feeling building up in Pakistan is that perhaps he'll face more pressure, especially at his Camp David meeting with the American president, that Pakistan should do more about stopping al-Qaida militancy in Afghanistan. And Pakistan might be asked to provide troops for stationing in Iraq. So the feeling really here is that Pakistan might end up in giving or delivering more," he said.

Mr. Amir notes that even the U.S. military's Central Command has estimated that by aligning itself with the United States on anti-terrorism policy, Pakistan has suffered economic losses greater than the financial aid it has so far received.

President Musharraf's foreign tour is also expected to include meetings with British, French and German leaders, as well as with United Nations Secretary General Kofi Annan.