The visiting U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John D Negroponte on Sunday urged Pakistan to lift emergency, end curbs on media and release the political detainees.
"I urged the government to stop such actions, lift the state of emergency, and release all political detainees. Emergency rule is not compatible with free, fair, and credible elections, which require the active participation of political parties, civil society, and the media," Negroponte said at a news conference at the U.S. embassy in the capital Islamabad early Sunday morning.
"The people of Pakistan deserve an opportunity to choose their leaders free from the restrictions that exist under a state of emergency," he said.
He welcomed President Pervez Musharraf's announcement that elections would take place in January and his commitment to quit the army post before commencing his second term.
"Unfortunately, the recent police actions against protesters, suppression of the media, and the arrests of political and human rights leaders run directly counter to the reforms that have been undertaken in recent years. Their continuation undermines the progress Pakistan has made," Negroponte said.
"A democratic Pakistan that continues the fight against terror is vital to the interests of both the United States and Pakistan. In the current circumstances, engagement and dialogue - not brinkmanship and confrontation - should be the order of the day for all parties," he said.
Musharraf reiterated his vision for a moderate, prosperous, anddemocratic Pakistan when meeting with Negroponte on Saturday.
"Under his leadership, Pakistan has made great progress toward that vision. Over the past few years, the Pakistani people have witnessed expanded and freer media, unprecedented economic growth and development, and the moderation of gender-based laws and school curricula," Negroponte said.
In reply to questions about terrorism and extremism, Negroponte said both the countries were working to fight the menace. The issues for combating extremism in the border areas and also in Afghanistan came under discussion in his discussion with Musharraf on Saturday. He said it was the matter of high priority and concern for both the U.S. and Pakistan.
To a question about economic and military aid, Negroponte said both countries enjoyed good friendly relations and shared common interest and were facing some common challenges including efforts against extremism. He said the U.S. government wanted to ensure democratic evolution and to get the political process back on track.
He said that Musharraf told him he had taken some of the steps including holding of early elections and taking off uniform. He said the U.S. urged Musharraf and his government to consider as rapidly as possible taking other remaining steps so that the elections could go forward on a satisfactory basis.
Negroponte arrived in Islamabad on two-day visit Friday and met Musharraf and other senior Pakistani government officials including National Security Advisor Tariq Aziz, Vice Chief of Army Staff General Kayani, former Foreign Minister Kasuri, and Inter-Services Intelligence Director General Taj on Saturday.
He also talked to Pakistan People's Party leader Benazir Bhutto through telephone.
Negroponte was the first top U.S official to visit Pakistan since Musharraf imposed emergency on Nov. 3.