- The Washington Times - Thursday, February 10, 2000

'Life must go on'

The White House ceremony was to have been a defining moment of her career when Maleeha Lodhi presented her diplomatic credentials to President Clinton for her second tour here as Pakistan's ambassador to the United States.
The ceremony, however, was overshadowed by the death of her mother, Zohra Lodhi, the day before.
"I wish you did not have to go through with this here today," Mr. Clinton said on Feb. 3.
"These are personal tragedies," Mrs. Lodhi replied, "but life must go on, and we must do what we have to do."
Mrs. Lodhi is now in London for her mother's funeral.
A second blow came this week when former Pakistan Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto criticized Mrs. Lodhi for accepting the ambassadorship under a military government, which overthrew the elected, albeit authoritarian, government of Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif last year.
Mrs. Bhutto first appointed Mrs. Lodhi as ambassador to the United States in 1994. Now Mrs. Bhutto is living in exile. She was convicted on corruption charges under Mr. Sharif, who himself is facing criminal charges under the new military ruler, Gen. Pervez Musharraf.
On a visit to Washington this week, Mrs. Bhutto denounced her former close friend and political ally.
"I'm disappointed in Maleeha," she told Ben Barber, a reporter for The Washington Times. "She served as a representative for a democratic government and should not have served a military regime."
Mrs. Lodhi, responding from London, said in a statement: "In each case, I have represented my country. The interests of my country are immutable, and it is those that I have represented in the past and will continue to do so in the future.
"Those who raise the questions regarding the military government overlook the fact that my primary overriding duty as a citizen of Pakistan is to the integrity of my country."
At the White House, Mrs. Lodhi also defended the new government and said Gen. Musharraf is determined to restore democracy.
"The commitment of the Pakistan government to democracy is unwavering," she said. "The elected president continues to hold office. The judiciary is functioning freely under civil law. Fundamental rights, including the freedom of the press and the rights of minorities, are protected."
Mrs. Lodhi also defended Islam as a "religion of peace and harmony."
"Our administration has made it clear that it will not permit the political exploitation of religion or its misuse to justify violence," she said.
Gen. Musharraf is also targeting corruption and reforming the economy, she said.
She also justified her country's development of nuclear weapons as a defense against neighboring India.
Mrs. Lodhi said Pakistan was "left with no choice but to demonstrate our nuclear capability" after India test-fired nuclear devices in 1998.
"Minimum nuclear deterrence is a central pillar of our defense doctrine," she said, adding that Pakistan would embrace nuclear nonproliferation if India would.
Mrs. Lodhi denounced India's "continuing gross and consistent violations against Kashmir." India, she insisted, "should not be allowed to demonize the Kashmiri struggle as a terrorist movement."
Mr. Clinton called for a restoration of civilian rule, expressing disappointment at the "setback to Pakistan's democracy that last year's military takeover represents."
He promised to help establish a "dialogue between Pakistan and India."

Lobbying for Pakistan

Pakistan's friends on Capitol Hill are rallying support to urge President Clinton to include Pakistan on his trip to South Asia next month.
Sen. Tim Johnson, South Dakota Democrat, is drafting a letter to Mr. Clinton and planning to collect signatures of support from his Senate colleagues. In the House, Rep. Doug Bereuter is gathering support for Pakistan. The Nebraska Republican is chairman of the House International Relations subcommittee on South Asia.
Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Jesse Helms, North Carolina Republican, is also planning to write Mr. Clinton, according to Pakistan's Nation newspaper.

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