- The Washington Times - Friday, October 18, 2002

Pakistani progress

The success of fundamentalist Muslim parties in Pakistan's recent elections will have no impact on the country's foreign policy, including the war on terrorism and relations with India, Pakistani Ambassador Ashraf Qazi said yesterday.

"There is no cause for worry with respect to Pakistan's foreign policy," he told an audience at Johns Hopkins School of Advanced International Studies.

Mr. Qazi emphasized that President Pervez Musharraf retains control over foreign policy and enjoys a popular consensus for his decisions to support the United States in the war against Osama bin Laden's al Qaeda terrorist network.

"We expect that the United States will continue with its policies of broadening its relationship with Pakistan beyond just the alliance against global terrorism [and] to ensure long-term, sustainable and mutually acceptable economic cooperation," he said.

A bloc of six fundamentalist parties made surprising gains in last week's parliamentary elections and is promoting a candidate for prime minister who supports bin Laden and once called on Muslims to kill Americans.

Although the Mujtahida Majlis-i-Amal (MMA) did not win enough seats to form a government, the coalition could wield enough power to influence the selection of a prime minister.

"The MMA has made it quite clear that foreign policy is the province of the central government, and they don't intend to reverse Pakistan's foreign policy with respect to our membership in the coalitions against global terrorism or with respect to the front-line role that we have been playing," Mr. Qazi said.

However, their views on domestic and religious matters "will have to be seriously engaged with," the ambassador added.

Mr. Qazi said the elections show that Gen. Musharraf, who took power in a military coup in 1999, is serious about the "restoration of a parliamentary government."

"You are going to have by early November an actual transfer of power to an elected prime minister," he said, adding that the military "has absolutely no intention of ruling Pakistan."

Cuba after Castro

Many of the top Cuba scholars met with Eastern European diplomats and U.S. legislators on Capitol Hill yesterday to discuss how to move Cuba from a communist dictatorship to a democracy in a post-Castro Cuba.

They agreed that the top priority is revamping the education system to equip Cubans with the knowledge and skills necessary for living in a democracy. The former communist nations in Eastern Europe concentrated on economic, legal and political reform.

"It is not easy to demolish more than 40 years of totalitarian regimes without addressing the issue of reconstruction," said Andy Gomez of the Institute of Cuban Studies at the University of Miami, which hosted the seminar. "An effective curriculum for teaching constitutional democracy must address civic knowledge, civic skills, civic virtues and the role of the teacher."

He said freedom brings uncertainty and there could be a danger of "historical nostalgia" for the old regime, if political transition in Cuba proves difficult.

Petr Janousek, a spokesman for the Czech Embassy, said democracy requires more effort than living in an authoritarian regime.

"The nostalgia comes from the older generation and from people too young to remember," said Mr. Janousek, who was 17 years old in 1989 when communism fell in Eastern Europe.

"They don't believe us when we tell them what it was like. That is why the communists in the Czech Republic had political gains this summer. They are growing."

Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, Florida Republican, recommended the advice of Czech President Vaclav Havel and former Polish President Lech Walesa, who warned about the uncertainty of liberty.

"We cannot allow ourselves to be surprised by freedom. Not all situations are alike. Solutions for one country may not apply to another," she said in praising the research being conducted by the University of Miami's Cuba Transition Project.

Jorge Dominguez of Harvard University, Damian Fernandez of Florida International University and Cuban defector Alcibiades Hidalgo, Fidel Castro's former ambassador to the United Nations, also participated in the forum.

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