Two presidential candidates who stress their judgment on foreign policy are expressing grave concerns about the situation in Pakistan. Pakistan’s president imposed emergency rule late Saturday and fired the nation’s top judge.
"I have been to Pakistan many times…and it’s a very sensitive situation," Republican presidential candidate John McCain said Sunday in Mason City. "If there are elements within the Pakistani military that are very extreme Islamic people and I’m worried about their influence. I’m worried about civil unrest. I wish that Musharraf had not done what he has done."
Democratic presidential candidate Joe Biden is chairman of the Senate Foreign Relations Committee and Biden told reporters that he expects to speak with Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf today.
"This is still able to be dealt with. If in fact Marshall Law is lifted relatively quickly and he assures the world that general elections will be held for the Parliament within 60 days," Biden said Sunday. "I think we get by this and we can begin to form this new coalition that may be possible to keep the radicalization of Pakistan from occurring."
Holding legitimate elections are the key, according to Biden. "Absent his willingness to hold free and full elections for the vast majority of Pakistanis who are moderate, I fear what will happen," Biden said, warning failure to hold elections would force moderates in Pakistan to "move in league with the more radical elements to overthrow" Musharraf.
Biden told reporters he spoke with former Pakistani Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto on Sunday.
McCain told reporters in Mason City that he hopes Musharraf works with Bhutto, who just returned from exile, and reverses the emergency declaration.
"I believe the best course for him to take is to remove the Marshall Law that’s been imposed as quickly as possible, continue with the negotiations with Benazir Bhutto," McCain said. "And we should understand that the Taliban has already gotten sanctuaries in some parts of the border and this is a very serious impact."
Pakistan’s top judge was poised to rule on whether Musharraf’s recent re-election as president was legal when Musharraf tossed him off the court. Pakistan’s nuclear status doesn’t help the situation, according to McCain.
"Pakistan is a nuclear state and that adds to the complications of the wrong scenario outcome in Pakistan today," McCain said.
McCain spoke to about 300 people who gathered in Mason City last night. Biden continues campaigning in Iowa today with stops in Mason City and Ames.