November 18, 2007 (RFE/RL) -- Following months of confrontation between Musharraf and a defiant judiciary, Pakistan was plunged further into crisis on November 3 when the president imposed a state of emergency, ostensibly to combat rising extremism and terrorism.
The move brought heavy-handed police actions against protesters, suppression of the media, and detentions of thousands of political and human rights leaders.
Speaking today in Islamabad, U.S. Deputy Secretary of State John Negroponte said the measures are "not compatible" with the free and fair elections. Negroponte said political parties and civil society must participate in elections for the poll to meet internationally recognized democratic standards and he stressed the media should be free to report on the election campaign. Negroponte said, " The people of Pakistan deserve an opportunity to choose their leaders free from the restrictions that exist under a state of emergency."
Negroponte, who met Musharraf on Saturday (November 17), praised Musharraf as a valued ally in the war on terror and welcomed the Pakistani leader's promise to hold general elections on January 9.
But the U.S. envoy, while welcoming Musharraf's promise to hold elections in January urged the Pakistani leader to stick to his pledge to step down as head of the army.
Negroponte is the highest-ranking U.S. official to meet with Musharraf since emergency rule was imposed.
He also met other high-ranking Pakistani officials and spoke to opposition leader Benazir Bhutto by phone.
Negroponte encouraged Musharraf to release political prisoners and to resume power-sharing talks with the former prime minister as condtions for holding a successful election. Negroponte said events since the imposition of the state of emergency in Pakistan "appears to have polarized somewhat and that of course has had the effect of throwing the political process off track."
Talks between Musharraf and Bhutto broke down as the latter threatened to lead mass protests against emergency rule, and was then placed under house arrest. She has now been released, but has appeared to rule out re-starting negotiations.
Musharraf has so far shown no desire for direct contacts with his adversary, calling her "too confrontational."
Pakistani Foreign Ministry spokesman Mohammed Sadiq said there was no change to the leadership's position despite the U.S. pressure, re-affirming that the emergency was imposed in "extreme conditions."
Negroponte made it clear that Washington did not accept Musharraf's arguments for emergency rule.
The U.S. envoy did not signal, however, what kind of pressure might be brought to bear on the Pakistani leader, although unidentified diplomats in Islamabad were quoted as saying he had raised the issue of cuts in aid to Pakistan.
Musharraf, who seized power in a 1999 military coup, has turned his nuclear-armed country into a frontline U.S. ally in the fight against terrorism.