At a news conference Thursday evening with the Pakistani foreign minister, Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, Rice praised Musharraf and declined to say whether she had raised the question of his refusal to give up his military post. "We did talk about the importance of democratic reform in Pakistan, about getting on a road to democratic reforms that would in fact lead to free and fair elections in 2007," she said.
Kasuri asserted that Pakistan had many democratic attributes, including some of "the freest media in Asia" and the strongest opposition parties in the history of Pakistan. "I think we are a working democracy," he said. "We can never be perfect. It is a move toward perfection, and we are continuing in that direction."
Pakistan's foreign minister, Khurshid Mahmud Kasuri, and Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice discuss talks during a news conference in Islamabad.
(Mian Khursheed -- Reuters)
Although many Pakistanis were angered by Musharraf's decision to retain his army post, there was little overt reaction on college campuses, where political organizations have been banned for two decades. On Thursday, however, there was no shortage of opinions on the sprawling, unkempt campus of Quaid-i-Azam.
Among those having tea and breakfast in the cafeteria Thursday morning was Fahad Riaz, 24, a police officer's son studying for a business degree. Riaz said he thought the United States was guilty of a double standard and suggested that it would not do anything that could jeopardize Musharraf's grip on power.
"President Musharraf and President Bush, they are so close to each other, why would they want to promote democracy?" he asked. The world, he added, "is a chessboard, and we are one of the pawns."
But Riaz also said he was no great fan of democratic rule, asserting that civilian politicians have given Pakistanis "nothing at all, except corruption."
A few tables away, computer science student Mohammed Jamil, 23, offered the view that even if the United States was serious about promoting democracy -- something of which he has yet to be convinced -- it is not something that can happen overnight.
"You made a mistake for 50 years," he said, citing the long Cold War history of close working relations between the United States and military rulers in Pakistan. "It's going to take another 50 years to change."
Staff writer Glenn Kessler contributed to this report.