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*** US Republican, Democrat parties to open offices in Pakistan !?!?!? ***

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    *** US Republican, Democrat parties to open offices in Pakistan !?!?!? ***

    US political parties may open offices in Pakistan

    By Rauf Klasra

    ISLAMABAD: The two major US political parties, Republicans and Democrats, want to open their offices in Pakistan to keep up the pressure for restoration of genuine democracy, and the ground work has almost been completed.

    A US-based NGO has been working quietly but actively working with both these parties and is trying to test the waters about reaction in Pakistan to their presence. "They are very serious in establishing their party offices though they could come under different names. Another possibility is that they could run the Asia Foundation or USAID's sub-programmes on 'democratisation, women empowerment, political education, grassroots assistance on democracy,'" a source told The News.

    "If the direct involvement of these parties in Pakistan could be tolerated by the 'ultra patriots' of this country, it may take about two months for these parties to show up. The inception of an USAID mission is likely to expedite the process," the source said.

    The idea of these two parties coming to Pakistan was promoted after General Musharraf's announcement of inception of a 'genuine democracy' and 'power to common man' in the country.

    The government was also looking for assistance in terms of reforms and introducing modern norms into the big Pakistani political parties, once described by senior military officials as assets of Pakistan.

    The Republican and Democratic Party establishments were attracted especially after the June 5 Seerat Conference and August 14 speeches of General Musharraf last year when he openly castigated the religious right. The Sept 12 speech finally gave them the confidence to move forward.