The Clinton administration's reaction to the Pakistani government allowing the militant organisation, the Lashkar-e-Toiba, to hold a massive rally near Lahore last week was interesting, to say the least. Speaking to Outlook, a source said: "We're aware that this organisation is considered very militant, even by Pakistani standards, but we don't really think it is something the Indian government should be worrying about unnecessarily... It is an expression of their democratic rights."
When reminded that Pakistan was under military rule when usual democratic rights are supposedly suspended, he pointed out, "It is always a good sign when a military government allows free expression of political persuasions and lets diverse political organisations hold public demonstrations."
Adding that the US Constitution allows the Ku Klux Klan to hold demonstrations, he said: "It doesn't mean the US government agrees with the racism and bigotry propagated by the Klan. In fact, the rights of the Klan to protest are not just enshrined in the Constitution but civil liberties organisations are compelled to protect their rights as much as they protect the rights of organisations who espouse less extremist causes."
Drawing an interesting parallel, he said: "It is exactly the same way that the bjp government in Delhi is forced to protect the rights of the lunatic fringe within and without its party, including the religious fanatics and those protesting the Pope's visit to India recently."
The observation quite amused an academic who has worked in the administration and is familiar with Pakistani politics. He said: "It is true that the administration seemed to accept Gen Musharraf's takeover without a great deal of protest and the US press joined in the chorus of praise and talked about the general as a guy Washington could do business with. But behind the scenes, they're worried he's not distancing himself enough from the extremist elements. The fact that the Lashkar-e-Toiba rally took place has certainly raised eyebrows."