World News

U.S. says Pakistan government crisis internal issue

WASHINGTON (Reuters) - The U.S. government regards Pakistan’s ruling coalition crisis as a strictly internal matter and does not see it as a distraction from Islamabad’s fight against Islamic militants, U.S. officials said on Monday.

Pakistan’s political upheaval comes at a time when the Obama administration has increased pressure on Islamabad to go after militant groups in its territory to help the United States turn around what many analysts see as a faltering war effort in neighboring Afghanistan.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari on Monday expressed full confidence in the country’s beleaguered prime minister, who is scrambling to prevent his government from falling after a key coalition partner quit.

Prime Minister Yusuf Raza Gilani’s U.S.-backed government lost its majority in parliament on Sunday when the Muttahida Qaumi Movement, or MQM, bolted to the opposition due to government fuel price policies it said were “unbearable” for Pakistanis.

“This is about internal politics within Pakistan, which has a parliamentary system,” U.S. State Department spokesman P.J. Crowley told reporters.

“I can’t say at this point that the fact that they have this current political situation necessarily distracts them from ... what else they’re doing,” he said. “We are going to continue to work with the Pakistani government.”

A White House review of President Barack Obama’s Afghanistan war strategy reported last month that U.S.-led forces were making headway against the Taliban and al Qaeda but warned that the gains were “fragile and reversible.” It cited Pakistan’s cooperation as “central” to success in the region.

Reporting by Matt Spetalnick and Arshad Mohammed; editing by Christopher Wilson