WASHINGTON - The United States is trying to distance itself from former President Pervez Musharraf, an ally in war on terrorism, with senior American officials saying that his return was an internal and inconsequential matter since it is for the Pakistani people to elect their leaders.

“I don’t see this as a terribly large or significant event. I could be surprised, but I don’t see this as terribly consequential,” the US Ambassador to Pakistan, Richard Olson, said in Washington on Monday.

The US, he said, backs democracy in Pakistan, not any individuals or parties.

At the White House Josh Earnest, a spokesman, said: “when it comes to Pakistani politics, we’ll leave it to the people of Pakistan to make decisions about their political leadership.”

During a discussion at Stimson’s Chairman Forum, a think-tank, Ambassador Olson said, “On the question of Musharraf, it’s up to the Pakistanis to address the question. He may have some legal issues to address, and that’s for him to address with the judiciary. But my Pakistani friends tell me he doesn’t have a great deal of political support.”

“We don’t have a desired outcome other than” that the US wants to see a transparent elections, Olson stated. He added Pakistan needs a predictable political course.

The American envoy said Pakistan achieved a “significant accomplishment” with the completion of the democratic term and that “President (Asif Ali) Zardari gets credit for having brought (Pakistan) through five years of this (democratic) period.” He said the upcoming civilian-to-civilian transfer of power in Pakistan after May 11 elections will be a milestone.

Olson expressed his appreciation for the democratic government’s devolution of authority in education and health fields to provinces.

On the US-Pakistan relationship, Ambassador Olson underscored the need for experts and analysts to “get past the story of the day” and view the ties in the broader perspective.

The message on the bilateral relations has to be of partnership based on common interests and on mutual respect, he said, citing cooperation and recent improvement in wide-ranging ties between the two countries.

He favoured the US-Pakistan relations to “get more stable and on an even keel” and said if Washington and Islamabad look at areas of convergence there is a “lot of possibility” for productive relations.

The short-term focus, he said, is managing things between now and 2014 drawdown of US from neighbouring Afghanistan but underscored that Washington saw the US-Pakistan bilateral relationship as “very important”.

The relationship is “very important” in the long-term perspective because Pakistan will be the fourth largest country in terms of population and is a nuclear power state “that we want to see succeed.”

He regretted that discussions on US-Pakistan relations tends to be on the lowest common denominators and what is driven by headlines.

But he drew attention to the fact that Pakistan “has played an important role in partnering with us in the fight against violent extremism.”

In this respect, he referred to the loss of 40,000 Pakistani civilian lives to terrorism and deaths of 6000 of its security personnel and an unprecedented heavy military deployment on the country’s western border in the tribal areas. “We have to recognise (that),” despite the fact there have been challenges and frictions in bilateral ties.

Pakistan, he added, was concerned about how things move post-2014 in Afghanistan because in the last 30 years they have had to deal with a lot of security challenges vis-a-vis the Afghanistan situation.

In answer to a question, he reaffirmed Washington’s confidence in Pakistan’s nuclear safety. “We have confidence in the Pakistani stewardship of their nuclear materials.”