Pakistanis protest Bush visit - Mercedes-Benz Forum

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Pakistanis protest Bush visit

Just like in India, the UK, the US actually, the people have more integrity than their leaders..

Pakistanis revile Bush visit

March 4, 2006

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan -- Pakistanis shut down their country with a nationwide strike and protests Friday as President George W. Bush flew here from India for talks with President Pervez Musharraf.

After Air Force One landed at an air base in Rawalpindi Friday night -- with window shades down and running lights turned off -- Bush's entourage was whisked into a bubble of protection and official welcome.

The capital, Islamabad, and many other cities were eerily quiet throughout the day, although thousands of men marched in Peshawar, Multan and Karachi to condemn Bush and the United States, and Musharraf, for allying with them. The protests, plus Thursday's bombing in Karachi that killed an American consulate official, have overshadowed the White House's goal for the trip: to depict a friendly and broad U.S.-Pakistani relationship that reaches beyond simple joint defense in the "global war on terrorism."

Timing may be off

But if there is a good time for a presidential arrival to showcase such a broad friendship, it seems not to be seven weeks after U.S. forces fired missiles into a Pakistani village near the Afghan border. The attack, aimed at wiping out a top al-Qaida leader, instead killed at least 12 local residents, including women and children. Last month, when protests mushroomed against the publication in Europe of caricatures of the Muslim prophet Muhammad, anger at the missile strike helped militant Islamic politicians here convert the demonstrations into violent outbursts against the United States and Musharraf.

Even before the missile attack, Pakistani opinion polls and analysts have registered simmering anger at the United States for years over the deaths of Muslim civilians and abuse of Muslim prisoners at the hands of U.S. forces in Iraq or Afghanistan...

Last month, Bush effusively praised Musharraf to Pakistani journalists as "my buddy and my friend" and described his personal relationship with Musharraf as one that "can set a tone" for the two countries' relations.

Musharraf, a general who ousted Pakistan's elected government in a 1999 coup, promised to build an "enlightened" and moderate Pakistani state. But he reneged on promises to give up his simultaneous position as chief of army staff and to restore civilian rule within three years. The lives of Pakistan's impoverished majority have improved little in his six-year administration, and popular support for Musharraf has eroded deeply.

Bush's stress on his personal ties to Musharraf as a root of U.S.-Pakistani ties tends to dilute the White House's attempt to portray a broad, lasting, nation-to-nation partnership, said a Western diplomat, who asked not to be identified. And it risks alienating many Pakistanis who believe Musharraf is preparing to hold unfair elections next year to win a new mandate in power, he said.

Copyright 2006 Newsday Inc.
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