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'Bush snatched bread from our mouth'

March 05, 2006 16:37 IST

As United States President George W Bush leaves Pakistan on Saturday night, one glaring fact will stand apart from the rest.

He will be the fifth American president to visit Pakistan and on all five occasions, a democratic government was not in place.

Dwight Eisenhower was the first US president to visit Pakistan in December 1959. Lyndon B Johnson visited Pakistan twice (December 1967 and December 1968). Both came when General Ayub Khan was in power.

Richard Nixon visited Pakistan in August 1969 when the country was under General Yahya Khan's rule.

Also, Bush did not meet any civilian leader, not even the prime minister, unlike Bill Clinton who visited in 2000, when General Musharraf was still around.

And more than any other president, Bush has been facing severe criticism.

The twin cities of Islamabad and Rawalpindi were full of anti-US banners and posters.

'Bush is the number one terrorist. Death to Bush. Death to US,' said one.

'Death to Britain -- the US' dog!' said another.

The people of Rawalpindi said that Bush was not coming to give Pakistan anything. "Bush is coming to take something from us. Bush has already snatched bread from our mouth. For the last two days, I have not been allowed to bring my fruit cart out on the road," said a poor fruitseller.

"Bush has come to Pakistan to give instructions. We would be very naïve to think that he will gift something to this nation. His arrival will bring no good news. He has come to tighten the noose around Iran's neck and afterwards it will be us (Pakistan)."

Maulana Abdul Khaliq, a cleric in Miramshah, north Waziristan announced that jihad should be waged against the US.

"I have an army of 1,500 armed fighters who are committed to eliminate George Bush -- the dog of the Jews," said Khaliq, who is currently leading the Pakistani Taliban in Miramshah.

Khaliq is a wanted terrorist by the government of Pakistan. He has a huge majority of armed fighters that undermines the government's efforts to arrest him.

In a closed door meeting with Bush, Musharraf assured him that Pakistan will be on his side if the US attacks Iran. No doubt about it. For a majority of us, the U-turn on Afghanistan was unexpected. One could do anything to save his/her neck!

Bush came hard on Musharraf on issues such as honour killings, blasphemy laws, hudood laws, poppy cultivation and press freedom. Bush quoted statistics to support his view point on this issue. He asked Musharraf to improve his regime's record on these issues and the latter assured him that he would do so.

Musharraf also told Bush that he will take off the uniform in 2007. Bush was least concerned about his uniform.

Bush had really nothing to say during his visit to Pakistan. He did not need to come. He came to sign the nuclear pact with India. He could not have gone without visiting Pakistan -- that could have been embarrassing for Musharraf.

So, he came to please his 'beloved' -- Musharraf. At least he came. He did not act like the hero of Pakistani movies who comes from a city, visits a village, falls in love with a village girl, promises to marry her, goes back to the city and loses his memory in an accident and never returns to his beloved!! (This is the dilemma of Pakistani romance movies.)  

Mohammad Shehzad in Islamabad