Bush visits Pakistan amid protests
Updated: 2006-03-04 08:50
Traveling under heavy security, President Bush showed solidarity with
Pakistan in the global war on terror Friday as anti-American protests flared
across this Islamic nation. The visit probably put Bush closer than he's ever
been to Osama bin Laden.
student garlands US President George W. Bush at the airport in Hyderabad,
India, Friday, March 3, 2006. Bush said Friday that Americans should not
respond to India's exploding economy by closing itself off to global
trade, applauding warming U.S.-India relations as he ended his three-day
Air Force One flew through the night without lights to conceal the plane's
profile as it delivered Bush and his wife, Laura, from India. Two helicopters
and a motorcade waited for the president at the airport, but it was impossible
to tell whether he used a car or a chopper to get to the heavily fortified U.S.
Embassy compound, where he was spending the night.
Anti-American sentiment runs deep in this Islamic nation and the threat of
terrorist attacks is ever present. A day before Bush's visit, an American
diplomat was killed in a suicide car-bombing at a U.S. consulate in the southern
city of Karachi, a hotbed of Islamic militancy.
Bush is to spend all day Saturday in Islamabad, conferring with President
Gen. Pervez Musharraf, meeting with business leaders, attending a state dinner
and even watching a cricket match ¡ª a passion of Pakistanis.
Hoping to boost the U.S. image among Muslims, Bush planned to call attention
to American contributions to Pakistan after a devastating earthquake in October.
Bush said he would talk with Musharraf about Pakistan's "vital cooperation in
the war on terror and our efforts to foster economic and political development
so we can reduce the appeal of radical Islam."
In a farewell speech in New Delhi, Bush ran into trouble when he praised
Pakistan as "a force for freedom and moderation in the Arab world." The White
House hastened to correct Bush's reference to Pakistan as an Arab nation, and
said he meant to say Muslim.
Bush's trip brought renewed attention on the frustrating manhunt for bin
Laden, the al-Qaida leader blamed for the Sept. 11, 2001, attacks on America.
Bin Laden and his followers are believed to be in hiding in the porous border
area of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
Earlier this week, Bush said it was simply a matter of when ¡ª not if ¡ª bin
Laden was brought to justice.
There were anti-U.S. protests in cities and towns across Pakistan, with
crowds burning American flags and chanting "Death to Bush." About 1,000
stone-throwing people tried to march on the U.S. consulate in Karachi; police
used tear gas and batons to stop them.
While many people here view the United States with mistrust, Pakistan has
been an important U.S. ally in the Muslim world.
The Pakistani government says it has arrested about 700 al-Qaida suspects in
the past four years, including Khalid Shaikh Mohammed, the mastermind of the
Sept. 11 attacks. Even so, key terror leaders are still thought to be at large
within its borders.
Musharraf seized power seven years ago in a bloodless coup and has reneged on
a promise to relinquish his military post. But Musharraf endeared himself to
Bush after the 9/11 attacks when he switched Pakistan's allegiance from the
Taliban regime in Afghanistan and supported Washington in the U.S.-led war
against its rulers.
Bush has promised to talk with Musharraf about the need for more democratic
reforms. In his speech in New Delhi, Bush extolled India's embrace of democracy
and said it was the path all nations should follow.
"If justice is the goal, then democracy is the way," Bush said.
Pakistan has been roiled by anti-Western protests against Prophet Muhammad
cartoons, which have left at least five people dead. Bush has called on
governments to stop violent demonstrations, and at the same time has urged the
media to use restraint with material that might be considered offensive.
Pakistanis also were enraged by a U.S. missile strike in January targeting
al-Qaida's No. 2 leader, Ayman al-Zawahri, who was believed to be attending a
dinner party at a village in a northwestern region near the Afghan border.
Al-Zawahri apparently wasn't there, and the missile killed 13 residents,
including women and children.
Bush was expected to face demands here for equal treatment with India, which
signed a landmark nuclear deal with the United States this week providing
nuclear reactors, technology and other material to New Delhi in exchange for its
acceptance of international safeguards. U.S. officials said Pakistan will not
get the same reward, considering that just two years ago Pakistan's leading
nuclear scientist, A.Q. Khan, was exposed as the chief of a lucrative black
market in weapons technology that had supplied Iran, Libya and North Korea. The
government denied any knowledge of his proliferation activities.