Why the Pakistani PM cancelled his tickets

More than me too

Shaukat Aziz, Pakistan’s prime minister, was due to visit the United States later this month. But last week the Pakistani government called it off.

Initially, Pakistani diplomats in Washington explained that Shaukat Aziz had to stay back in Pakistan due to the worsening flood situation and municipal elections.

But it turned out that the tickets were cancelled once it became clear that he would’nt be getting the same treatment that was accorded to the Indian prime minister this week.

Pakistani suggestions that he be hosted at a White House dinner, like the Indian prime minister, or be invited to address a joint session of Congress, were turned down politely but firmly. Neither were there any guarantees available that his media reception would remain “respectful.” It was also discreetly suggested that Shaukat Aziz was an “elected” prime minister in a technical rather than in a real sense. The Pakistani leader who is seen as the man in charge is President Pervez Musharraf.[DT]

While protocol makes a more believable excuse than municipal elections, it may well be the fact that the current international mood is hardly sympathetic to the Musharraf regime’s ‘frontline ally in the war on terror’ line that tipped the scales. Shaukat Aziz would have come in for some tough treatment from the US government, and rough treatment by the media — with recent reports of the Lodi jihadi cell, the London bombings and escalation of Taleban attacks in Afghanistan still fresh in people’s minds. And there’s Mukhtaran Mai, who, despite all the attention she received last month, is still disallowed from traveling abroad. As the Daily Times’ Khalid Hassan put it

The London bombings proved to be the final straw as far as the visit was concerned as it was felt in Islamabad that their fallout would cloud the atmosphere and the visit, instead of helping Pakistan’s image, would further tarnish it. [DT]

Update:

It is believed in some quarters that Pakistan which sees itself as a key US ally in the war against terrorism may have taken an exception to this preferential treatment given to its eastern neighbour. One interpretation could be that by putting off the trip Pakistan wanted to convey its disappointment to Washington.[Dawn]

3 thoughts on “Why the Pakistani PM cancelled his tickets”

  1. The London bombings…instead of helping Pakistan’s image, would further tarnish it.

    There seems to be quite a bit of emphasis on Pakistan’s image. If I recall correctly, last I heard it was when the Mukhtaran Mai issue came up and the Pakistani President disallowed her travel fearing that she would hurt Pakistan’s image.

    Anyways I think India can take a leaf out of Pakistan’s book and probably learn something here. As an article in the Times of India mentioned, Musharraf’s visits to the US are filled with interviews and press meets. Besides he appears more presentable (usually in a chic suit) and uses the podium effectively. In comparison Manmohan seems docile and his visit seems to have left nothing but a ripple in the American media.

  2. “In comparison Manmohan seems docile and his visit seems to have left nothing but a ripple in the American media.”

    Yes, but the American media is woefully incompetent when it comes to foreign affairs. I’m more interested in how Singh can push forward India-U.S. relations than if he can impress the Washington press corp.

  3. KXB:

    Whether or not the US media is incompetent, I don’t really know, but I do know that they go after stories that are of interest to their audience– and US-India relations is not one of them.

    This doesn’t bother me since I go all over the world to get news, including India, BBC, etc.

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