Bush’s Pakistan trip: The curious incident of a General in the night-time

Gen Musharraf didn’t turn up to receive or see off his good friend, President George W Bush

President Bush may just have been snubbed by Gen Musharraf, twice.

Neither Gen Musharraf nor Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz turned up to greet President Bush at Chaklala air base near Islamabad. Unless it was due to those extra-ordinary security measures Musharraf’s is something of a diplomatic slight. The snub becomes even more glaring considering President Bush’s decision to press on with his Pakistan trip after the attack on the US consulate in Karachi that claimed the life of an American foreign service officer.

If it was a snub, who were the primary audience? Surely, Musharraf couldn’t be thinking of impressing upon the Americans his displeasure at Pakistan not being treated on par with India. That was already achieved by his trip to Beijing to meet Chinese leaders shortly before the Bush visit. It was not quite necessary to snub Bush personally, not least because the US president routinely holds up general’s end in public.

Was it to impress the domestic audience then? That appears unlikely. Pakistanis are too well aware of Musharraf’s ‘closeness’ to the United States for them to notice or make much of a nuance.

It just gets curiouser. At the post-meeting press conference, Bush thanked Musharraf for sending his daughter to greet him at the airport. That’s strange, because though press reports mentioned that a girl in traditional costume handed Bush a bouquet, they did not mention that Musharraf’s daughter was there.

That the visit did not go off too well for Musharraf was all too evident at the joint press conference. Part of his mission, Bush said, was to determine whether or not Musharraf was as committed as he has been in the past in the war on terror. Regardless of the affirmative conclusion, that’s just a clever way to say that he has found Musharraf wanting. So was it with nuclear proliferation, where Bush mentioned the ‘well-known differences’ between the histories of Indian and Pakistani nuclear programmes. Bush offered no comfort on Kashmir too keeping to the most anodyne statements in support of the peace process. But the best was the last sentence. Musharraf concluded a his defense of his record on moving towards democracy by saying that it was ‘a long answer’. “Yes” Bush said, “important answer”.

Musharraf didn’t go to see President Bush off either. As those astute observers over at Secular-Right India asked a couple of months ago — is he toast?

Related Link: CNN’s Mike Chinoy covers this in this video clip

7 thoughts on “Bush’s Pakistan trip: The curious incident of a General in the night-time”

  1. Seems to me more like an obstinate kid throwing tantrums at not having his conditions met ๐Ÿ™‚

  2. Nitin,
    It does appear to be a snub. Apparently, people in-charge of Bush’s security requested that no on come to meet him. These were extra precautionary measures put in place after the suicide bombing attack that took place whil Bush was in India. More information here.

    “Bush’s plane arrived and took off from Pakistan Air Force’s Chaklala airport at night in total darkness — with all its lights switched off.

    Pakistan was told that it would not be necessary for Musharraf or Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz to come to the airport to receive or see off Bush since the American officials were afraid that their movement to the airport in their security convoys could alert the terrorists. “

  3. I think this snub is a misreading.

    Musharraf probably did not know which airport the airplane was going to land at exactly or what time it was going to land at. This is due to security arrangements for the trip. Being a busy man – he was not going to wait around all night for the guy.

    I would not be surprised if the Musharraf was waiting at Chaklala while POTUS actually landed at Shahbaz in the dead of the night and then flew by Helo to the Ibad embassy later in the morning. I don’t expect the media on AF1 to know the difference between Shahbaz and Chaklala in the dead of the night or the early hours of the morning.

  4. Bush was certainly frosty with frothing-at-the-mouth Mush. Looks like Commando Boy from The Land of the Pure has run out of wiggle room. Too many inconsistencies (most kids would identify them as “lies”); too much talk and too little walk. Looks like we’re entering the “down cycle” in the US-Pak relationship. Strap your seatbelts – rough weather ahead.

  5. B Raman thinks that it was due to security measures:

    Pakistan was told that it would not be necessary for Musharraf or Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz to come to the airport to receive or see off Mr. Bush since the American officials were afraid that their movement to the airport in their security convoys could alert the terrorists. [Outlook]

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