News and Views from
How New York Pakistanis See the Bush Visit
By Syed S. Hussain
Bush completed his first-ever visit to Pakistan as per schedule
amid one of the tightest security arrangements the Pakistani
capital Islamabad has seen for a long time. Layers after
layers of security cordon consisting of Pakistani police,
militias and armed forces personnel supported by US security
apparatus ensured that the visit goes off without any incident.
The visit coincided with a strike call against blasphemous
cartoons, which paralyzed much of the country. In Islamabad,
all schools and many government offices were closed ahead
of President Bush's arrival. Many businesses were also closed
in response to the strike call
Most Pakistanis living in New York heaved a sigh of relief
as the visit was completed safely. There was much concern
about the visit in view of the Karachi bombings just a few
days earlier targeting an American diplomat.
As to the substance of the visit itself not much ground
was broken as was the anticipation of many. The visit remained
primarily confined to the security and war on terror related
issues. This was disappointing for many in the community
who were expecting substantial progress in other fields
like increased trade and relaxation of visa process etc.
had said before heading to Islamabad: "I believe a
prosperous democratic Pakistan would be a steadfast partner
for America and a peaceful neighbor for India and a force
for freedom and moderation in the Arab world”. Unfortunately,
during the visit not many steps appeared to have been taken
to translate this hope and belief in practice. Nonetheless,
some important issues were addressed during the visit:
• ECONOMY: Both countries agreed to initiate institutional
frameworks to expand trade and economic links. Also open
high-level dialogue on energy, education and science and
• GAS PIPELINE: Probably the most significant gain
for Pakistan in real terms was achieved when President Bush
declared that he had no objections to an Iranian pipeline
to supply natural gas to India and Pakistan. This should
be welcome news for Pakistan as US objection to this deal
was clouding this important project.
• EARTHQUAKE RELIEF: President Bush promised continued
assistance in quake relief and reconstruction. President
Bush and First Lady Laura Bush also met with orphaned children
and other survivors of the quake and expressed their sympathy
and support for them. President Bush also praised Pakistan’s
efforts in facing this colossal natural disaster.
• KASHMIR: Nothing notable happened on this issue.
However, President Bush reiterated that Indian and Pakistani
leaders were committed to resolving the decades-old issue
and the United States would continue to encourage the parties
to come together.
• ELECTIONS 2007: President Bush urged Parvez Musharraf
to hold "open and honest" elections in 2007. According
to him only a viable democratic setup in the country could
defeat terrorism. President Musharraf reciprocated by saying
that he had given total freedom to the press and introduced
democracy at grassroots levels and that the post-2007 elections
setup in the country would be as per the constitution.
US-INDIA NUCLEAR DEAL: Another issue which has received
wide attention among the New York-based Pakistanis is the
nuclear deal that according to many analysts has put the
US-India relations on a new level of cooperation. There
is a feeling that Pakistan has been left out of the race
and India has been rewarded whereas both India and Pakistan
have an almost similar history of nuclear development. In
fact, it was India’s 1974 nuclear test that brought
about the so-called nuclear race in the sub-continent. President
Bush put his perspective to the issue when he declared that
“Pakistan and India are different countries with different
needs and different histories,"
AMBASSADOR JEHANGIR KARAMAT: A protocol glitch seems to
have occurred due to the absence of Pakistan’s Ambassador
to the United States Jehangir Karamat during the just concluded
visit of President Bush. Normally the country’s ambassador
is present during such an important visit. The official
explanation was rather unconvincing, that there was nothing
unusual about this!!