Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf faces opposition from some of his allies and from rightwing Opposition parties over his proposed visit to India to watch one of the matches in the ongoing India-Pakistan cricket series.
"President Musharraf has not yet decided to visit India to watch the match," Major General Shaukat Sultan, the Pakistan president's press secretary, told rediff.com
"Visiting India is not a small thing. President Musharraf is not a small man who can decide about a foreign visit in a few hours," Major General Sultan said. Asked if this meant that Musharraf would not travel to India, the general said, "It is a big decision. I cannot speculate."
Jalil Abbas Jilani, the spokesman for the Pakistan foreign office, was also tightlipped, only saying, "We are still examining the possibilities. No decision has been taken yet."
Reliable sources told this correspondent that Pakistan's National Security Adviser Tariq Aziz has strongly recommended to Musharraf that he visit India during the cricket series.
Prime Minister Shaukat Aziz also supports the idea to visit India, but Hamid Nasir Chattha, chairman of the Pakistan national assembly's Kashmir committee, opposes the proposal. Chatta, a senior parliamentarian from the ruling Muslim League, feels since Shaukat Aziz has already visited India, Prime Minister Dr Manmohan Singh should come to Pakistan before Musharraf travels to India.
Tariq Aziz is trying to ensure that Dr Singh announces a date for his Pakistan visit so that the Musharraf trip can go ahead.
Foreign Minister Khurshid Kasuri is also a supporter of the cricket for diplomacy prooposal, but some top Pakistan diplomats are concerned that All-Parties Hurriyat Conference leader Sheikh Abdul Aziz's arrest outside the Pakistan high commission in Delhi a few weeks ago should not be glossed over. Musharraf's visit will send the wrong message to pro-Pakistan elements in Srinagar, these diplomats say.
Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal President Qazi Hussain Ahmed has announced a million man march against Musharraf in Karachi on March 20. The qazi has also announced a nationwide strike on April 2. Though he does not oppose Musharraf's India visit it is part of his chargesheet against the Pakistan president.
"Musharraf is playing into the hands of the US. He is conspiring against Iran, he is conspiring against his own people," the qazi told rediff.com "He is ready to compromise on Kashmir, he wants to surrender in Kashmir without fighting and that is why he is planning to visit India in the name of cricket. We will throw him out in the next few months through people's power."
A source close to Musharraf says, "the President is willing to visit India. I think he will go because this is the only way through which he can defeat extremists on both sides. But he will take some time to decide when and where he will see a match. We are awaiting advice from the Indian side."