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Meet the most hated man in Pakistan
February 28, 2006
February proved that US President George W Bush is the most hated man in Pakistan.
Thousands of Pakistanis descended on the roads of Lahore, Islamabad, Peshawar, Karachi and other cities to protest the publication of blasphemous caricatures of their Holy Prophet Mohammed by a newspaper in Denmark.
Significantly, the protesters raised more slogans against Bush than against Denmark, indicating that many Pakistanis believe Bush is a crusader who refused to apologise for the desecration of the Holy Quran at the Guantanamo Bay and Kandahar prisons by American soldiers in the summer of 2005.
Many observers in Islamabad were surprised when a few thousand students of English medium schools and colleges attacked the heavily guarded diplomatic enclave in front of the ministry of foreign affairs. Young boys did not pelt stones at the Indian high commission, but they damaged the embassy of Egypt, an Islamic country.
Why? Because they believe Egyptian President Hosni Mubarak is a ruthless dictator, and that Bush is protecting dictators all over the Muslim world.
The anti-Bush slogans raised by the new generation of moderate Pakistanis in the federal capital is a matter of great concern for many Western diplomats.
Cricket legend Imran Khan, who initially stayed aloof from the anti-caricature rallies which began in the second week of February, now plans to lead a big anti-Bush rally from Rawalpindi to Islamabad on March 3, the day President Bush is expected to arrive in Pakistan.
When Jamaat-e-Islami chief Qazi Hussein Ahmad offered to join his rally, Imran replied: 'Please stay away from me. I am going to march against Bush with boys in jeans and beautiful girls without headscarves. I will prove that not only Mullahs but majority of liberal Pakistanis thinks that Bush is the biggest terrorist on earth who killed thousands of innocent people from Iraq to Afghanistan and now he is planning to invade Iran in the name of war against terror.'
Another question doing the rounds in Islamabad is why Bush took the risk to say that 'America supports a solution that is acceptable to Indians, Pakistani as well as the citizens of Kashmir.'
Many Pakistani officials are very happy about the statement, thinking that Bush, aware of the burning hatred against him in the minds and hearts of common Pakistanis, is trying to make amends by issuing the most supportive statement of Pakistan's position on Kashmir ever made by any American president.
But some analysts think that by using the words 'citizens of Kashmir,' Bush actually supported the idea of Independent Kashmir, which is not acceptable to either India or Pakistan.
It is also believed by many in Pakistan that Bush is using the Kashmir card to achieve some of his own objectives.
On one side he is giving an impression that the 'citizens of Kashmir' are not citizens of India. On the other hand he told Doordarshan in an interview 'on my trip to Pakistan, I will, of course, talk about the terrorist activities, the need to dismantle terrorist training camps and to protect innocent life.'
Is he trying to blackmail both India and Pakistan? What could be his objective behind using the Kashmir card?
Bush wants India to sign a nuclear deal on the terms and conditions laid down by Washington. Many security experts in Pakistan are 'happy,' believing that Washington is trying to penetrate India's nuclear weapons programme.
But some experts in Islamabad expressed fear that after conquering the Indian nuclear installations, America would also like to track Pakistan's nuclear programme in the name of 'peaceful cooperation.'
Bush is also trying get Indian and Pakistani support for his adventure in Iran.
The removal of Mani Shankar Aiyar as India's petroleum minister led many Pakistanis to believe that the 'biggest democracy' in the world is now taking dictation from America.
Aiyar, like Pakistani Senator Mushahid Hussein, secretary general of the pro-Musharraf Pakistan Muslim League, is know to be anti-American. It is not a secret in Islamabad that a major group in the Pakistan Muslim League wants to remove Senator Hussein from the office of secretary general because of his criticism of America and the West. Both Aiyar and Hussein are also avid supporters of the proposed Iran-Pakistan-India gas pipeline project which is opposed by the Bush administration.
Why did Bush announce that he would bring up terrorist training camps with Musharraf?
Actually he is pressurizing Islamabad to do more against the Taliban and Al Qaeda. The visits of Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai and Commonwealth Secretary General Don MacKinnon to Islamabad a few days before Bush's arrival are seen as pressure tactics from Washington by many in Islamabad.
Karzai claimed in Islamabad that Al Qaeda does not exist in Afghanistan, while MacKinnon said Musharraf had to remove his military uniform by 2007. Most Pakistanis have no doubt that the Commonwealth will not raise any objection to Musharraf's uniform if Islamabad hands over a big Al Qaeda fish to Washington in coming weeks.
There is no denying America did a lot in the earthquake-affected areas of Pakistan after October 8. So why are most Pakistanis unwilling to trust America? Why do they still think that Bush is not sincere in solving the Kashmir dispute?
The answer is the current situation in Balochistan.
Pakistan helped America to dislodge the Taliban from Kabul in December 2001. Hamid Karzai was installed there as the new ruler, but he never protected Pakistani interests. There were at least two major attacks on the Pakistani embassy in Kabul after the fall of the Taliban. Now Pakistani officials openly complain that the recent terrorist activities in Balochistan are being organised and financed from Afghanistan, a country that is controlled by a pro-Washington administration.
Bush invaded Iraq in 2003 to destroy Saddam Hussein's weapons of mass destruction, but has been unable to produce even a single such weapon from Iraq since then.
So how can he be trusted?
To establish his credibility in this part of the world, he needs to do a lot more. First, he must resolve the Palestine problem. He must accept the democratically elected government of Hamas in Palestine.
Only after that will he be in a position to speak on the issue of Kashmir.
Hamid Mir is Bureau Chief, Geo TV, Islamabad