Secretary Powell Arrives in Pakistan
Powell will meet with Pakistani leader General Pervez Musharraf on Tuesday. On Wednesday he will travel to India for a meeting with Indian Prime Minister Bihari Vajpayee. He is scheduled to visit China later this week.
On the plane bound for the capital Islamabad, Powell praised Musharraf for his anti-Taliban stance in the wake of the terrorist attacks. Before the attacks, Pakistan was one of three countries that recognized the Taliban as Afghanistan’s legitimate government.
“I’m very pleased that [Pakistan and India] are aligned with us in the campaign against terrorism, aligned with the entire civilized world,” Powell said.
Addressing the issue of a post-Taliban Afghanistan, Powell asserted that no country, including Pakistan, should have a final say in the organization of the new government.
“If we truly are interested in a post-Taliban Afghanistan that represents all of the interests of the various factions and elements of Afghan society, then I think we have to listen to them and no one nation has a veto over that,” Powell said.
Powell has said that the best hope for stability in Afghanistan is a broad-based government, and that the United Nations should play a leading role in shaping the new government. Richard Haass, a senior U.S. diplomat and director of the State Department’s office of policy planning, will be the United States’ personal envoy to the United Nations for that assignment, according to Secretary Powell.
As Powell and his party arrived at a military airport next to Islamabad’s commercial airport just after nightfall today, tensions between rivals India and Pakistan flared.
Indian troops fired on Pakistani military posts in the disputed Himalayan territory of Kashmir, killing one woman and injuring 25 people. Indian officials claim they destroyed 11 posts.
In Washington, President Bush urged India and Pakistan, both nuclear powers, to avoid military conflict over Kashmir because it might hamper the U.S. campaign in Afghanistan.
“It is very important that India and Pakistan stand down during activities in Afghanistan or, for that matter, forever,” President Bush said.
Powell will have to tread lightly when addressing the reopening of military ties with India and Pakistan so that neither side can accuse the United States of favoritism.
Earlier Monday, much of Pakistan was shut down in observance of a general strike called for by almost all Islamic parties to protest Powell’s visit.
“[People] should shut down all business, bazaars and shops on October 15 and prove that the Muslims are with the oppressed Muslims of Afghanistan instead of the puppet Pakistani rulers and will not allow American designs in the region to succeed and not hesitate to make any sacrifice for this,” the statement from the Islamic groups said.
Many shops were closed, some schools were empty, and police clashed with hundreds of protesters across Pakistan.