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Wednesday, 17 October, 2001, 20:41 GMT 21:41 UK
Did Musharraf gain by Powell visit?
General Musharraf and Colin Powell
All smiles, but Musharraf's talks with Powell were delicate
By the BBC's Zaffar Abbas in Islamabad

There has been a mixed reaction in Pakistan to the outcome of US Secretary of State Colin Powell's visit to Islamabad and Delhi.

Opinion is divided on whether it has strengthened President Pervez Musharraf's position in Pakistan.

A number of Islamic groups have criticised him for agreeing to a prolonged military operation in Afghanistan.

But politicians supporting the government's policy feel he has emerged stronger.

No assurance

It was in Colin Powell's presence at the joint news conference in Islamabad that President Musharraf acknowledged for the first time that the majority of the people in Pakistan were opposed to the US-led strikes in Afghanistan.

Sifting though the wreckage in Kabul
Musharraf backed the US strikes on Afghanistan

But if he was hoping Mr Powell would give some kind of public assurance for an early end to the military strikes, he was disappointed.

Instead, the Pakistani president ended up giving an assurance to Mr Powell that his government would back the US-led military operation for as long as it takes.

President Musharraf's comments have given hard-line Islamic groups in the country another reason to castigate him.

These Islamic groups have already been on the streets mobilising public support for the Taleban regime and against Pakistan's policy of siding with the Americans.

The leader of one Islamic group said the kind of support that has been offered by President Musharraf amounted to a complete surrender to the wishes of the United States.

Musharraf strengthened?

However, many liberal politicians and former diplomats say the gains made by the Pakistani leader from Colin Powell's visit to the region outnumber the losses.

Anti-US protests in Lahore on 15 October
There is fierce opposition in Pakistan to the US-led air strikes

The American Secretary of State's apparent acceptance of Pakistan's suggestion about including moderate Taleban leaders in any future government in Kabul and his comments about Kashmir have been described as two crucial points that might strengthen General Musharraf's position.

Subsequently, Mr Powell tried to play down the significance of his comments about Kashmir during his news conference in Delhi.

But a former Pakistani foreign secretary described it as semantics and said the secretary of state had done what President Musharraf had been hoping - to put the issue of Kashmir back on the international agenda.

The BBC's Jane Bennett-Powell
"General Musharraf has given strong practical support for air strikes"
General Qureshi, President Musharraf's spokesman
"One wants to limit the amount of destruction that may be caused"
Hardeep Puri, Indian Deputy High Commissioner
"India is looking for a stable Pakistan"
See also:

16 Oct 01 | South Asia
Pakistan cleric charged with treason
16 Oct 01 | South Asia
India launches Kashmir attack
14 Oct 01 | South Asia
Anti-US protests erupt in Pakistan
10 Oct 01 | South Asia
Analysis: Pakistan's fault lines
23 May 01 | South Asia
Q & A: Kashmir dispute
15 Oct 01 | South Asia
India and Pakistan: Troubled relations
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