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Last Updated: Saturday, 4 March 2006, 13:59 GMT
Pakistan debates US relationship
By Aamer Ahmed Khan
BBC News, Islamabad

US President George W Bush and Pakistani President Pervez Musharraf
The allies emphasised their personal friendship
Inferiority complex, greed, anger, hatred, fear, love or gratitude - what is it that characterises Pakistan's relationship with the US?

The question dominates public discourse in Pakistan whenever an important US dignitary is visiting.

With President George W Bush in town, the debate could not have been more fierce - fuelled by a plethora of private TV channels that have come up since Bill Clinton's brief stopover in Islamabad in March 2000.

At that time, it was only the state-controlled PTV that was carrying the debate. The PTV's analysts were unforgiving - to say the least - because the US president was here to admonish, not to admire.

"Mr Clinton looks so lost," bawled one analyst. "He clearly has no idea of the ground reality that he is dealing with."

"He is still thinking of Taj Mahal," another fumed, a reference to a photograph of Mr Clinton and his daughter Chelsea.

It was obvious that Mr Clinton was an unwanted guest and not a very important one given that he was nearing the end of his second term and was considered a 'lame duck president'.

'Licking the boots'

The situation is far less obvious this time.

We heard President Pervez Musharraf make a special mention of his personal friendship with Mr Bush.

Pakistani protestors during an anti U.S. rally in Rawalpindi, Pakistan
Opposition leaders have spoken out against Mr Bush's visit
And we heard Mr Bush thanking the Pakistani president for sending his daughter to the airport to greet the guest.

But shortly before that, we also heard an entirely different tune.

"Bush only understands toadies and he only wants toadies," opposition leader Imran Khan told a private TV channel.

He was under house arrest for his plans to lead a march against Mr Bush's visit.

Mr Khan wanted to know why the Pakistan government was "licking the boots" of someone who had "killed tens of thousands in Iraq" and who was "bombing Pakistani territory at will".

"It is just our inferiority complex," replied government senator Mushahid Hussain.

"India has conceded far more than us but no-one here is saying the same about India," he said.

"Bah," said Mr Khan. "We are just standing around like greedy mongrels, waiting for whatever morsels he can throw our way."

'Fear' of America

Others were busy reminding their audience that thousands more may have died following last October's earthquake had it not been for US aerial assistance.

Pakistani protestors burn the U.S. flag during an anti U.S. rally in Karachi, Pakistan
Many believe Pakistan is 'scared' of the US
"We should not be ungrateful for all that the Americans have done for us, irrespective of their policies elsewhere in the world," said one analyst.

One TV channel solicited views from viewers.

"What is it that Bush can give us?" a taxi driver asked. "If he can give us what we want, he is welcome."

One student wanted to know: "Will his visit result in more relaxed visa procedures?"

A professional worker told the programme: "I love America. American people are very hard working. We wouldn't be looking at anyone for help if we were as hard working as them."

This was the assessment from one angry mullah: "They are all scared."

"General Musharraf calls himself a commando and commandoes are meant to be brave people. But he fears America."

No wonder then that for Pakistan, the hardest part of dealing with the US is defining its relationship with the world's most powerful nation.


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