Pervez has his way in Delhi - Three members of family land, President to follow in April

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By OUR BUREAU in Delhi
  • Published 16.03.05

New Delhi, March 16: Three generations of Musharrafs landed here today; so will Pervez in April.

The Pakistan President will be in India to watch the last one-dayer between India and Pakistan in Delhi on April 17. His mother, brother and son came today on a private visit.

Ending days of speculation, India confirmed the date of the presidential visit. ?President Musharraf will be coming to Delhi to watch the match on April 17. He will be spending either April 16 night or April 17 night here,? Sanjaya Baru, the Prime Minister?s media adviser, said this evening.

Musharraf will meet Manmohan Singh during the stay but it will not be considered a formal summit; rather, a ?friendly? visit, as officials here put it.

Whatever the label, the Pakistani leader?s choice of venue, after toying with several others, makes it difficult for Delhi not to organise his meeting with Singh and other senior Indian leaders.

Delhi had suggested Kochi as the venue, but the date (April 2) was not convenient for Musharraf.

But for now, the focus is on cricket, as is evident from foreign minister K. Natwar Singh?s humorous remark today at a joint news conference with visiting US secretary of state Condoleezza Rice. ?I will?respectfully request him (Musharraf) that he ensures the Pakistan cricket team does not beat our team,? Natwar Singh said, making Rice laugh.

The minister added that ?we look forward to welcoming General Musharraf soon?.

The cricket bug appeared to bite Rice, too. ?I am going to make a promise to the foreign minister right now, and that is that I will even try to understand cricket,? the US leader said.

Natwar Singh, in return, promised to try and understand baseball.

But sport was farthest from the mind of Musharraf?s three relatives, as was made clear by Pakistani officials.

?She (mother Zarin) is here on a private visit and no programme has been finalised for her,? said Pakistan high commissioner Aziz Ahmed Khan, who received the trio at the airport.

The frail-looking lady, in a maroon salwar-kameez, was brought out on a wheelchair and whisked away in Aziz?s car.

Zarin, her elder son Javed and grandson Bilal are scheduled to visit Aligarh and Lucknow, where Zarin had studied, and perhaps Agra. They may also visit Naharwali Haveli in Old Delhi, where the Pakistan President had spent some years as a child.

The three will be Aziz?s guests and will stay at his official residence, Pakistan House, on Curzon Road.

Bilal, who works in Boston, had last week been stopped at San Francisco airport and missed a flight to Frankfurt, according to Pakistani daily Dawn.

He was made to stand aside along with his wife and son after an X-ray scan detected traces of explosive TNT on his child?s nappy bag, the daily reported.

The airport security cleared them after half-a-dozen scans of the bag.

There will be a scan on Musharraf?s visit, too, but of the media kind because this will be his first since the failed Agra summit in the summer of 2001.

He will also be the second Pakistan President after Zia-ul-Haq to use ?cricket diplomacy? to improve bilateral relations.

Zia had come to Jaipur, along with a 68-member delegation, between February 21 and 23, 1987, to watch an India-Pakistan Test. A series of meetings with the Indian leadership was held on the sidelines.

As for Musharraf?s delegation and itinerary, the details are being worked out between officials from both sides.

Early this month, at an interaction with Pakistani media, Musharraf had expressed the desire to watch one of the matches in the ongoing cricket series in India.

The Indian establishment was taken aback and tried to play down his remarks. Its initial reluctance to extend an invitation stemmed from the worry that Musharraf?s visit would have more of political and diplomatic connotations than cricket.

It was finally left to Prime Minister Singh to invite the Pakistan President.