Pakistani dictator General Musharaff has given a body-swerve to a crucial set of meetings with more than 600 tribal leaders in Afghanistan. The "peace jiirga", due to start in Kabul on Thursday, was talked up by both Bush and Afghan president Karzai on Monday, with Karzai expressing delight at Mushie's promised presence.
Now, without giving reasons publicly, Musharaff has announced he will be sending his prime minister, Shaukat Aziz, instead.
The Bush administration's reaction?
State Department spokesman Sean McCormack said that Pakistani officials had discussed Musharraf's reason for skipping the meeting with U.S. and Afghan officials, but he would not elaborate on Pakistan's explanation.Given that the four days of talks are already being boycotted by delegates from Pakistan's restive South and North Waziristan regions, regions where Karzai and others have accused Pakistan of giving the Taliban safe haven, I doubt karzai will be feeling as forgiving.
``President Musharraf certainly wouldn't stay back in Islamabad if he didn't believe he had good and compelling reasons to stay back,'' McCormack said. ``Certainly we would understand that.'