Gilanis austere US visit may not turn out so austere at all!

July 22nd, 2008 - 1:03 pm ICT by ANI  

Nawaz Sharif

Washington , July 22 (ANI): US officials in Washington are a baffled lot these days ahead of Pakistan Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilanis first America visit, as it is not yet clear as to how many journalists would be accompanying the premier.

Though the prime minister has urged the Pakistan embassy in Washington to observe austerity during his visit and arrange cheaper hotels and cars for his entourage, the overhead costs like providing free international phone lines for the journalists cannot be done away with, reported the Dawn.

According to paper, the prime minister may have succeeded in cutting down his personal costs by allowing only two cabinet ministers and two advisers on board his plane, the number of journalists who would be accompanying him has still kept the officials in the US guessing.

The prime minister may have saved the money which was to be spent on fares, but there are other expenses that will apparently escape the austerity drive. Each media, and non-media, member of the delegation will get the daily allowances. The government of Pakistan will also pay the hotel bills. And then there will be a host of media minders who will also have to be paid. During such visits, the embassy also arranges free international phone for the media which are used by journalists, as well as officials accompanying the delegation, for calling wives, sisters, children and friends in Pakistan and elsewhere. The austerity drive never covers such expenses, reported the paper.

Gilani has sent a letter to the embassy urging the officials there them to maintain austerity during the visit. He and senior members of his delegation will stay at Willard, a hotel close to the White House, while others will stay at less expensive places in Washington or nearby Virginia .

The prime minister also advised the embassy not to hire limousines and instead use ordinary cars and vans, reported the paper and added: Will his advise be followed? The signs are that they cannot be implemented even if the PM and the embassy both try to do so. Reports coming from Islamabad indicate that other ministers also are interested in coming with the prime minister on his first America yatra. And ministers do not travel alone. They bring their staff too.

Initially, PPP chairman Asif Zardari and PML-N leader Nawaz Sharif were also said to be coming with the prime ministers. But, after getting signals from Washington that the US administration would only be extending full protocol to Gilani, the other two have decided not to accompany the Prime Minister. (ANI)

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