A dinner to remember in Pakistan (Islamabad diary)

September 8th, 2012 - 12:41 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, Sep 8 (IANS) The dinner reception hosted by Indian High Commissioner to Pakistan Sharat Sabharwal Friday night could easily be termed as a high point in the thaw between India and Pakistan.

While the reception was in honour of the visiting Indian External Affairs Minister S.M. Krishna, it was the presence of the Pakistani leaders and artistes which caught the fancy of the large Indian media contingent there.

Interior Minister Rehman Malik, known for his controversial remarks, was virtually mobbed for bytes and comments by the Indian media while Pakistan’s glamorous Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar was much at ease. Malik could be seen sweating the most from the heat of the camera lights.

Top Pakistani singers, Abida Parveen and Arif Lohar, too were busy giving bytes. Abida Parveen could be seen commenting and even briefly singing a few lines for the Indian news channels even as her relative stood close-by with a plateful of `samosas’ and other eats.

Others at the reception included top political leaders of various political parties, federal ministers, Members of Parliament, business leaders, artistes, civil society and NGO members.

Hectic day for Krishna

Despite his cool demeanour, Krishna had a hectic schedule in Islamabad during the first day of his three day visit to Pakistan. After his arrival, Krishna had a series of meetings with leaders of the Awami National Party, Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM) and Pakistan Muslim League (Q). This was followed by his meeting with Pakistan’s new Prime Minister, Raja Pervez Ashraf.

Krishna called on Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari late Friday evening - infact, after the reception hosted by the Indian high commissioner ended at the Serena hotel.

Tight security

Authorities in Pakistan are not taking any chances with security during Krishna’s visit. In Islamabad, Krishna’s motorcade has several security vehicles along with the fleet of Mercedes cars. Traffic is stopped everytime the VVIP guest moves. The Serena Hotel, where Krishna, the Indian delegation and media are staying, is like a fortress with several security checks at every step.

In fact, leading hotels like Marriott and Serena have a multiple tier security around them. Security agencies, obviously, don’t want to take chances with the terrorist attack on Marriott hotel here a few years ago.

Krishna’s Lahore visit

Krishna will be spending a few hours in Lahore Sunday after finishing his engagements in Islamabad. He is expected to meet political, business and civil society leaders there during his visit. He is also scheduled to visit the memorial of Maharaja Ranjit Singh and a couple of other places there.

(Jaideep Sarin can be contacted at jaideep.s@ians.in)

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