US ignored diplomatic niceties for Gilani: report

July 30th, 2008 - 1:03 pm ICT by IANS  

Islamabad, July 30 (IANS) Essential diplomatic courtesies were ignored when Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani arrived in Washington on his maiden US visit and he was compelled to walk “two-three minutes” to a marquee where he was welcomed by an assistant secretary of state, a media report Wednesday said. “Pakistani diplomats are unable to explain why Gilani and his entourage were treated almost with contempt when they arrived at the Andrews Air Force Base on Sunday afternoon,” The News said in a dispatch from Washington.

“The prime minister was made to walk from his plane to the shed where none higher than (US) Assistant Secretary (of State) Richard Boucher met him. During the walk, Gilani and his wife were seen quite perturbed as neither was there an ordinary carpet nor the customary red carpet, as is usual on official visits,” the newspaper added.

The report was headlined “PM walks, lavish spending but no seats for media”.

The ministers and others in Gilani’s entourage were told to stay in the aircraft. They included Information Minister Sherry Rehman, who “mildly protested” at the treatment they were getting.

“A junior US official who had come to the aircraft reportedly told the minister that there was a threat of a thunderstorm and so they would be safer inside the aircraft but what baffled everyone was that Gilani was not provided a car to drive up to the welcome shed and had to walk, despite the thunderstorm threat,” The News said.

Journalists and some others had to wait for more than eight hours at the airport to get cleared by the US immigration authorities.

“Either the Pakistani diplomats had not properly informed the US Immigration as to how many people were coming or they did not bother to bring enough personnel as only one immigration officer was posted with a laptop and he took hours to clear each member, one after another, without direct immediate access to the immigration and other databases,” the newspaper said.

The media, including US-based correspondents and those who were travelling from Pakistan, “were loudly complaining of discrimination” as most of them were not invited to the dinner Pakistani Ambassador Hussain Haqqani hosted for the prime minister Monday night “although more than 100 guests were there”, The News said.

Many of the senior journalists were seen at the Washington Press Club Monday evening “when they should actually have been listening to their prime minister and talking to other senior US administration officials at the ambassador’s residence”, the newspaper added.

“While no explanation is available for this treatment, at least lack of funds is not one valid reason as spending by the embassy has been lavish with huge floral bouquets delivered to all important members of the delegation at the expensive Willard Hotel in the heart of Washington, each costing at least $150.

“Adding a few more seats to the dinner table may not have cost the embassy more than two floral bouquets,” The News maintained.

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