Pakistan Shooting Clouds Clinton's Visit

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Pakistan isn't exactly making it easy for President Clinton. Only four days after the White House announced it would include a brief stop in Pakistan in the course of the President's visit to India and Bangladesh, one of ousted prime minister Nawaz Sharif's lawyers, Iqbal Raad, was shot dead in broad daylight by unknown gunmen. Nawaz is being tried on charges of kidnapping and attempted murder, for allegedly attempting to prevent a plane carrying current military leader General Parvez Musharraf from landing — the event that triggered last year's coup. The Friday shooting came a day after Raad had begun to present Nawaz's defense, arguing that the coup plot against him originated after he met with President Clinton last June and agreed to withdraw Pakistani forces who had crossed into Indian territory at Kargil in the disputed territory of Kashmir. Pakistan's military was widely reported to have fiercely opposed the decision to retreat.

Although the Clinton administration had considered staying away from Pakistan in light of the coup and unhappiness in Washington over Islamabad's efforts in the fight against terrorism, the President elected to go in the belief that a personal relationship with General Musharraf could be critical to resolving future crises in an unstable region — as his personal relationship with Nawaz had helped end the Kargil standoff. The fact that President Clinton's old friend Nawaz is now saying General Musharraf launched his coup in retaliation for the Pakistani premier's doing Washington's bidding — and the assassination of his lawyer in mid-argument — may slow the chemistry between the U.S. president and the Pakistani strongman.