Security keeps media away front Clinton
ISLAMABAD- The arrival of US President Bill Clinton to Pakistan turned out to be a big disappointment for mediamen, who gathered at the Chaklala airbase both at the time of his arrival and departure, but did not get even an opportunity to have a chat with him.
What, however, they received each time was a wave from Bill Clinton with his left hand.
The mediamen were strictly confined to a stand erected for them at the airbase which was under total control of the US security officials. It looked more like an American airbase on Pakistan soil.
President Clinton, wearing greenish grey suit, stepped out of an unmarked small jet at about 12:37pm which was surrounded by American security officials, mostly in black suits. Foreign minister Abdus Sattar, Foreign Secretary Inamul Haq, Pakistan’s ambassador to Washington Dr Maleeha Lodhi and two young children, a girl and a boy, who were holding bouquets, greeted the president. He had a perfunctory chat with Ms Lodhi and the youngsters, and shook hands with others.
He later briefly talked with US officials present there after which he waved to the journalists and got into his limousine parked hardly 10 meters away from the aircraft. There were more than half a dozen American limousines, all with US flags and seals and driven by US officials, lined up in the president’s motorcade which immediately left for the Presidency. The foreign minister and his team were seen rushing down to find their cars.
Three aircraft, two gigantic ones of the US Air Force, and the third, a blue-and-white jet inscribed United States of America, landed before the unmarked white-and-silver small plane carrying the President. Nobody had any idea in which plane President Clinton was travelling. The area remained under total control of the US officials most of whom were wearing jackets apparently concealing the weapons they carried. Interestingly, the scantily roaming Pakistani officials and soldiers, however, were hardly seen carrying any weapon. The journalists, in eight coaches, who were driven back to Islamabad soon after the departure of Clinton’s motorcade to the presidency, witnessed an unprecedented security all around the roads. Before any of the four aircraft landed few vehicles were continuously scanning the ground all around the airbase and on the runway. A few US officials with telescopes, were standing on the rooftop of the airbase building to keep an eye on the any suspicious movement. The city seemed to be under siege. Security persons were standing at the rooftops of the building on both sides of the roads, all the streets and link-roads opening to the main road were blocked and no one was allowed to approach it.
On his way back, the president arrived at the airbase at about 18:12 and went inside the building to address the gathering of US embassy officials and their families. At 18:50 he appeared again, shook hands with Foreign Minister Abdus Sattar and Dr Maleeha Lodhi, waved to the journalists and was whisked away in his limousine, to board this time another jet. Madeleine Albright and Karl Inderfurth. were accompanying the president both on his way in and out of the country.