US President George W Bush plans to announce a "substantial discount" on the five billion dollar deal to sell F-16s to Pakistan during President Pervez Musharraf's visit to Washington as a gesture of approval of his handling of the war on terror, a media report said on Tuesday.
Musharraf, who left for Brussels on Monday on his way to the US, is "understood to be carrying private assurances from President Bush that he may receive a substantial discount in the price of the F-16 aircraft Pakistan is currently in the process of purchasing from Washington," The News reported.
"The first indication of a substantial price reduction, or compensation in lieu of such a cut, was given by General Musharraf himself to his military colleagues in recent weeks after a telephonic talk with President Bush, who acknowledged only two days ago that he keeps talking to Musharraf frequently," the report said.
"While technically it may not be possible for Bush to "reduce" the price of the F-16 aircraft as manufacturers have to get their price with the profits, it may be possible for the US President to compensate Pakistan in some other way, either by an increase in the direct US economic or military aid or writing off existing loans or in some other financial arrangement," the newspaper said.
There is already a raging controversy in Pakistan over the purchase of 38 new and old F-16s over remarks by US officials that Washington would impose strict guidelines, which include periodic inspections of the fleet and their bases to verify guarantees by Pakistan that it would not pass the technology to China.
The planes apparently would also not carry facilities to carry nuclear weapons.
"All these feelings for General Musharraf flow from the strategy that the war on terror is being won and only the Republicans can win this war as compared to Democrats no matter how strong the negative feelings among Americans against the war in Iraq or how damaging its consequences in the November elections," it said.
To counter this Republican strategy, the Democrats and their mouthpieces in the media, are pounding hard on Musharraf who now appears to be acquiring the status of a "political football" for electioneering purposes.
Democratic Party Chairman Howard Dean went on a "rampage" against Musharraf attacking the Pakistan President's deal with tribal in Waziristan.
"Today, or this week, northern Pakistan was written off by President Musharraf. They have now a treaty that they won't go - or an agreement with the tribes that they won't go in and enforce their jurisdiction.
"You know, Afghanistan is turning against us, and that is where the fight on terror is. That's where Osama bin Laden is. Osama bin Laden has not been captured five years later. That's a big problem," it quoted him as saying to the US TV networks.
It also said in order to show Musharraf as a success, the Republican party through its International Republican Institute conducted a survey in Pakistan the results of which showed favourable rating for Musharraf even though it said he should quit one of the offices and allow former Prime Ministers, Benazir Bhutto and Nawaz Sharif.