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President Bush reaches Pakistan

No television channel was allowed to telecast his arrival live. All cellular phones around the military airbase were jammed.

india Updated: Mar 04, 2006 02:13 IST

US President George W Bush arrived in Pakistan on Friday on a brief trip during which he is expected to call for greater efforts against terrorism, even as hundreds protested across the country against the visit.

Bush, who flew in from India to the military airbase in nearby Rawalpindi aboard Air Force One, was received at the airport by Foreign Minister Khurshid Mehmood Kasuri and his wife and flown to the Presidency where he will be staying.

No television channel was allowed to telecast his arrival live. All cellular phones around the military airbase were jammed.

A three-tier security cordon was laid for the US president and First Lady Laura Bush, officials said. Army commandos, snipers and US Marines were part of the cordon.

Officials said Bush would start his official engagements Saturday morning with a reception at the Presidency where he will be presented a guard of honour. He will later hold talks with President Pervez Musharraf.

Some opposition parties have said they will hold rallies on Saturday to protest Bush's visit.

Tehreek-e-Insaaf chief Imran Khan announced on Saturday would be observed as a black day and rallies would be taken out. The, Muttahida Majlis-e-Amal, an alliance of six Islamic parties, supported his call.

However, other political parties have decided not to support Khan.

Protests were held across Pakistan on Friday with crowds burning American flags, chanting "Death to Bush!" and scuffling with police shortly before his arrival.

In Karachi, where a bomb blast near the US consulate Thursday killed four people including a US diplomat, police used tear gas and batons to disperse demonstrators.

Police had to use batons to break up a huge crowd that gathered on a major road near where Bush's plane was expected to land.

Islamabad has been put under a security blanket for Bush's visit. An American team supervised the security measures. Five chartered planes carrying US security personnel and other officials landed here Thursday.

Military commanders, about 2,000 paramilitary soldiers and Islamabad police were deployed to ensure foolproof arrangements.

The government also called in some 1,800 personnel of the Frontier Constabulary and Rangers and 500 officials of the Punjab Constabulary.

Another 300 officials of the Diplomatic Protection Department's anti-riot units were deputed inside the diplomatic enclave while police with sniffer dogs manned the green belts around the area.

Constitution Avenue, which houses all important government buildings and the diplomatic enclave, has been designated a "no-go" zone during Bush's stay here.

Reports said more than 300 US security officials were also in Islamabad to oversee Bush's security.

The administration vacated the Serena and Marriott hotels and the Punjab House to host the guests - which include a team of sniffer dogs. Security forces also searched private apartments in the area.

First Published: Mar 03, 2006 22:05 IST