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Mintier: Powell visits Pakistan amid general strike

CNN's Tom Mintier reports from Islamabad, Pakistan.
CNN's Tom Mintier reports from Islamabad, Pakistan.  

ISLAMABAD, Pakistan (CNN) -- U.S. Secretary of State Colin Powell arrived Monday in Islamabad to meet with Pakistan's president, Gen. Pervez Musharraf, and other officials in an attempt to shore up an interim government for a post-Taliban Afghanistan.

Powell's visit comes amid a day of strikes organized by Islamic parties in Pakistan opposed to the U.S.-led bombing campaign in Afghanistan.

CNN Correspondent Tom Mintier is in Islamabad, where he gave the following report.

MINTIER: Everyone is waiting for the American secretary of state to arrive, but some of the pieces of the endgame puzzle for Afghanistan may be coming into clearer focus right now.

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We have some pictures just into CNN of the delegation, the royal delegation [deposed former Afghan King Mohammed Zahir Shah] that has arrived from Rome here in Islamabad leaving their hotel on the way for a meeting that is under way right now with the foreign minister of Pakistan.

This meeting of the Foreign Ministry started about 10 minutes ago. They have arrived at the Foreign Ministry and are holding a meeting possibly talking about what might be next, what might come after the Taliban for Afghanistan. So that meeting is going on, and it's quite possible later in the evening that there may be a side meeting between the U.S. secretary of state and this royal delegation here in Pakistan.

Also we're hearing a lot of talk about defections from both the Taliban side and from the Northern Alliance side. Each side claiming countercharges that there have been defections. The deputy ambassador of the Taliban here in Islamabad tried to put that into focus himself, saying that they are united and there have been no Taliban defections to any side.

Earlier, Sohail Shaheen, deputy Taliban ambassador to Pakistan, said, "I assure you there is ... no rift or division or difference among us. ... When there is a foreign invasion, foreign aggression ... in these circumstances the Afghans unify."

MINTIER: Normally we hear from the ambassador himself, but he is in Kandahar right now supposedly for a meeting with [Taliban supreme leader] Mullah Mohammed Omar, so he is not here in the embassy, and we heard from the deputy ambassador.

Monday is a nationwide day of strike. Many of the businesses in Pakistan decided to close their doors, but many more are deciding to keep them open. Here in Islamabad we saw a lot of shops with the padlock on and the shutters down, but we did also see a lot of businesses that were still open despite this order for a called national strike day.

A lot of the grocery stores, filling stations, drugstores, things like that are open, but many more businesses are closed. Now the demonstrations that were supposed to follow the closing of the shops have not really materialized yet.

In the port city of Karachi, most businesses are reportedly open. So we're not seeing the same kind of unity that we saw earlier where we saw basic demonstrations in Quetta and Peshawar and places like that. But we hear that the majority of the stores in those two cities have indeed shuttered their doors and are not opening today following the religious cleric's opposition -- direction that this be a national day of strike.

So everyone is waiting in the next few hours to see what the U.S. secretary of state has on his agenda. He will be here overnight and then meet with the Pakistani president Tuesday before going on to New Delhi, India.

CNN: You talk about that agenda. Could the issue of Kashmir be addressed?

MINTIER: Most definitely. Pakistan has made a point of saying that it would like the secretary of state to indeed become more involved and would like the U.S. to become more involved with negotiations between India and Pakistan and possibly under the umbrella of the United Nations to try to resolve the conflict of Kashmir.

But of course Colin Powell will probably have at the top of his agenda continued support for the U.S. effort on terrorism while the airstrikes continue over Afghanistan.


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