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February 15, 2002
2200 IST

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Musharraf takes time off with family

Chhavi Sachdev in Boston

Pakistan President Pervez Musharraf took three days off to meet his son and daughter-in-law in Boston before the official leg of his American visit began.

Pakistan International Airline flight 711 made an unscheduled stop at the Logan International Airport to let off the first couple and their aides on February 9.

Pakistan Ambassador to the United States Dr Maleeha Lodhi and Honorary Consul General in Boston Barry Hoffman were among the officials who received the dignitaries.

"He (Musharraf) just wanted to relax before meeting President George Bush," Hoffman said.

Accompanied by secret service agents, some personal bodyguards and a few aides, the president went to the town of Canton, Mass, where his son Bilal and daughter-in-law Iram reside.

"The president stayed with his son in a two-bedroom condo in Canton," he said, adding, "the delegation that arrived with the president went to Washington."

Bilal, who is a chartered accountant, arranged two small social gatherings while the president was there. Iram works for a bank and is a graduate of the prestigious Lahore University of Management Sciences in Pakistan.

By all accounts the president's visit was very quiet. Rumours had it that the stopover would be filled with politics.

There was also speculation that Musharraf had arranged to meet former Pakistan prime minister Benazir Bhutto in Canton. However, Bhutto left the country before the president arrived.

"There were no meetings whatsoever," a friend of Bilal said on condition of anonymity.

"There was a small private dinner and a meeting with some Pakistani American professors," the consul general said. "But again, they were strictly private; even I wasn't in attendance," he added.

"I think (Musharraf) wanted to spend some time with family and he did just that," Bilal's friend said. "Bilal was in Pakistan (in December) for a personal visit and met his parents, but it has been a while since the president visited him," he added.

While Boston has a lot to offer for tourists, Musharraf didn't do anything high profile. "One, it was difficult for security purposes (since) he is quite recognisable. And two, I think they wanted to spend time at home and just be together. I think eating ice-cream at a local bar wasn't really on his agenda," he said.

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