Charles meets Pakistan president

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The Independent Online

The Prince of Wales held talks with the President of Pakistan today.

Charles attended a private meeting with General Pervez Musharraf in the capital, Islamabad, during which he was expected to have raised the case of death row Briton Mirza Tahir Hussain, who is due to be hanged.

The heir to the throne and the Duchess of Cornwall are on the first full day of their Royal tour of the Islamic state.

Hussain, originally from Leeds, has spent 18 years in jail for murdering a taxi driver but has always insisted he was acting in self-defence.

He was due to be executed on Wednesday while Charles and Camilla were still in the country, but the hanging was delayed for two months after the Prince and Prime Minister Tony Blair expressed concern over the matter.

Human rights campaigners are hoping Charles could help towards securing a pardon from Mr Musharraf for Hussain.

But the issue is highly sensitive.

Critics have often branded Musharraf a Western poodle and it is thought likely he would not want to be seen to be acting under external influences.

The President has never commuted a death penalty decision made at the Sharia Court and if he did so it would be unprecedented.

Hussain's brother, Amjad, cancelled his trip this week to Pakistan to see him in jail, fearing it might jeopardise his chances.

Charles's talks with Mr Musharraf took place at the presidential palace.

Earlier this month police foiled an attempt on the life of the president when they found several rockets half a kilometre away from the compound.

As the leader warmly greeted Charles with a handshake, he said: "Welcome to Pakistan. It's an honour. We have been really looking forward to this and we would like you to see Pakistan and every aspect of it."

The Prince replied: "I can't tell you how much I've looked forward to it."

He spoke of his "frustration" that he had not been able to travel to the country before.

It is both Charles and Camilla's first trip to the Islamic nation and has been described as one of the most challenging Royal trips security-wise for some time.

A huge security operation has been launched and thousands of extra paramilitary officers drafted in to help.

As well as Taliban and al Qaida presence, there is also opposition to Mr Musharraf's military government, Sunni and Shia rivalry and the problem of the disputed region of Kashmir.

Also at the meeting were the Pakistani foreign minister, the chief of staff and the President's military secretary, among others.

While the Prince carried out his duties on the fourth floor, three floors up on the seventh, Camilla was holding talks with the President's wife, Begum Sehba Musharraf, and the wives of other officials.

The Duchess was dressed in a Robinson Valentine cream silk tunic top and matching palazzo trousers and cashmere dupatta scarf.

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