Engaging in some "banquet diplomacy," last week Uzbek officials treated a visiting delegation of Pakistani officials led by Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani to a long evening of traditional singing and dancing and a lavish seven-course meal, The Express Tribune of Pakistan reported.
The Uzbek government pulled out all the stops at a reception hosted by Uzbek Prime Minister Shavkat Mirziyoyev at the Hotel Intercontinental in Tashkent on March 24. President Islam Karimov received Gilani, calling Pakistan "an important partner."
The result: a struggling Pakistan agreed to take a delivery of 1 million bales of cotton -- and without having to pay the standard 80 percent advance payment, centralasiaonline.com reported citing Pakistan's The News International.
All Pakistan Textile Mills Association (APTMA) Chairman Gohar Ejaz told The News that Pakistan had been unable to get cotton from its other foreign suppliers.
Pakistan lost as much as 15 percent of its own cotton crop last season due to heavy floods in which more than 1,000 people died. Supply lines were also blocked, making delivery uncertain.
Although Pakistan has not purchased cotton from Uzbekistan in 10 years, it is willing to do business with Uzbekistan now to save its own textile industry due to shortages. Islamabad has proved indifferent to the exploitation of children in Uzbekistan, although domestic media has covered the issue of Uzbekistan's deplorable practices.
According to The Express Tribune, the ingredients for the impressive feast were brought in from Tashkent, Bukhara, and Samarkand and took a day to prepare:
The seven-course menu included red caviar with butter, an assortment of cold meat cuts, a fish platter, a cheese platter, salads, pickled vegetables, mezzeh, mini fish shashlik served with perch fish and prawns, cream of spinach soup, special Uzbek plov and a croquant parfait with sliced seasonal fruits as dessert.
By contrast, the children coerced to work in the fields bringing in the harvest are fed "third-rate macaroni," according to fergananews.com. A freelance journalist in Bukhara wrote an eyewitness report:
"We were mostly served pasta, often with flour worms, and suspicious soups," one Bukhara student, who gave her name as Nargiza, said. "Many refused to eat it, because it was dangerous. Several people became ill."
Families also usually have to pay out of their own meager earnings for food.