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Pakistanis Praise Obama Cairo Speech But Await Specifics  

A group of Pakistanis who watched President Barack Obama's Cairo speech to Muslims are praising the American leader for his skill as a public speaker. But after seeing the speech on television at VOA's Islamabad bureau, they say it lacked specific policy details that they consider crucial to improving U.S. relations with Pakistan.

For Sajid Mahmoood Qazi, a student of law and international relations who works for the Pakistani government, there is no doubt that Obama's speech in Cairo was impressive.

"It was a beautiful discourse on the evolution of American society and the role Islam played, and the role of Muslims, whether they are cabbies in New York or have made fabulous riches," he said. "It is wonderful to listen [to] from the highest level of American leadership."

But he says, as a student of law, President Obama's description of the Iraq war as a "war of choice" struck him as hypocritical.

"Well, I'm sorry Mr. President. It was much more beyond that. As a start, he [Obama] should have expressed the regrets, if not the apologies, for the invasion of Iraq," he added.

Muhammad Arif Muqueem, a university student in Islamabad, also praised Mr. Obama's speech. But Muqueem said it did not propose solutions to specific policy issues that he believes must be addressed.

"His speech was good but just for listening. Not for understanding," Muqueen said. "I think this is impossible until you solve the Israel and Palestinian dispute, Pakistan and Afghanistan dispute and the Iraq dispute."

Asad Farooq, is a student at Bahria University in Islamabad. He also says the speech was a brilliant effort. However, Farooq wonders whether Mr. Obama would acknowledge that U.S. missile attacks - commonly referred to as drone attacks - on suspected terrorist bases in Pakistan make it difficult to trust his intentions.

"What is extremism? Now come the drone attacks which happen in Pakistan. Now there's a reason for extremism. They usually kill children and women in tribal areas. They don't kill the terrorists," Farooq said. "Drone attacks are not going to help; use of force is not going to help. I often say a statement that 'terror is an idea and you don't fight ideas with conventional armies'."

Overall, these Pakistanis say it will take much more than just a very well-delivered speech to alter Pakistani Muslims' attitudes about the United States. They say it will take concrete change to decades of American policy in Pakistan.