WASHINGTON, May 5: Karachi City Nazim Mustafa Kamal said on Monday that he had come to the United States to urge American businessmen to invest in his city.

“We have built the infrastructure. We have created facilities. Now we need investment,” the mayor told Dawn. “Yes, there is a risk factor but we are here to convince the businessmen that it is a risk worth taking.”

The mayor’s visit to Washington led to widespread speculations in the media, particularly in Pakistan, that he is here on a mission to strengthen President Pervez Musharraf.

Some reports also claimed that the US was trying to put together an alliance of like-minded parties to back the next political set-up in Pakistan should the PML-N quit the government.

Even CNN -- in a brief interview with Mr Kamal -- noted that the MQM leader had come to the United States at a time when America’s friendship with Pakistan ‘isn’t exactly what it was’. A power shift and Pakistan’s new relationship with extremists is testing that bond. So the State Department was working to build bridges with Pakistan’s future, the report added.

CNN’s State Department correspondent Zain Verjee noted that Mr Kamal had received star treatment at the State Department and that “the mayor of Karachi is a guest with a mission”.

“It is not my domain,” said Mr Kamal when asked if he was here for talks aimed at strengthening President Musharraf. “I was not here to discuss this sort of things. My role remains confined to Karachi. I had no political talks.”

A State Department spokesman, when asked to comment on Mr Kamal’s meetings with officials at the department, said: “If you are looking for an ulterior motive, there’s none.”

The mayor’s 40-minute meeting with Assistant Secretary Richard Boucher was his only at the State, said the official.

“Mr Boucher talks to a lot of people,” said the official. “They had met in Pakistan a month ago when Mr Boucher visited Karachi. We got word that he was in town, wanted to come by, say hello to Mr Boucher and present an album of his trip to Karachi.”

Mr Kamal also denied having a hidden agenda. “All I can say is that Karachi is a very important city and has a very strategic role to play in Pakistan,” said the mayor. “People are realising Karachi’s importance. We have developed that city and now we are seeking investment.”

He said that the US State Department had helped arrange his meetings with the American business community and officials in various cities. He has already met the mayors of Chicago and Houston and the deputy mayor in Washington. In New York, he has a series of meetings with potential investors and is also meeting the board of directors of the world’s largest stock exchange.