Zardari faces tough criticism for 'joy ride'

Published: August 4, 2010
President arrives in London amid row over Cameron’s remarks. PHOTO: AFP

President arrives in London amid row over Cameron’s remarks. PHOTO: AFP

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari was in Britain Wednesday amid rows over London’s claim that Islamabad promoted the “export of terror” and his failure to return home after devasting floods.

Zardari, who arrived in Britain on Tuesday, will hold talks with British Prime Minister David Cameron on Friday and explain “face to face” his anger over Cameron’s comment that Pakistan must not “look both ways” on violent extremism.

But Zardari is facing growing pressure to go back to Pakistan and lead the country’s response to the worst floods in living memory in northwest and central areas which have killed up to 1,500 people and hit over three million. Pakistan is holding an emergency cabinet meeting on Wednesday in a bid to speed up relief work following the floods which washed away villages and ruined farmland in one of its poorest and volatile regions.

The country’s main opposition leader Nawaz Sharif said on a visit to reporters in Charsadda, one of the worst affected areas, that Pakistanis had been “let down very badly by Mr Zardari”.

“The government has failed to perform its duty in the crisis. They should have used all their resources to help the flood victims,” he added.

Imran Khan, the country’s former cricket captain turned opposition politician, said Zardari should be in Pakistan following the disaster. “Any talks can be postponed — surely the priority should be your own people,” he told ITV television. “And then to go on this lavish tour — this money could be used on the victims.”

Zardari’s visit to Europe — which started in France, where he met President Nicolas Sarkozy and visited his family’s rural stately home — is not due to end until after a rally in Britain Saturday when he will reportedly launch the political career of his son, who has been studying at Oxford University.

The trip was labelled a “joy ride” by one flood survivor, and a number of British lawmakers of Pakistani origin have pulled out of a planned lunch with Zardari Thursday. “For him to spend tens of thousands of pounds on the launch of his son’s political career at a time when his country needs him shows that he’s out of touch and his advisors are ill-informed,” one of them, Lord Nazir Ahmed of the main opposition Labour Party, told AFP. “Quite frankly, staying in five-star hotels with his huge entourage, tens of big cars that have been hired just to give him this protocol in London, it’s quite outrageous.”

There was also an angry reception late Tuesday for Zardari when he arrived at his hotel in central London, where protesters accused him of wasting money on the visit that would be better spent helping those affected by the floods. Officials have defended the cost of Zardari’s trip, issuing a statement insisting he was staying in the “cheapest five-star hotel in London” and was avoiding the royal suite in favour of a “relatively cheaper” one.

Zardari is still expected to meet members of Cameron’s government Thursday, thought to include Home Secretary Theresa May, Education Secretary Michael Gove and Minister Without Portfolio Baroness Sayeeda Warsi, Britain’s first female Muslim cabinet minister. Relations between London and Islamabad soured after Cameron said last week: “We cannot tolerate in any sense the idea that this country is allowed to look both ways and is able, in any way, to promote the export of terror.”

The comments have sparked fury in Pakistan and in an interview with French daily Le Monde Tuesday, Zardari warned that coalition forces were “losing the war against the Taliban” in Afghanistan. He added: “The war against terrorism must unite us and not oppose us”. Cameron later rejected the idea that international forces in Afghanistan were “losing the battle of hearts and minds” in a BBC radio interview. He also said that Britain’s relationship with Afghanistan could “survive speaking frankly about problems”.

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Reader Comments (14)

  • sarah
    Aug 4, 2010 - 8:24PM

    excuses! excuses! shameful. and whats a “cheap five star hotel”????Recommend

  • Sajjad Ashraf
    Aug 4, 2010 - 9:41PM

    Heads of state of countries with honor would call off visit after such remarks by the British Prime Minister. Mr. Zardari choses to go underscores the fact that we have let ourselves down again. Stand up. This nation of ours will respond if the leadership shows some courage and honor.Recommend

  • A M Khan
    Aug 4, 2010 - 10:00PM

    Our Cricket Team should also cancel the tour and come back.They should not play with a team whose PM has been rude.Moreover with floods in the KP this is no time to play.The money saved should be donated to Pashtun flood victims. Recommend

  • cmsarwar
    Aug 5, 2010 - 3:28AM

    Zardari’s trip to France and U.K has to be viewed in a much broader perspective.Of course,the timing is brutal coinciding with the devastation of floods throughout the country and blood bath in Karachi.The presidential trip is also an ample proof of the priorities of this government.For Zardari it is the family first and foremost.The whole thing looks like a series of family reunions in home towns of France and U.k at state expense.But the main issue is that after 18th amendment if Prime Minister is the Chief Executive why the Foreign Office and PM should not attend to the issues supposedly being tackled by the President,at home and abroad? Let the professionals in our Foreign Office determine how and when to confront the Cameron situation.Why is the President pursuing a line of action parallel to ,and notwithstanding ,the mechanism available through PM,s and Foreign Office? PM Gilani’s justification for this unfortunate Presidential trip is not only hollow but is also establishing his acceptance of a subservient and short-sighted utilitarian role in the existing set-up.Another important issue is ,in our so-called parlimentary democratic set-up,how do we identify and differentiate when Mr.Zardari is the President of Pakistan and and when he is the Chairman of PPP? After all,he is a very expensive President and travels a lot more than the President of India.And one last question:Why do you have to meet Cameron face to face,look into his eyes in order to convince him that he was wrong.Will our Foreign Office clarify and certify that there was no other option?Recommend

    Aug 5, 2010 - 6:38AM

    Pakistan is made for corrupt politicians… who care about the poor Pakistanis those are dieing in flood and terror they can spend millions of pounds on there entertainment but cant spend a single pane on needful peoples telling you a truth PAKISTAN HAS A DEAD NATION……! Recommend

  • aamir ali
    Aug 5, 2010 - 10:00AM

    this is highly shameful. this is typical of Wadera poloitics. But such people succeed in Pakistan. these people will plunder the wealth of nation, but in their speeches they will be ready to sacrifice their lives for the poor. this was the strategy of Zulfiqar Bhutto, Benazir and Bilawal is also being trained to mentain double face.Recommend

  • Rana Tauqeer Ahmad
    Aug 5, 2010 - 12:21PM

    leaders lead from the front in every race of life, rather than leading the Govt. institutions in flood relief process, our nation’s so-called champion of Democracy and elected President Mr.Zardari has run away to Europe for truly named “Joy-Ride”,leaving behind his nation to cope and die with the devastated flood !
    As, Imran Khan said,“Any talks can be postponed — surely the priority should be your own people.”
    They ruined the self respect and honor of our nation and let our hopes down. Govt. has totally failed to perform it’s duty in these crisis.
    By looking at this shameful situation some pinching questions come in my mind that must be answered.

    -Do they still deserve to be called our leaders and champions of Democracy?

    -Was this “joy-ride” more important to him than his nation,suffering from history’s worst devastated flood?

    -What’s their 1st priority – nation or “agenda-less joy-rides”?

    -Will our Nation forgive them for these blunders?

    Hoping to see some replies.Recommend

  • zubair hassan hashmi
    Aug 5, 2010 - 10:49PM

    Zardari is the president of pakistan and in this situation he knows better what a president had to do. on one side it is flood which killed 1500 people, there are electricity crisis, unemployment has ruined livs of people Recommend

  • Imran
    Aug 6, 2010 - 10:21AM

    Zardari epitomizes the revolting face of our “elected representatives”. The simple solution is for us to cast our votes with more integrity, to choose people who are good for our country. There is no one to blame for the plight of Pakistan but the Pakistanis themselvesRecommend

  • Akbar
    Aug 7, 2010 - 10:52PM

    nobody voted for zardari imranRecommend

  • Jane spencer
    Aug 8, 2010 - 9:31AM

    Must have a good shoe collection after the incidentRecommend

  • Khan Baba
    Aug 8, 2010 - 9:49AM

    one more shoe for ZRecommend

  • Khadim Husain
    Aug 8, 2010 - 10:41AM

    Zardari has confirmed that we are registred beggars and peoples looking his visit as wisdom are naive. It was family affair at the cost of peoples money.Recommend

  • Imran
    Aug 8, 2010 - 2:32PM

    @akbar, I agree that Zardari was not directly elected and he manipulated an undemocratic and farcical system within the Peoples Party. The elected politicians did not have the integrity to stop actions detrimental to our country’s weal. We do continue to elect toadies, louts, criminals and ignorant thugs to our National Assembly. It is preposterous to expect these MNAs to behave like reasonable citizens.Recommend

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