ISLAMABAD: As political opponents piled up pressure on embattled President Asif Ali Zardari for an ‘ill-timed’ visit to Britain, Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gilani came to his defence on Thursday, calling the trip ‘an endeavour to safeguard Pakistan’s national interest’.
Speaking to the media, Gilani said that the criticism of Zardari’s tour to the UK was uncalled for and without any solid justification.
As millions of Pakistanis are displaced following massive flooding across the country, President Zardari is in the UK on the second leg of his visit to Europe, after spending three days in France.
Gilani said that Zardari’s visit was in the supreme national interest because he would not only brief world leaders on Pakistan’s position on the war on terror but also seek help for flood victims.
He added that those critical of Zardari do not miss any opportunity to vent their anger against the president and had he been in the country, they would have found other reasons to launch a tirade against him.
Zardari’s visit to the UK is also clouded by the fact that it came immediately after remarks by British Prime Minister David Cameron in India, accusing Pakistan’s top spy agency the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) of exporting terrorism to neighbouring countries. Most opposition parties and most media outlets have been advising the president to cancel his visit as a snub to Cameron’s allegation. But Gilani said that those opposing the visit do not have appropriate grounds to solidify their outburst. “Since the premier and chief ministers who, in the parliamentary setup of our country, are the chief executives of the country and the provinces, there should be no concern over the president’s visit,” he said.
“If the premier or any of the chief ministers were outside the country in this situation, then it could have been a matter of concern,” he added.
The prime minister said that the government was currently fighting on three fronts: the target killings, terrorism, and floods. The top priority, he said, was being given to the rescue and relief of people hit by the floods.
Meanwhile, addressing the 44th convocation of the College of Physicians and Surgeons Pakistan earlier, Gilani said that the effective and sustained implementation of the National Health Policy 2010 will go a long way in meeting the Millennium Development Goals. “There is no denying the fact that the health sector did not receive the policy attention it deserves,” he said.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 6th, 2010.
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