President Asif Ali Zardari has donated a sum of 2.5 million pounds towards the Prime Minister’s Flood Relief Fund, Pakistan’s High Commissioner to Britain Wajid Shamsul Hassan announced on Saturday at the launch of fund raising appeal at Pakistani High Commission.
Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) chairman, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, launched the campaign and vehemently defended his father’s visit to Europe despite the flooding disaster affecting up to 15 million people at home in Pakistan.
Opening a donation point at the Pakistani High Commission in London, the 21-year-old insisted his father was raising much-needed funds.
“He’s doing the best he can and what he thinks is best to help the people of Pakistan,” the Oxford University history graduate said.
“His personal presence in Pakistan would not be able to raise this much money,” he said, adding that multi-million dollar donations had been made by France, Britain and Abu Dhabi.
The Gulf emirate had “also promised to come and help in rehabilitation after the floods have receded, after the media have gone, and after people are not paying attention,” he said.
“If he thought he could be more useful in Pakistan, I’m sure he would be there,” Bilawal added.
Zardari has been criticised in Pakistan and by some in the Pakistani expatriate community for carrying on his visit, despite the devastating floods which have killed at least 1,600 people.
Bilawal became co-chairman of the Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) alongside his father after the assassination of his mother, Benazir Bhutto, in 2007.
When asked about his plans to go into politics, he said he was focused on completing his education, “as my mother wished”. He added that he intended to continue his academic and political education and was considering studying law.
Meanwhile, Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira has said that the president is continuously monitoring the flood situation in the country and giving necessary directives for the relief efforts.
Talking to a private TV channel, he said that all relief departments, including the army, navy and air force had been fully mobilised for relief efforts.
Kaira added that the prime minister along with the cabinet members are fully involved to make sure that all national and international efforts are streamlined and flood victims got relief expediently.
He said that the president’s visit was necessary to put across Pakistan’s point of view in the backdrop of a controversial statement by British Prime Minister David Cameron.
He added that the flood situation in Pakistan was discussed in detail between the two leaders and the British government committed to extend maximum support to Pakistan in this connection.
Asked why Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi is not part of the president’s delegation, Kaira said it was up to the president to decide his delegation, and added that the foreign secretary was doing a better job in the absence of the foreign minister.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 8th, 2010.
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