ISLAMABAD: With the country reeling from the devastation of the worst floods in its history, President Asif Zardari warned on Monday that if the political leadership failed to lead the nation, extremists and militants could step in to fill the vacuum.
Speaking at a dinner hosted in honour of the editors of prominent national dailies at the Presidency, Asif Zardari said the political leadership should not be afraid of leading the nation even if in doing so they attract criticism.
Though the challenge thrown up by the natural calamity is unprecedented, the president voiced confidence that the whole nation along with all political groupings could rise together to overcome it.
Briefing journalists about the meeting, presidential spokesperson Farhatullah Babar said that the damage caused by floods, relief and rehabilitation measures and UN chief Ban Ki-moon’s Pakistan visit were discussed. The role of the media in relief operations and ways and means to further streamline relief operations also came under discussion at the meeting.
The president said that the media can play a vital role in mobilising the public, the civil society and charity organisations to muster support for the relief and rehabilitation of victims and survivors.
President Zardari cautioned against politicising the unprecedented human miseries for political gains. “Any attempt by anyone to politicise this will be detrimental to the national cause and any effort aimed at alleviating the sufferings of the people will serve (the national cause), he added.
Briefing editors on the catastrophe, the president said that 71 districts throughout the country had been hit by floods, including 24 in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, 19 in Sindh, eight in Punjab, seven in Azad Kashmir, seven in Gilgit-Baltistan and six in Balochistan. Close to 1,400 people have been killed, over 720,000 houses destroyed and over 1.2 million people adversely affected. Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa has suffered the most followed by Punjab and Sindh.
Referring to Ban Ki-moon’s visit, Zardari said that the UN chief has himself witnessed the extent of damage to life, property and infrastructure during a tour of the flood affected areas. “He assured us of all-out support on behalf of the UN to cope with the catastrophe,” he added.
“We will fight adversity and come out victorious,” the presidential spokesperson quoted Zardari as telling the editors.
Published in The Express Tribune, August 17th, 2010.
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