Tuesday, April 23, 2024

Flood flurry ends head’strip


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BIRMINGHAM, England – Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari rounded off a trip to Britain by addressing a political rally yesterday, facing criticism and protests for touring overseas as floods killed more than 1 500 people in his country. One heckler threw a shoe at Zardari during the event, missing the president, while outside the convention centre police cordoned off more than 100 protesters. Zardari told supporters his trip to Britain had been a success, and that he had raised tens of thousands of pounds for flood victims at home. Thousands crowded into the convention centre in the English city of Birmingham to listen to the visiting leader and other speakers from his Pakistan People’s Party. ProtestSome protesters waved placards that read US out of Pakistan and Afghanistan. Many Pakistanis are angry about United States-led forces within Pakistan and increasing military operations in the frontier and tribal border areas. Others held banners complaining that Zardari chose to continue on his foreign trip at a time of national disaster.“Too many Pakistani civilians have lost their lives because of this foreign-led war,” said a protester who identified himself as Iqbal Najid, 32. Earlier in the day,  in London, Zardari’s son and co-chairman of the PPP, Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, appealed for donations to help Pakistani flood victims. Rejected speculationMany had expected Zardari’s son to join him at the rally and use the occasion to launch his political career, but the 21-year-old angrily rejected such speculation. Instead, he only appeared  before the media briefly at Pakistan’s High Commission in London, where he accepted donations for flood victims and defended his father’s trip abroad during the disaster.“My father’s doing all that he can to aid the people of Pakistan. His personal presence in Pakistan could not have done there what he did here,” Bhutto Zardari told reporters.Pakistani officials estimate that as many as 13 million people have been affected in the floods and some 1 500 have died. More rain is expected in the coming days as the bloated Kabul River surged into Pakistan’s northwest.“This is not a time to play politics. We need to do what is necessary to help our brothers and sisters in Pakistan,” Bhutto Zardari added.


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