The visit of President Asif Ali Zardari to the UK at the heels of what Pakistanis call a “national insult” by British Prime Minister James Cameron is creating much debate in Pakistan.
Politicians and commentators have criticised Zardari for his decision to go ahead with the visit to France and the UK after Prime Minister Cameron warned Pakistan to sever links with groups that promoted export of terror.
“He has let us down, he should not have gone after the British Prime Minister insulted us,” commented main opposition leader Nawaz Sharif.
Sharif was in Charsadda, the hometown of Frontier Gandhi, Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan, which has been hit by the recent floods. Sharif said that Zardari “should instead have been with the flood victims, helping them and giving them his support.”
Floods have killed over 1,200 people and displaced millions.
But the minister of information, Qamar Zaman Kaira said that Zardari’s visit has been taken “in the national interest.”
Speaking to journalists in Lahore, Kaira said that Zardari had gone to the UK “to change the wrong perception of the UK leadership about Pakistan’s role in the war against terrorism.”
Criticism has also mounted against the ruling party for an event it intends to host in the UK in which the reigns of the party will officially handed to Bilawal Bhutto Zardari by his father. At present both father and son are co-chairpersons of the party.
This event will take place, say critics, at great public expense, in the UK. “Millions of pounds are being spent for this ceremony,” claimed Imran Khan, former cricketer and politician. Khan says that taxpayer money is being used for building up the Bhutto legacy.
In all this, one interesting absence from the UK visit has been foreign minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi. Insiders say that Qureshi was dropped from the President’s state visit to France and the UK after the failed India-Pakistan talks. “The president is upset with the manner in which Qureshi conducted the talks and the press conference he held afterwards,” said one official.