Zardari to address British Pakistanis for support
President Asif Ali Zardari addresses Britain's Pakistani community on Saturday after coming under fire at home for being out of Pakistan during its worst flooding in 80 years.world Updated: Aug 07, 2010 19:41 IST
President Asif Ali Zardari addresses Britain's Pakistani community on Saturday after coming under fire at home for being out of Pakistan during its worst flooding in 80 years.
Zardari is due to speak at a rally in the city of Birmingham after talks with con Friday in which they agreed to do more together to fight Islamist militancy and brushed aside a diplomatic spat.
"Storms will come and storms will go and Pakistan and Britain will stand together," Zardari said after meeting Cameron, who had angered Pakistanis with comments last week that Pakistan must not "look both ways" when dealing with militants.
Cameron's comments during a visit to Pakistan's arch rival India prompted the Pakistani Inter Services Intelligence agency to say its chief was cancelling a trip to Britain in protest, raising fears of a reduction in counter terrorism cooperation.
Officials from both countries have played down those fears, with Cameron speaking on Friday of an "unbreakable relationship between Britain and Pakistan based on our mutual interests".
It is a measure of quite how important that relationship is that Zardari should choose to address a rally in Britain a rare event for a visiting head of state and a sign of the significance of the British Pakistani community.
Britain has more than one million people of Pakistani origin, the majority of them from what was once the former princely state of Jammu and Kashmir which lies at the heart of tensions between Pakistan and India.
Security analysts say that the combination of poverty, unemployment, racism and political grievances among some members of the community provide a fertile breeding ground for the few who seek to join Islamist militant groups based in Pakistan.
Dubbed the "Kashmir escalator", both Britain and Pakistan have tried to tackle it through sharing intelligence.
It was still unclear whether Zardari had managed to patch up the diplomatic row with Britain to prevent any damage to intelligence sharing.
The rally in Birmingham had raised expectations that Bilawal Bhutto Zardari, son of the president and the late Benazir Bhutto, would make his first major political speech there after graduating in June from Oxford University.
But in an apparent attempt to appease anger at home over the floods which have killed at least 1,600 people, Bilawal Bhutto on Thursday cancelled plans to attend and said he would instead stay in London to collect donations for flood victims.
The meeting nonetheless gives Zardari a chance to raise his standing among influential Pakistanis overseas and improve his profile among those who watch him on television at home.
"But of course it's difficult to tell whether or not that is going to significantly affect people's image of Mr Zardari," said Farzana Shaikh at the Chatham House think tank in London.
"The image was poor enough. I think this will just go some way towards denting that image."