Pakistan president to address political rally

Pakistan president to address political rally
# 08 August 2010 02:38 (UTC +04:00)
Baku-APA. The son of the Pakistani president opened a London donation point Saturday for victims of his country’s deadly floods amid criticism that his father is in Britain when he should be dealing with one of worst disasters in Pakistan in decades, APA reports quoting website.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari — the 21-year-old son of President Asif Ali Zardari and slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto — defended his father’s trip to Britain, saying he had done more in Europe to raise money for flood victims than what he could have in Pakistan.
"This is not a time to play politics. We need to do what is necessary to help our brothers and sisters in Pakistan," he told reporters at Pakistan’s High Commission in London.
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.
"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 said, adding that Zardari had raised tens of millions of euros for flood victims during his trip to Abu Dhabi, France and Britain.
Many had speculated that Bhutto Zardari would accompany his father at a political rally of his Pakistan People’s Party in Birmingham later Saturday and announce his intentions to formally enter Pakistani politics there. His father said it was only a matter of time before his son carried on the family’s political dynasty.
But Bhutto Zardari, who was educated mostly abroad and shares his mother’s striking good looks, became irritated at reporters’ questions surrounding his political intentions and said he never intended to join the rally.
He would not launch his political career "until I complete my education, as I promised my mother," he said. Bhutto was assassinated at a political rally in late 2007. Her father, the founder of PPP, was hanged in 1979.
Bhutto Zardari said he would raise money for flood victims in Britain and had no plans to travel to Pakistan soon. He accepted donations Saturday at the High Commission.
In an interview with The Associated Press on Friday, Zardari defended his five-day trip to Britain, saying Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani had been dealing with the situation. Prior to his British visit, Zardari was in France where he visited a family chateau and met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.
Zardari, who did not join his son at the event in London, was expected to face both supporters and protesters at the Birmingham rally, after which he will travel to Syria.
Analysts predict Zardari’s PPP — which his son currently chairs — will suffer during the next national elections in 2013 because of Zardari’s low approval ratings and the severe challenges currently facing the country.
Nearly 10,000 members of the party live in Europe, most of them in Britain.
Zardari traveled to Britain just days after British Prime Minister David Cameron accused Pakistan of exporting terror. The remarks caused a diplomatic row, in part because they were made during Cameron’s visit to India, Pakistan’s nuclear rival.
The Pakistani president rejected the criticism, saying that it was terrorists who killed his wife and who were terrorizing his country. Some 2,500 Pakistani security officials have been killed in battles with militants over the years, and many more civilians have been killed in attacks. On Saturday, the militant Taliban claimed responsibility for the killing of eight foreign aid workers in neighboring Afghanistan.
Pakistan is one of Britain’s most important allies in fighting terrorism. Nearly 1 million people of Pakistani origin live in Britain, and Pakistani intelligence has been crucial in several terror investigations, including the 2005 suicide attacks that killed 52 London commuters and a 2006 trans-Atlantic airliner plot. The ringleader of the 2005 suicide bombings in London and several others reportedly received terror training in Pakistan.
Zardari has headed a coalition government since unseating Pakistan’s Gen. Pervez Musharraf. The ex-military leader was in power-sharing talks with Bhutto shortly before her assassination at a political rally in December 2007.