Zardari bashing may be something of a popular parlour game among drawing room politicos, but this past week has been particularly silly. Mostly this is a result of media’s insatiable appetite for controversy and photo shoots. But it’s also our fault. Why can’t we just let people do their job, and leave the drama for TV serials.
David Dyson at The Telegraph repeats a lot of these typical media opportunity narratives.
In such circumstances, you might expect Asif Ali Zardari, the country’s president, to abandon his European tour and return home at the earliest opportunity to assume personal control of the relief operation – such as it is. The military’s failure to organise the evacuation has left entire communities stranded, while the authorities’ wider inability to deal with the floods’ aftermath has led to outbreaks of cholera in the Swat valley.
But even this characterisation of the military is really quite unfair. This is the report on the situation from ARY News today:
Stormy weather grounded helicopters carrying emergency supplies to Pakistan’s flood-ravaged northwest Friday as the worst monsoon rains in decades brought more destruction to a nation already reeling from Islamist militant violence.
U.S. military personnel waiting to fly Chinooks to stranded communities in the upper reaches of the hard-hit Swat Valley were frustrated by the storms, which dumped more rain on a region where many thousands are living in tents or crammed into public buildings.
If the government and militaries from multiple nations are already having trouble managing the rescue efforts because of the extreme weather, what exactly do they expect Zardari to do? He cannot control the weather.
The only thing he could do is take photos and promote himself. It seems like that would be the last thing that would be useful, but instead it seems that the president’s critics are wishing for exactly that!
Zafar Hilaly writes in Daily Times today that,
The sight of Mr Zardari, for example, clutching a rescued child to his chest while being pulled up into a helicopter would have done more for his personal image than a whole year spent with Cameron at the latter’s retreat at Chequers…
Can you imagine what Mr Hilaly would be writing if Zardari actually did do publicity photos? I’m certain that the headline would read, “Mr President Uses Tragedy for Self Promotion”. So what is the man to do?
Well, according to Al Jazeera, he’s doing his job.
Zardari has been in London meeting with British PM David Cameron and cooling tensions with the UK.
David Cameron, the UK’s prime minister, and Asif Ali Zardari, Pakistan’s president, have agreed to set aside their recent differences and work towards boosting ties between the two countries.
“Whether it is keeping troops safe in Afghanistan or keeping people safe on the streets of Britain … we are going to work together in this enhanced strategic partnership,” Cameron said on Friday after he met Zardari at his country retreat outside London.
Previously Zardari hit back at the allegations of double-dealing, arguing that Pakistanis are often the victims of attacks on home soil and that Islamabad is committed to fighting armed groups in the region.
Alan Fisher, Al Jazeera’s correspondent outside the meeting venue, said both sides needed to get past the dispute to “frame the ongoing relationship” between the two countries.
“Both sides realise that they need to cool the temperature … because there has been a war of words over the last week or so.”
ITN News produced the following video UK PM David Cameron speaking about his meeting with President Zardari and how they discussed ways that UK can help flood victims.
As is clear from this video, Zardari’s trip to London, while mocked by our intelligentsia, has actually resulted in the following:
1. Increased aid from UK for flood victims
2. Repairing diplomatic relations
3. Furthering talks about opening European markets to Pakistani exports
“I’m grateful to Britain and the Prime Minister for the support in the flood affected areas of Pakistan. I’m looking forward to a relationship where Britain supports Paksitan’s position around the world, where we can more trade and less aid; where we can be self-dependent,” said President Zardari. “The Prime Minister has assured me that he will be supported Pakistan’s point of view in the EU, and he will try and get us access to the markets in the EU and America and all around the world…”
Now, doesn’t this seem like a much better use of the president’s time than self promotion photo shoots?