Is Zardari’s Gamble Paying Off Big?

International relief pours in to PakistanLet’s be honest, President Zardari took a big gamble by going to meet with foreign leaders as the flood crisis unfolded. It was obviously bad public relations, and his advisors had to know that he would be skewered in the media. Actually, the President even admitted as much in an column earlier this week. But he chose to go anyway, he said, because “For historical and cultural reasons, London is vital for generating global political and humanitarian awareness”. It was a big gamble. Is it paying off?

It looks like it is.

Bloomberg News reports today that UN Secretary General Ban Ki-Moon is on his way to Pakistan to “accelerate international aid”.

Also, US Senator John Kerry, who wrote the $7.5 billion civilian aid bill passed by the US government last year, is also on his way to Pakistan to help raise awareness among Americans and the international community to increase funding for relief efforts.

The World Bank has announced a grant of $900 Million for relief and reconstruction work, according to Dawn, and representatives from the international agency will be on the ground in Pakistan starting next week.

This was announced by the Ministry of Finance after a meeting between Finance Minister Dr Abdul Hafeez Shaikh and World Bank’s Country Director Rachid Benmessaoud here on Thursday.

According to a statement, they discussed the scope of the banks’ support for relief and reconstruction. “As a consequence of the meeting, the country director has agreed to commit an amount of $900 million for the purpose.”

Even some Western private companies are making large contributions. US financial business Western Union announced they will donate $100,000 to help the flood victims.

Through The Western Union Company’s corporate signature program, Our World, Our Family(R), The Western Union Foundation will contribute $100,000 towards disaster relief efforts to provide victims with basic necessities such as safe drinking water, temporary shelter, clothing and access to sanitation facilities through the International Rescue Committee (IRC) response teams actively working in Pakistan.

Would all of this be happening if Zardari had stayed home to do photo shoots? I think Farrukh Khan is right: If the president would have stayed home to do photo shoots, he would have been skewered anyway.

He could have gone to visit some flood affected areas. There our complaint would have been that the president was busy in photo-ops. And due to the mere photo ops the entire district management, otherwise entrusted with overseeing the relief effort, was busy in receiving and entertaining his person. So had he not gone abroad, our displeasure would have still been unaffected.

President Zardari knew it was a gamble to go overseas to raise awareness for Pakistan. He was sure to be slammed by the media, but he was going to get slammed no matter what. The only hope he had was that his international trips would pay off for the people of Pakistan.

It looks like his gamble paid off.


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