After intense domestic pressure and protests to call off his visit in the wake of British Prime Minister David Cameron’s lamentable statement in India that Pakistan was exporting terror, it is now official that President of Pakistan is about to visit Britain this week. Asif Ali Zardari left for Paris yesterday for meetings with French leaders, and plans to proceed to Britain on Tuesday. While Lieutenant General Ahmed Shuja Pasha, director general of ISI had cancelled his visit to the UK to hold high level security consultations with British intelligence officials as a mark of protest, throwing the ball in presidency’s court.
Law minister Babar Awan, whose PhD degree from US is subject of considerable controversy has stated that those who are opposing President’s visit are part of the Indian lobby. In response to Babar Awan’s statement, a senior leader of Jamiat e Ulmai Islam (F) strongly opposed the Zardari visit and said that the Indian lobby is sitting inside the President’s House.
Protesters on the streets of Karachi burnt effigies of Mr. Cameron, urging Mr Zardari not to continue with the British trip in view of both Cameron’s comments and history’s destructive ever floods. Likewise Coalition partner of the PPP led federal government, Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), and major opposition party, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), made it clear that Mr. Zardari should cancel his U.K. visit and spend this money on the rehabilitation of flood victims. Chairman Tehreek-e-Insaf Imran Khan warned that a strong protest would be staged in London if President goes ahead with his visit and remarked that, “Nero should not fiddle while the Rome burns,”.
Dawn Editorial on the issue quotes:
Perhaps it was inevitable that a government which appears largely to have surrendered the national security and foreign policy domains to the army high command would eventually find itself torn in opposite directions.
Three countries have attacked Pakistan recently over the existence of groups here that may or may not have official support and which launch attacks outside the country. These are Afghanistan, the UK and the US. That the fiercest diplomatic reaction has been reserved for Afghanistan and the softest for the US tells a story of its own.
One of the important, controversial and probably the only objective of this visit would be the formal launch of his 21 year old son’s political career as co-chairman of PPP in Birmingham International Convention Center. Bilawal Zardari will address a major rally of British Pakistanis on August 7th as a beginning of his political journey although he will have to wait to turn 25 to contest an election.
Another significant task could be the sale of controversial property of Surrey as there were rumors last week that President, who allegedly owns a lavish palace, is going to sale it and Indian investors are interested in buying.
This is an official visit of president of Pakistan so it is obvious that the expenses will be paid by government which is the major apprehension in Pakistan as it is battling to cope with the worst ever flood of history triggered by torrential rains throughout the country.