Zardari returns to flood-stricken Pakistan to face mounting criticism

President accused of failing to respond to country's worst-ever natural disaster as rising waters continue to cause devastation

By Andrew Buncombe and Omar Waraich in Islamabad

A family wades through waters while fleeing the village of Karam Pur in Sindh province yesterday

REUTERS

A family wades through waters while fleeing the village of Karam Pur in Sindh province yesterday

President Asif Ali Zardari finally returned to his ravaged country to face a barrage of criticism while thousands of people were evacuated from a major city in Pakistan's heartland as flood waters continued to rise.

The country's leader, under fire for failing to cancel an overseas trip while more than 14 million of his countrymen struggled to deal with the devastating waters, flew into Karachi and was due to return to the capital, Islamabad, later today.

There he will face renewed criticism over his failure seemingly to grasp the scale of the crisis – Pakistan's worst-ever natural disaster.

It is from this saturated heartland that Mr Zardari and the civilian authorities face the most intense criticism for failing to do more. Yesterday, thousands of people fled from the city of Muzaffargarh in Punjab province after officials issued flood warnings as the swollen Chenab river continued to rise.

"It's really bad, horrendous," Rashid Javed, a spokesman for the charity Plan International, whose partners are working to help people in the Muzaffargarh area, told The Independent. "In addition to all the water from the north-west, we have had three days of torrential rain. Most of the camps that have been set up for people have been moved to higher ground."

Reports said the usually busy city of 250,000 people, located in the breadbasket of the nation, was yesterday largely deserted – large numbers left after warnings were issued the previous evening.

A number of men stayed behind to guard homes and businesses. "There is no doubt that our city is almost empty now," Mohammed Saleem, a shop owner who sent his wife and children to Multan, told the Associated Press.

The city's hospital said it was suffering from staff shortages because so many doctors and other workers had decided to leave before floods struck, and workmen had placed sandbags around the facility in anticipation of damage. While it was still uncertain last night whether the rising waters would engulf the town, people said they were not taking any chances.

Almost two weeks after the worst floods in more than 80 years started to sweep through north-west Pakistan, there appears little let-up. While the waters have receded in some places, elsewhere they have continued to rise. Several UN bodies have admitted the scale of the disaster has made it difficult to respond adequately, not just for the government and the armed forces, but for aid groups as well.

"Our staff in Pakistan say the situation is among the most difficult they have faced. Thousands of villages and towns in low-lying areas have not seen flooding on this scale in generations," said a spokeswoman for UNHCR, the UN refugee agency.

"[The government] puts the number of homes destroyed or damaged at more than 300,000, with more than 14,000 cattle having perished and 2.6 million acres of crop-land under water. So far, some 1,600 people have been killed, but many millions of Pakistanis and Afghan refugees have been affected."

Stephane Lobjois, of the charity Handicap International, said rescuers were travelling to disabled people's homes by foot to deliver emergency supplies. "Not even donkeys can reach – only men," he said. The UN has said the aid response needed to be scaled up "massively" and that it was working on a response plan that would require hundreds of millions of dollars in international assistance.

A spokeswoman for Mr Zardari's Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) said one of his first tasks was to meet the chief ministers of the provinces to draw up a rehabilitation programme.

Yet in Karachi, Mr Zardari may have been distracted as the fallout from his Europe visit sparked a confrontation between the PPP and Geo News, the television news channel. Hundreds of PPP supporters gathered outside Geo's headquarters in the city, torching newspapers and tyres, chanting angry slogans and hurling stones and shoes.

The clash stemmed from the party's outrage over coverage of a protestor's attempt to strike Mr Zardari with his shoes at a rally in Birmingham. While the shoes missed, the mere attempt set off blanket coverage, with Geo and other channels drawing wry comparisons with former US President George Bush's narrow escape in Baghdad.

The PPP responded with fury and Geo's broadcasts have been shut off in Karachi.

Media view: 'Duration of the tour highlighted his insensitivity'

The insensitivity to the mounting suffering at home was thrown into sharper relief by the long duration of Mr Zardari's tour. Even as swelling rivers pushed the number of people affected by the calamity to several million, the president carried on with a visit that had no urgent purpose.

Dr Maleeha Lodhi in 'The News'

Surely the situation demanded Mr Zardari's presence in the country. True, there is little he could personally have done to improve things. But just as Bush and Obama learnt, it is the impression of being in charge that is important. And while it might have diverted important helicopter capacity, a visit to the flood-affected areas by the president might have cheered up displaced families, while encouraging those engaged in relief work.

Irfan Husain, 'Dawn'

To say Mr Zardari's visit to Britain was controversial would be putting it mildly. He was vilified by both the national and international media and to add insult to injury, the shoe-throwing incident in Birmingham served as the icing on the cake.

Editorial, 'Daily Times'

  • RajX's comment is farcical on so many levels that I wouldn't even bother to criticise it in detail. Statement of the year: "it's well known that pakistanis are fanatical. Now you have confirmed that they are racist too." Perhaps you should look for a contradiction there...may be you won't because that would be against your constipated view of the world.
  • Millions of Muslims have suffered the same fate...gujrat anyone? go ahead vote for the BNP, they won't hesitate in kicking you out as well. I'm afraid you should stop treating Kashmir like your inheritance. It was signed off to India by a prince and the Kashmiris themselves had no say in the matter. Hindus and Sikhs interests may be protected in Kashmir but they are a minority. I'm dragging India into the problem to highlight the double standards of Britain and America. Sure the Kashmiris have not been bombed...the Indian Army prefers bullets anyway.
  • macaby
    By the way Pakistan aka Taliban aka ISI want no foreign aid. We should stop the flood story now. All the muslim countries have humiliated pakistan,they have made just token gestures...so much for muslim brotherhood. Everyone knows where the epicentre of world terror is:ISI headquarters.
  • RajX
    "Sally", it's well known that pakistanis are fanatical. Now you have confirmed that they are racist too. The last time I checked, the Haitians are no supporters of terrorists or are they fanatical bomb throwers. And a minuscule portion of that one billion has reached haiti. Be happy with whatever help which Pakistan gets. All this help is in spite of ....
  • Be brave Independent - stop censoring every bloody thing I write.
  • indiaisone
    Sorry, why are you dragging India to a Pakistani problem. Millions of Kashmiri Hindus and sikhs have been raped, murdered, forcibly converted to Islam. For a long time there were no Indian troops to protect us Kashmiri hindus. It is only when terrorists from across the border came that the indian troops went into Kashmir. Kashmiri muslims have been lucky not to have regularly bombed out as it happens in british created Pakistan. And it is the jehadist policy of creating mayhem in the streets of Britain. I also voted for BNP to get you guys out. If Kashmiri muslims do not like India they can easily swim over to PoK. Jai Hind
  • Yes extremist chanting and flag burning...hmm kind of reminds me of BNP and EDL who act in a similar racist capacity. Maybe I should stop donating to the Marie Curie foundation or Great Ormond street and stop volunteering at my local care home every weekend...I mean they help all these children of white British people who want me out of their country even though I probably pay more tax than the vast majority of them (and no benefits for me!)...sure the overwhelming majority of those British people are opposed to such measures but hey these EDL people are white and British therefore logically they must all be trying to extradite me or harass me by calling me a Paki. Terrorists attacking and killing people in Britain...may be I should look things up and see how many Pakistani soldiers and civilians have fallen victim to such acts or terrorism by these very people. I suppose I can look at civilian causalities caused by drone attacks by allied forces in Pakistan and Afghanistan and how many people were forced to flee the impending war and hardships caused by a disproportionate response by Allied forces. Heard about the innocent mother who was making her four-year-old breakfast and got hit by a missile fired from a Predator drone? It was civilian death they said but didn't apologise...when her son grows up we'll tell him that his mother was killed by the Allies but it was her own fault...obviously...he will harbour no thoughts of revenge I think nor will the woman's husband. Honour killings. Could be a cultural thing I suppose...I mean people die in Britain due to alcohol-induced violence all the time. Maybe one should compare no. of honour killings and no. of people killed by alcohol-induced violence between the two countries...but I won't because I don't like the sound of that and Britain might not come out on top. Nuclear weapons...Britain is in an economic depression and doesn't have much money, I wonder why we're upgrading Trident and haven't we also ordered a few new air craft carriers and other aircraft...maybe it's for another cold war. In case we get attacked by a new enemy who are so powerful that our current nuclear arsenal will probably not deter them...I mean we can develop weapons that are even deadlier and meaner. What about those trade deals with Saudi Arabia and India concerning weapons? Well we're getting money there so what if so many people in those nations live below the poverty line...statistics say that whenever Pakistan has had a military government we've given them more aid and we've usually not given aid to any government that didn't agree with us like Nawaz Sharif or much further back during Bhuttos time. We can only curse that these corrupt government spend money on themselves. Oh we made a statement they didn't like...it was the truth honest. Sure India is suppressing people in Kashmir and coming down brutally on other insurgent movements and other countries we deal with support terrorism too but it's not in our interest to criticise them. Plus for bonus points, we win India's favour by criticising Pakistan...sure it might be a little tiny bit insensitive. Maybe we should help them...I mean 70% of all supplies to our troops in Iraq and Afghanistan pass through Pakistan and damage to Pakistan's economy was estimated at tens of billions of dollars by an independent report due to the Afghan war...not to mention loss of life. But we won't because they make a nice scapegoat to blame things on when the going is tough in Afghanistan. Sorry if you find my self-righteous attitude to be annoying. I am a Muslim really and obviously because you don't like Islam and don't agree with it (particularly face veils...I mean women might choose to wear it but they are obviously demented and wrong and it is my duty to take away that choice because I find it offensive), it makes everything I say wrong. They say educating people gives them better insight but there's a saying my grandad (served during WW2 in the British army by the way) used to say: "teach him how you will, a pig will never play the flute."
  • Zardari is a traitor and a thief, he and his offspring should not hold public office now or in the future. The people should demand that the PPP should have a genuine leadership contest rather than it's leadership being bequethed by one Bhutto to another. The same should apply for all political parties, only then will the voice of the people be heard.
  • corporeal4now
    Mr 10% returns to the disaster area to ensure he doesn't loose out on his cut from the incoming charity, which he could have speedup, if he wasn't so busy serving his own international interests.
  • sally2801
    President Zardari can unite and urge Muslim states to rescue Pakistan during Ramadan. This vast area of the Eurasian land mass with its ancient civilisation has historic links to the Middle East, UK and USA. They must fund the UN request for $460million aid for 3 months, less than the $1billion aid to vudu-infested, pseudo-catholic Haiti where 1 million slum-dwellers remain homeless months after the thugs received the cash.
  • It is still a good luck to find the president Mr Zardari among themselves otherwise Mr Zardari can deliver telephonic address from France and Britain. If the people are worry than no problem, the gay is quite new one and has to learn more form suffered people of Pakistan. He is well aware if he will transfer the rule to other than he would be face a lot of problems. This was the main cause to convince the Britain and France stockholders regarding to the terrorist in Pakistan instead of the Prime Minister. Thanks all readers.
  • I give him about 6 months before he is overthrown and flies away to rejoin his UK sl*ts, if he can get away with all his appendages that is.
  • Aleph1
    How very benevolent of him!
  • zardi or vile call him anything he is traitor!
  • mzoa
    zardari is a monster ,and ppp is a group of thieves now , every pakistani need to pick up shoes and throw on zardari and all other corrupt politicians , thats teh only way to come out of misery and save pakistan from beasts lakie 'zardari' ya Mr.10%
  • mzoa
    bilawal bhutto , wt a joke , ppp is just like a thing is zardari is v clever and he is not alone , u can see most of people in ppp , like present MPA's and MNA's are all corrupt like zardari , now zardari has got a team , zardari is a dirty politician , every pakistani should throw shoes on zardari and his companions , thats the only way to get rid of zardari and save pakistan from these beasts
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  • The President, Prime Minister, Chief of the Armed Forces, DG of the ISI and opposition politicians are all traitors. They have no shame, no pride, they have turned a land populated with ancient and once mighty races into a whore. We must have a revolution.
  • Independent - no guts?
  • Shoes more shoes and aim well this time.
  • In UK, the obsequious, fawning Zardari was a different Zaradari from the arrogant, haughty thug he usually is back home, always flanked with murderous thugs and sneering cut-throats" for protection; just in case someone lobs something a little more exciting than a shoe at him. This bugger Zardari who was all teeth and gums before Cameron is indeed the festering pox he is for Pakistan. He, along with his wife, Benezir, the dripping hypocrite and the very epitome of corruption robbed the country blind, not even sparing the country's museums from where priceless national treasures were removed to adorn their many palaces including Rockwood House in Surrey. Many stolen artifacts still remain in crates ensconced in the garages of his many cronies. Even zoo animals were not spared as Zardari and his thugs would often target practice on priceless caged Ibex, deer and other poor animals. Would have loved to see the lions make a meal of this servile, grinning little creep, but then again even lions have gastronomic standards and won't bother with slimy weasels. Zardari's useless and thoroughly inept son, Bilawal is as important to Pakistan as the bubonic plague. Zardari was busy hobnobbing with David Cameron and exchanging vacuous nothings, as his beady eyed son was busied scoffing cakes, all the while the wretched poor rotted in their misery back home. But what piques me most about his visit is not this idiot or his entourage of scruffy ruffians and nodding weasels but the fool who missed hitting this infernal pest with his shoe. I am incensed that the bugger missed him. If you are going to lob shoes, practice please. Make sure you are a dead shot and that you get the scallywag right between the eyes or better yet - zero in where it would count - right in the bollocks.
  • In UK, the obsequious, fawning Zardari was a different Zaradari from the arrogant, haughty thug he usually is back home, always flanked with murderous thugs and cut-throats for protection; just in case someone lobs something a little more exciting than a shoe at him. This bugger Zardari who was all teeth and gums before Cameron is indeed the festering pox he is for Pakistan. He, along with his wife, Benezir, the dripping hypocrite and the now-very-dead, robbed the country blind, not evening sparing the country's museums from where priceless national treasures were removed to adorn their many palaces including Rockwood House in Surrey. Many stolen artifacts still remain in crates ensconced in the garages of his many cronies such as Javaid Pasha. Even zoo animals were not spared as Zardari and his thugs would often target practice on priceless caged Ibex, deer and other poor animals. Would have loved to see the lions make a meal of this servile, grinning little creep, but then again even lions have gastronomic standards and won't bother with slimy weasels. Zardari's useless and effeminate son, Bilawal is as important to Pakistan as the bubonic plague. Zardari was busy hobnobbing with David Cameron and exchanging vacuous nothings, as his beady eyed son was busied scoffing cakes, all the while the wretched poor rotted in their misery back home. But what piques me most about his visit is not this idiot or his entourage of scruffy ruffians and nodding weasels but the fool who missed hitting this infernal pest with his shoe. I am incensed that the bugger missed him. If you are going to lob shoes, practice please. Make sure you are a dead shot and that you get the scallywag right between the eyes or better yet - zero in where it would count - right in the testicles.
  • In UK, the obsequious, fawning Zardari was a different Zaradari from the arrogant, haughty bastard he usually is back home, always flanked with murderous thugs and cut-throats for protection; just in case someone lobs something a little more exciting than a shoe at him. This bugger Zardari who was all teeth and gums before Cameron is indeed the festering pox he is for Pakistan. He, along with his wife, Benezir, the dripping hypocrite and the now-very-dead, robbed the country blind, not evening sparing the country's museums from where priceless national treasures were removed to adorn their many palaces including Rockwood House in Surrey. Many stolen artifacts still remain in crates ensconced in the garages of his many cronies such as Javaid Pasha. Even zoo animals were not spared as Zardari and his thugs would often target practice on priceless caged Ibex, deer and other poor animals. Would have loved to see the lions make a meal of this servile, grinning little creep, but then again even lions have gastronomic standards and won't bother with slimy weasels. Zardari's useless and effeminate son, Bilawal is as important to Pakistan as the bubonic plague. Zardari was busy hobnobbing with David Cameron and exchanging vacuous nothings, as his beady eyed son was busied scoffing cakes, all the while the wretched poor rotted in their misery back home. But what piques me most about his visit is not this idiot or his entourage of scruffy ruffians and nodding weasels but the fool who missed hitting this infernal pest with his shoe. I am incensed that the bugger missed him. If you are going to lob shoes, practice please. Make sure you are a dead shot and that you get the scallywag right between the eyes or better yet - zero in where it would count - right in the testicles.
  • In UK, the obsequious, fawning Zardari was a different Zaradari from the arrogant, haughty thug he usually is back home, always flanked with murderous thugs and "Sindhi-cut-throats" for protection; just in case someone lobs something a little more exciting than a shoe at him. This bugger Zardari who was all teeth and gums before Cameron is indeed the festering pox he is for Pakistan. He, along with his wife, Benezir, the dripping hypocrite and the now-very-dead, robbed the country blind, not evening sparing the country's museums from where priceless national treasures were removed to adorn their many palaces including Rockwood House in Surrey. Many stolen artifacts still remain in crates ensconced in the garages of his many cronies such as Javaid Pasha. Even zoo animals were not spared as Zardari and his thugs would often target practice on priceless caged Ibex, deer and other poor animals. Would have loved to see the lions make a meal of this servile, grinning little creep, but then again even lions have gastronomic standards and won't bother with slimy weasels. Zardari's useless and effeminate son, Bilawal is as important to Pakistan as the bubonic plague. Zardari was busy hobnobbing with David Cameron and exchanging vacuous nothings, as his beady eyed son was busied scoffing cakes, all the while the wretched poor rotted in their misery back home. But what piques me most about his visit is not this idiot or his entourage of scruffy ruffians and nodding weasels but the fool who missed hitting this infernal pest with his shoe. I am incensed that the bugger missed him. If you are going to lob shoes, practice please. Make sure you are a dead shot and that you get the scallywag right between the eyes or better yet - zero in where it would count - right in the testicles.
  • In UK, the obsequious, fawning Zardari was a different Zaradari from the arrogant, haughty bastard he usually is back home, always flanked with murderous thugs and "Sindhi-cut-throats" for protection; just in case someone lobs something a little more exciting than a shoe at him. This bugger Zardari who was all teeth and gums before Cameron is indeed the festering pox he is for Pakistan. He, along with his wife, Benezir, the dripping hypocrite and the now-very-dead, robbed the country blind, not evening sparing the country's museums from where priceless national treasures were removed to adorn their many palaces including Rockwood House in Surrey. Many stolen artifacts still remain in crates ensconced in the garages of his many cronies such as Javaid Pasha. Even zoo animals were not spared as Zardari and his thugs would often target practice on priceless caged Ibex, deer and other poor animals. Would have loved to see the lions make a meal of this servile, grinning little creep, but then again even lions have gastronomic standards and won't bother with slimy weasels. Zardari's useless and effeminate son, Bilawal is as important to Pakistan as the bubonic plague. Zardari was busy hobnobbing with David Cameron and exchanging vacuous nothings, as his beady eyed son was busied scoffing cakes, all the while the wretched poor rotted in their misery back home. But what piques me most about his visit is not this idiot or his entourage of scruffy ruffians and nodding weasels but the fool who missed hitting this infernal pest with his shoe. I am incensed that the bugger missed him. If you are going to lob shoes, practice please. Make sure you are a dead shot and that you get the scallywag right between the eyes or better yet - zero in where it would count - right in the testicles.
  • In UK, the obsequious, fawning Zardari was a different Zaradari from the arrogant, haughty thug he usually is back home, always flanked with murderous thugs and "Sindhi-cut-throats" for protection; just in case someone lobs something a little more exciting than a shoe at him. This bugger Zardari who was all teeth and gums before Cameron is indeed the festering pox he is for Pakistan. He, along with his wife, Benezir, the dripping hypocrite and the now-very-dead, robbed the country blind, not evening sparing the country's museums from where priceless national treasures were removed to adorn their many palaces including Rockwood House in Surrey. Many stolen artifacts still remain in crates ensconced in the garages of his many cronies such as Javaid Pasha. Even zoo animals were not spared as Zardari and his thugs would often target practice on priceless caged Ibex, deer and other poor animals. Would have loved to see the lions make a meal of this servile, grinning little creep, but then again even lions have gastronomic standards and won't bother with slimy weasels. Zardari's useless and effeminate son, Bilawal is as important to Pakistan as the bubonic plague. Zardari was busy hobnobbing with David Cameron and exchanging vacuous nothings, as his beady eyed son was busied scoffing cakes, all the while the wretched poor rotted in their misery back home. But what piques me most about his visit is not this idiot or his entourage of scruffy ruffians and nodding weasels but the fool who missed hitting this infernal pest with his shoe. I am incensed that the bugger missed him. If you are going to lob shoes, practice please. Make sure you are a dead shot and that you get the scallywag right between the eyes or better yet - zero in where it would count - right in the bollocks.
  • In UK, the obsequious, fawning Zardari was a different Zaradari from the arrogant, haughty bastard he usually is back home, always flanked with murderous thugs and "Sindhi-cut-throats" for protection; just in case someone lobs something a little more exciting than a shoe at him. This bugger Zardari who was all teeth and gums before Cameron is indeed the festering pox he is for Pakistan. He, along with his wife, Benezir, the dripping hypocrite and the now-very-dead, robbed the country blind, not evening sparing the country's museums from where priceless national treasures were removed to adorn their many palaces including Rockwood House in Surrey. Many stolen artifacts still remain in crates ensconced in the garages of his many cronies such as Javaid Pasha. Even zoo animals were not spared as Zardari and his thugs would often target practice on priceless caged Ibex, deer and other poor animals. Would have loved to see the lions make a meal of this servile, grinning little creep, but then again even lions have gastronomic standards and won't bother with slimy weasels. Zardari's useless and effeminate son, Bilawal is as important to Pakistan as the bubonic plague. Zardari was busy hobnobbing with David Cameron and exchanging vacuous nothings, as his beady eyed son was busied scoffing cakes, all the while the wretched poor rotted in their misery back home. But what piques me most about his visit is not this idiot or his entourage of scruffy ruffians and nodding weasels but the fool who missed hitting this infernal pest with his shoe. I am incensed that the bugger missed him. If you are going to lob shoes, practice please. Make sure you are a dead shot and that you get the scallywag right between the eyes or better yet - zero in where it would count - right in the testicles.
  • In UK, the obsequious, fawning Zardari was a different Zaradari from the arrogant, haughty bastard he usually is back home, always flanked with murderous thugs and "Sindhi-cut-throats" for protection; just in case someone lobs something a little more exciting than a shoe at him. This bugger Zardari who was all teeth and gums before Cameron is indeed the festering pox he is for Pakistan. He, along with his wife, Benezir, the dripping hypocrite and the now-very-dead, robbed the country blind, not evening sparing the country's museums from where priceless national treasures were removed to adorn their many palaces including Rockwood House in Surrey. Many stolen artifacts still remain in crates ensconced in the garages of his many cronies such as Javaid Pasha. Even zoo animals were not spared as Zardari and his thugs would often target practice on priceless caged Ibex, deer and other poor animals. Would have loved to see the lions make a meal of this servile, grinning little creep, but then again even lions have gastronomic standards and won't bother with slimy weasels. Zardari's useless and effeminate son, Bilawal is as important to Pakistan as the bubonic plague. Zardari was busy hobnobbing with David Cameron and exchanging vacuous nothings, as his beady eyed son was busied scoffing cakes, all the while the wretched poor rotted in their misery back home. But what piques me most about his visit is not this idiot or his entourage of scruffy ruffians and nodding weasels but the fool who missed hitting this infernal pest with his shoe. I am incensed that the bugger missed him. If you are going to lob shoes, practice please. Make sure you are a dead shot and that you get the scallywag right between the eyes or better yet - zero in where it would count - in the bollocks.
  • iconoclast786
    Return of the BC or MC or both, all depends what the dacoit feeling at the time.....

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