Zardari's decision to leave 'flood-hit' Pak for overseas visit will backfire

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Islamabad, Aug 9(ANI): Pakistan President Asif Zardari's trip to France and Britain despite the country reeling under the worst floods in its history has created an image of an indifferent and arrogant leadership, critics have said.

Already unpopular, Zardari faced protests on Saturday when an unidentified middle-aged man reportedly hurled his pair of shoes one after another at him during a party rally in Birmingham.

Critics now believe that the President would never be able to recuperate or revamp his image in the country.

"Even when governments can't cope, they can at least show empathy. That was missing. Who was the first person on the scene? The army chief. This has really cost [Zardari] heavily. This image will linger," The Guardian quoted Ayaz Amir, a Pakistan Muslim League-Nawaz (PML-N) leader, as saying.

"The image of President Zardari visiting his chateau in France, while there was devastating flooding in Pakistan: this will have long-term effects," he added.

An editorial in a leading Pakistani newspaper also criticised Zardari, and said: "In choosing to go ahead with the tour ... President Zardari appears to have badly miscalculated the impact this untimely visit will have on his image as Pakistan's head of state."

The critics also compared Zardari to Army Chief General Ashfaq Kayani, who by contrast, repeatedly visited victims affected by the floods.

"[The floods] have exposed the weakness and poor management by the civilian government," said Hasan Askari Rizvi, a political analyst based in Lahore.

"The military got an opportunity to demonstrate its organisational ability and technical skills. The military knows they have public support, so they can pursue their own agenda," he added.

Over 1,600 people have been killed and 15 million affected as raging floodwaters continue to wreak havoc in the country.

In addition to causing major human loses, it has destroyed hundreds of thousands of homes, washed away crops and livestock.

Relief and rescue work has been hit badly by continuous rains, particularly in the north western region.

The United Nations says that Pakistan will need billions of dollars to recover from the deluge, which is being described as the worst in the last 80 years. (ANI)

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