Pressure mounts on Zardari to call off U.K. visit

Pressure is mounting on Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari to call off his visit to the U.K. next week in the wake of British Prime Minister David Cameroon's statement in India that Pakistan was exporting terror. While the Inter Services Intelligence chief Shuja Pasha is reported to have cancelled his visit to the U.K. as a mark of protest, the presidential tour is on the cards as of now.

However, till late Saturday evening, the Foreign Office had not put out any details of the U.K. visit as is wont though Mr. Zardari heads off on Sunday for France and from there to U.K. The Foreign Office is apparently caught between demands for a forceful response including cancelling the President's visit and Mr. Zardari's own insistence on proceeding with the schedule which includes launching his son Bilawal Bhutto Zardari as Pakistan People's Party (PPP) chairman in Birmingham.

Commenting on Mr. Cameron's observations while addressing a gathering in Sargodha, Prime Minister Syed Yusuf Raza Gilani wondered why his British counterpart had been silent in India about human rights violations in “Indian Occupied Kashmir” by the Indian armed forces. “It would have been better if he had talked about the issue there and won hearts of the Pakistanis,” Mr. Gilani was reported as stating by the Associated Press of Pakistan.

After considerable deliberations, Pakistan has also decided to seek an explanation from the British High Commissioner here. This was disclosed by Foreign Minister Makhdoom Shah Mahmood Qureshi to a television channel.

Meanwhile, other political parties have also joined the chorus. Coalition partner of the PPP-led federal government, Muttahida Quami Movement (MQM), and principal opposition party, Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz), leaders said Mr. Zardari should cancel his U.K. visit.

Describing Mr. Cameron's statement as “lamentable”, the MQM chief Altaf Hussain — who lives in London — is reported to have said that Mr. Zardari should review his U.K. visit; adding that Pakistan has made many sacrifices in the war on terror. Similar views were expressed by Punjab Chief Minister and PML(N) leader Shahbaz Sharif.

What has peeved Pakistan the most is that Mr. Cameroon made such a comment in India of all places. This was made clear by Foreign Office spokesman Abdul Basit on Thursday itself when he said that these statements could have been avoided; especially in India.

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Printable version | Feb 29, 2020 10:45:05 AM |

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