The British media turned its guns on President Asif Ali Zardari as he was holed up in his luxury Churchill Hotel Royal suite with his entourage. The media highlighted how a country literally drowning as a result of the worst floods in living memory could afford a president and his lifestyle after images of the 16th-century chateau, built for the widow of King Philippe VI and now owned by Hakim Ali Zardari, were flashed where the president had stopped over for two hours. The president was busy holding what a source in the High Commission of Pakistan called ‘in-house business meetings’. He also made a telephone call to the former prime minister Gordon Brown and met Conservative Party chair and cabinet minister Sayeeda Warsi. The British media has been regularly covering the floods in Pakistan but as the true scale of the damage done to the country emerged, the editorials here adopted a hostile tone questioning whether it is right for the head of a democratically elected government to abandon the whole nation at such a time of mourning for a so-called official engagement from which little mileage is to be expected. The Guardian called Pakistan “a washed-out state in need of international aid” in its leader comment and feared that an inadequate civilian response to a disaster may let the Islamists back in power in areas like Swat just like they did in the aftermath of the earthquake in Kashmir five years ago. The Times said that the concerns at the cost and purpose Mr Zardari’s European visit will not have been allayed by pictures showing the Pakistani leader “taking off in a helicopter from the 16th century Chateau de la Reine near Rouen in Normandy, which is owned by his family.” It said that there was growing anger to the government’s flood response, especially President Zardari’s official trip to Europe. The Mirror newspaper highlighted how Pakistan was suffering very badly in a news piece titled ‘a flood of compliant’ and noted the reaction of British Pakistanis who expressed their opposition to the president’s visit. It predicted that David Cameron would give little ground over the terror row at Friday’s talks at Chequers. The Independent said that the real, officially, for Saturday’s speech is to shore up the Pakistani leader’s support in Britain but the real reason for his appearance will be “the young man sitting beside him in a smart suit”. The paper compared BilawalZardari with his contemporaries and said while they will be worrying, after graduation, about paying off their heavy debts, “Bilawal is stepping straight into the political limelight as a novice 21-year-old statesman and the heir apparent to a wealthy political dynasty with an unending talent for bloody internecine strife”. The paper said that “Mr Ten Per Cent” was determined to thrust his son into global politics as he (Zardari) “is badly in need of a boost to his support among influential British Pakistanis”. The paper speculated that on Saturday afternoon, a new member of the Bhutto clan will step forward to accept “that strangest of modern political roles - the dynastic democrat”. The Daily Telegraph published a big piece titled “Asif Ali Zardari: life and style of Pakistan’s Mr 10 Per Cent” and charted the president’s rise to power. The paper, quoting the Accountability Bureau, claimed that the president has “amassed a property empire worth billions of pounds, with a chateau in France, homes in Britain, Spain and Florida, and bank accounts in Switzerland”. The paper, relying on information provided by the corruption probe body, wrote that the president has interests in three properties in London and went on to describe the once ownership of 335-acre Rockwood House (known infamously as Surrey Palace in Pakistan) in the North Downs in Surrey “that came to symbolize his wealth and ambition”. For the benefit of President Zardari and his team, the Guardian published a list of what the visiting head of Pakistan should “educate” the UK prime minister about after Pakistani officials said Mr Zardari will attempt to “educate” David Cameron about their country and region when the two men meet at a summit on Friday. The paper highlighted that since Mr Zardari is not necessarily the most objective teacher, David Cameron should know five things about Pakistan before their meeting. 1- Terror: Pakistan is more victim than perpetrator where more than 3,000 people died in terrorist attacks in 2009, compared with about 2,000 in Afghanistan; 2 - Af-Pak Border: the Afghan-Pakistani frontier, is largely imaginary and the current border related problems were made in Britain; 3- Kashmir: India routinely blocks international discussion of Kashmir and quoted a Guardian commentary as such “not mentioning Kashmir is as sensible as not mentioning Gaza when discussing the Middle East” and asked the “plain speaking” PM not to try to dodge this issue; 4- Democracy: There are signs that the current army chief, General Ashfaq Parvez Kayani may be getting too big for his boots and posed a question to Cameron whether he would like to deal with democrats or another dictator; and 5- People: Doubling Britain’s annual £130m aid to Pakistan would be an audacious move at a time of domestic financial austerity. The paper said it would serve the British national interest - and after the bitter arguments of recent days, would send an overdue, positive message in typical “Cameron Direct” style.
By: The News