Benazir Bhutto’s son opening donation point for Pakistan flood victims in London

By Paisley Dodds, AP
Saturday, August 7, 2010

Pakistan president to address political rally

LONDON — Benazir Bhutto’s son opened a London donation point Saturday for victims of Pakistan’s deadly floods — a public appearance that came amid criticism that his father, Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari, was in Britain when he should have been dealing with the one of worst disasters in decades.

Pakistani officials estimate that as many as 13 million people have been affected in the floods and some 1,500 have died. More rain is expected in the coming days as the bloated Kabul River surged into Pakistan’s northwest.

In an interview with The Associated Press, Zardari defended his 5-day trip to Britain, saying Prime Minister Yousaf Raza Gillani had been dealing with the situation. Prior to his British visit, Zardari was in France where he visited a family chateau and met with French President Nicolas Sarkozy.

Zardari, who did not accompany his son at Pakistan’s High Commission in London, was to address a political rally of his Pakistan People’s Party in Birmingham later in the day before traveling to Syria. Nearly 10,000 people members of the party live in Europe, most of them in Britain.

Earlier in the week, many had speculated that Bilawal Bhutto Zardari — the son of Zardari and slain former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto — would address the rally and announce his intentions to formally enter Pakistani politics. The 21-year-old recently graduated from Oxford with a degree in history and politics.

His father said it was only a matter of time before his son carried on the family’s political dynasty.

But Bhutto Zardari, who was educated mostly abroad and possesses the same striking good looks as his mother, said he would consider getting a law degree before following in his mother’s footsteps. Bhutto was assassinated at a political rally in late 2007. Her father and PPP founder was hanged in 1979.

“I ask everyone to do what you can to help the people of Pakistan,” he told reporters gathered at the High Commission before accepting donations from donors and groups. “This is not a time to play politics. We need to do what is necessary to help our brothers and sisters in Pakistan.”

Analysts predict Zardari’s PPP — which his son currently chairs — will suffer during the next national elections in 2013 because of Zardari’s low approval ratings and the severe challenges currently facing the country.

Zardari traveled to Britain just days after British Prime Minister David Cameron accused Pakistan of exporting terror. The remarks caused a diplomatic row, in part because they were made during Cameron’s visit to India, Pakistan’s nuclear rival.

The Pakistani president rejected the criticism, saying that it was terrorists who killed his wife and who were terrorizing his country. Some 2,500 Pakistani security officials have been killed in battles with militants over the years, and many more civilians have been killed in attacks.

Pakistan is one of Britain’s most important allies in fighting terrorism. Nearly 1 million people of Pakistani origin live in Britain, and Pakistani intelligence has been crucial in several terror investigations, including the 2005 suicide attacks that killed 52 London commuters and a 2006 trans-Atlantic airliner plot. The ringleader of the 2005 suicide bombings in London and several others reportedly received terror training in Pakistan.

Zardari has headed a coalition government since unseating Pakistan’s Gen. Pervez Musharraf. The ex-military leader was in power-sharing talks with Bhutto shortly before her assassination at a political rally in December 2007.

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