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Asia-pacific

We are ‘losing war against the Taliban', Zardari says

Text by Tony Todd

Latest update : 2010-08-04

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari said that the international community is “losing the war against the Taliban” before arriving in the UK late on Tuesday for a visit overshadowed by a diplomatic spat with British premier David Cameron.

Pakistan’s President Asif Ali Zardari said Tuesday that the international community is losing the war against the Taliban.

On Wednesday Zardari was in Britain on a visit which has been heavily criticised for taking place while his country suffers the effects of catastrophic flooding.

His trip also comes amid a damaging diplomatic row over comments made by Britain’s Prime Minister David Cameron last week during a visit to India. Cameron had said that Pakistan must not be allowed to “promote the export of terror whether to India, whether to Afghanistan or to anywhere else in the world.”

Zardari's European trip marred by diplomatic row

In an interview Tuesday with left-leaning French daily Le Monde, Zardari added fat to the fire by saying that "the international community, to which Pakistan belongs, is losing the war against the Taliban. This is above all because we have lost the battle to win hearts and minds.”

Zardari added that the US and NATO-led coalition forces had "underestimated the situation on the ground" in Afghanistan, Pakistan's neighbour.

Zardari is due to meet Cameron on Friday at the prime minister's country retreat outside London, despite calls from some in Pakistan for him to cancel the visit in protest at Cameron’s comments - calls that his office rejected.

A spokesman for the president said in a statement that it was now "all the more important that the president's visit to the UK went ahead as planned to raise this and other issues with the British prime minister."

Worst floods in Pakistan’s history

Zardari’s government has also been criticised at home for its handling of the flooding in the country’s northwest.

Residents have accused the government of failing to provide enough emergency assistance nearly a week after heavy monsoon rains triggered raging floodwaters in Khyber-Pakhtoonkhwa province, killing up to 1,200 people and forcing up to three million to flee their homes.

Meanwhile, several British lawmakers of Pakistani origin said they have shunned invitations to meet Zardari in London, saying that he should be in Pakistan dealing with the crisis.

“The issue is the huge environmental catastrophe that’s going on - a lot of people are dying there,” lawmaker Khalid Mahmood told the Press Association. “No matter what he can do or can’t do, he should be there to try to support the people, not swanning around in the UK and France.”

The Bhutto-Zardari dynasty at stake

Mahmood, the Labour MP for Birmingham Perry Bar, suggested that Zardari, widower of assassinated former President Benazir Bhutto, was visiting Britain for “political reasons” involving his son Bilwal’s career, and called on him to cancel the trip.

Bilawal Zardari is due formally to launch his political career as chairman of the Pakistani People's Party (PPP) on Thursday, when President Zardari and his son will address a major rally of British Pakistanis in Birmingham.

Right-leaning British newspaper the Daily Telegraph said the Pakistani president’s visit was never in doubt because Zardari is desperate to win over influential British Pakistanis who could make or break the career of his son, a 21-year-old Oxford graduate.

Since it was created in 1966, the PPP has always been led by a member of the Bhutto or Zardari family.

Date created : 2010-08-03

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