I always listen for news of the August monsoon rains with trepidation, as it usually means floods in the north-east of the Indian sub-continent, in the Bay of Bengal, and hence in Bangladesh. This year, for the first time I can remember, it’s hit the north-west of the sub-continent in Pakistan, along the Indus river in the north-west, the Punjab province and is soon to hit Sindh province. It’s the biggest natural disaster Pakistan has faced since independence, with more then three million people already affected, and where do you think President Zardari is? Well, he and his family are here in London, having first enjoyed a few days in Paris, and will probably be around till the end of the forthcoming weekend, after attending a rally in Birmingham to launch his son’s political career. This says a lot about his priorities. When his country needs some firm leadership, particularly from a civilian government rather than the army, he is in London plotting his son’s political future under the joint dynasty of the Bhuttos and Zardari. President Zardari was of course married to the late Benazir Bhutto. l wonder what the people of Sind will make of this, the stronghold of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) which is the President’s political party, and which many observers from aboard regard as a possession of the Bhutto clan – so much so that it should really be called the BPP, or Bhutto’s People’s Party. Normally, the landed gentry of Sind look out for their ethnic brothers and sisters, and the President will no doubt go to them to install his son into political office, but if he’s still on our shores visiting his properties as well as launching his son’s career while the floods hit Sind, I’m not sure the masses will be so keen on them any more. The best thing that could happen here is if nobody bothers turning up to this rally in Birmingham. That should get the message through to them in very clear terms how badly out of kilter they are from public opinion in both Pakistan and the UK. Surely, a Bhutto would never have made such a mistake?
In the meantime, the views expressed by David Cameron last week in India, of all places (Pakistan’s presumed eternal foe) have become less significant (though largely substantiated) if you consider the activities of the ISI* in the Pakistan army, and any verbal clash President Zardari may have with him on this by the end of the working week will pale into insignificance, as ordinary Pakistanis suffer again under the hands of their political masters. It will be those who help them in their hour of need who will get their future support, not those who are plotting their family’s future monopoly of political power in Pakistan from the other side of the world.
*The Inter-Services Intelligence or ISI is the largest of three intelligence agencies in Pakistan