President's UK visit sparks anger

By Rajini Vaidyanathan
BBC World Service, Newham, east London


The welcome the Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has received from some here in the UK has not been altogether warm. There have been protests outside the hotel where he is staying.

Image caption, Pakistan's worst flooding in nearly a century has affected more than four million people

While people accept President Zardari might have had good reasons to visit Europe, many argue the trip should have be postponed because of the devasting floods in the country.

At the Sunfresh supermarket in London's Green Street, which is packed with Pakistani delicacies, some of the shoppers and staff express their anger with the Pakistani president.

Adil, 26, who works at the supermarket, believes he should have stayed at home to help the millions of people who have been displaced by the floods.

"When there's catastrophic events happening back home, people are suffering, elderly people are suffering, I don't know what he's thinking by being in London," he said.

"London is fine, but in his own country, his people, flesh and blood are suffering.

"I don't know how he can justify being thousands of miles away sitting in London, looking at the goodness of London city."

Adil is British-born but has family back in Pakistan who have built makeshift flood barriers to protect themselves.

As a proud British Pakistani, Adil believes President Zardari is sending out the wrong message by being here. "I think the rest of the world will be looking at this. If it was something that happened in another leader's back garden I'm sure they would be at home," he added.

'Check priorities'

Those feelings are echoed by others working at the supermarket, and for Sajid it is personal.

"Dad's side house is totally flooded. It's underwater at the moment. So they're living somewhere else," he said.

Given the dire situation his family have found themselves in, it is no surprise Sajid also believes the Pakistani president should have stayed at home.

"He needs to look where his priorities are," he explained.

Image caption, Some think the president should have cancelled over David Cameron's comments

"Being in the power position he is, I suppose he has many other jobs and things to look at but when something happens and nature calls, like a flood, I suppose you can take action."

President Zardari has a packed schedule of meetings during his time in Britain. As well as meeting politicians, including Prime Minister David Cameron, he will address a meeting of his Pakistan Peoples Party in Birmingham on Saturday.

There he will expect a much warmer reception than the one he would get here.

For Rubina, who works in the Islamic Impressions store in Green Street, it is hard to understand why President Zardari is in London.

"He shouldn't have come here. He should be helping people over there," she said.

"I'm not sure for what cause he is here. He has just visited to have some pleasure. To visit London city and meet up with his son. I don't find any genuine reason behind his visit, he shouldn't have come here."


It is not just the floods which have caused some to call for the trip to be cancelled.

Last week, Mr Cameron's suggestions that Pakistan was exporting terror led to members of the Pakistani intelligence agency cancelling a planned visit to the UK. It was another reason why Rubina, who is from Pakistan, believes her president should not be in London.

Image caption, The Disasters Emergency Committee has launched a campaign to raise money for victims

"David Cameron's comment - that's an anti-Islamic comment," she said.

"It's just useless to blame any particular religion or any particular nation because terrorists don't have any nationality, they don't have any religion, they are just against humanity."

And that is a feeling shared by Shahid, who is working in his clothing store.

"I've spoken to quite a few of my friends, nobody was happy. He shouldn't be here. Firstly because of what David Cameron said and secondly because of what's happening with the flood in Pakistan," he said.

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