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Posts Tagged ‘Pakistan’

Pakistan praised India response on Mumbai attacks: WikiLeaks

In Uncategorized on December 18, 2010 at 10:56 am

A Pakistan High Commission official praised India for acting “responsibly and maturely” following the Mumbai terror attacks which killed 166 people, according to US official cables released by WikiLeaks.

A fire breaks out of the dome of the Taj hotel in Mumbai, 2008.

The official, whose name was deleted in the confidential cable, made the comments when contrasting New Delhi’s reaction to the Mumbai attacks to its response after the bombing of India’s embassy in Kabul in July 2008.

The cable, dated December 1, 2008 and signed by then US envoy David C. Mulford, spoke of strong demands in the Indian media for retaliatory action against terror camps in Pakistan after Mumbai.

It quoted the Pakistani official as saying the Indian government’s reaction to the embassy bombing was “impulsive and politically motivated” when it swiftly blamed Pakistan’s intelligence agency.

More than 40 people, including India’s military attache and a diplomat, were killed in the July 2008 attack on the embassy in Kabul, while 166 people died in the Mumbai attacks by Islamist gunmen in November 2008.

According to the Pakistan officer, the negative effects of the Mumbai attacks on ties between the nuclear-armed rivals, who have fought three wars, would “fizzle out over the next few months”, the cable said.

The concluding comment on the Mumbai attacks by the US Embassy was: “No Military Confrontation Anticipated”.

India is still pressing Pakistan to bring to justice the alleged masterminds of the attacks in which 10 Islamist gunmen attacked a host of targets including luxury hotels, a Jewish centre and the train station.

Nine of the gunmen were killed and the sole survivor, Mohammed Ajmal Kasab, was condemned to death by a Mumbai court in May. He is challenging the sentence.

Seven suspects in Pakistan including the alleged mastermind Zakiur Rehman Lakhvi and Lashkar-e-Taiba operative Zarar Shah have been put on trial in the country, but none has yet been convicted.

Source: SGGP

China, Pakistan to formalise 10 billion dollar deals

In Uncategorized on December 18, 2010 at 9:56 am

China and Pakistan are set to conclude another 10 billion dollars’ worth of deals on Saturday, the latest signings on a trade-focused trip to South Asia by Chinese Premier Wen Jiabao.

Business leaders are scheduled to formalise the deals — adding to the 20 billion dollars’ worth of deals inked Friday — at Islamabad’s five-star Marriott Hotel, where a huge suicide truck bomb killed 60 people in 2008.

Boosting trade and investment have been the main focus of the first visit in five years by a Chinese premier to the nuclear-armed Muslim nation on the front line of the US-led war on Al-Qaeda.

Pakistan regards China as its closest ally and the deals are seen locally as incredibly important to a moribund economy, which was dealt a massive blow by catastrophic flooding this year and suffers from sluggish foreign investment.

The Islamabad city administration declared Saturday a public holiday, apparently for security reasons with the country on full-time alert for suicide attacks and bombings blamed on the Taliban and Al-Qaeda-linked extremists.

Wen inaugurated a cultural centre built as a monument to Pakistani-Chinese friendship, and was to hold talks with the country’s opposition leader Nawaz Sharif and senior figures in the military, which depends on China for hardware.

The 35-million-dollar Pakistan-China Friendship Centre offers the Pakistani capital a conference venue, theatre, cinema and space for multiple events.

Young Pakistani girls dressed traditionally and waving the flags of both countries danced for Wen and Pakistani Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani, before Wen kissed one of them on the cheek and posed for photographs.

Wen said Chinese medics will provide 1,000 Pakistani patients with free cataract surgery next year to mark the 60th anniversary of diplomatic relations.

“China-Pakistan friendship will last forever,” he told a ceremony commemorating Chinese workers who died in the 1970s while building the Karakoram Highway, the main road to the Chinese border through the Himalayas.

After the business leaders’ meeting, President Asif Ali Zardari is to host a state banquet late Saturday. Wen addresses a special joint session of parliament early Sunday before leaving.

Pakistani Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said the countries signed 13 agreements and memorandums of understanding on Friday in fields ranging from energy to railways, from reconstruction to agriculture and culture.

Kaira said China had promised to fund “all the energy projects of Pakistan,” which he termed a “major breakthrough”. Pakistan suffers from a debilitating energy crisis and produces only 80 percent of the electricity it needs.

“China will provide assistance in 36 projects in Pakistan to be completed in five years,” he said. “Basically this is a five-year development plan.”

Although not specifically mentioned, behind-the-scenes talks are expected on China building a one-gigawatt nuclear power plant as part of Pakistani plans to produce 8,000 megawatts of electricity by 2025 to make up its energy shortfall.

“The outcome of the visit is beyond our expectations. It is an historic day,” Pakistan’s ambassador to Beijing Masood Khan said Friday.

Pakistan depends on China’s financial and political clout to offset the perceived threat from rival India and rescue its economy from the doldrums of catastrophic flooding, a severe energy crisis and poor foreign investment.

Pakistan’s prime minister has expressed hope that trade will rise to between 15 and 18 billion dollars over the next five years.

China, meanwhile, has been concerned about the threat of Islamist militants infiltrating its territory from Pakistan.

Before arriving in Islamabad, Wen visited India, where he and his 400-strong delegation inked deals that will see bilateral trade double to 100 billion dollars a year by 2015.

Source: SGGP

Bomb kills 18 in attack on Pakistan police

In Uncategorized on November 12, 2010 at 4:23 am

Death toll in Pakistan suicide attack rises to 68

In Uncategorized on November 6, 2010 at 7:51 am

Pakistan spies ‘had role in Mumbai attack plans’

In Uncategorized on October 19, 2010 at 4:22 pm

 Pakistan’s main spy agency played a major role in helping prepare the 2008 Mumbai attacks, one of the planners of the bloodbath has told Indian interrogators, a report said Tuesday.

David Headley, who confessed to surveying targets for the attacks that left 166 people dead in November 2008, made detailed claims about support from the Inter Services Intelligence (ISI) agency, said Britain’s Guardian newspaper.

Headley described dozens of meetings between officers of the ISI and senior militants from Laskhar-e-Taiba (LeT), said the paper, citing a 109-page Indian government report into his interrogation.

India blames LeT — a banned, Pakistan-based Islamist group — for masterminding the Mumbai attacks.

The Guardian said Headley claimed the ISI was attempting to strengthen militant organisations with links to the Pakistani state which were being marginalised by more extreme groups.

Flames gush out of The Taj Mahal Hotel in Mumbai during a violent attack on the landmark building by militant gunmen in November 2008

Headley, the son of a former Pakistani diplomat and a white American woman, claimed that at least two of his missions were partly paid for by the ISI and that he regularly reported to the spy agency, said the British daily.

“The ISI… had no ambiguity in understanding the necessity to strike India,” Headley is cited as telling the Indian investigators, who reportedly interviewed him over 34 hours in the US in June.

The documents suggest however that the ISI’s supervision of the militants was often chaotic and that most senior officers in the agency may have been unaware of the scale of the attacks before they were launched, added the paper.

An ISI spokesman told the Guardian that accusations of the agency’s involvement in the Mumbai attacks were “baseless.”

In the attacks, 10 heavily-armed gunmen launched a three-day assault on prime targets in India’s financial capital.

Headley, who changed his name from Daood Gilani, confessed to his role in plotting the attacks after being arrested in the US.

In exchange for pleading guilty to the attacks, US prosecutors agreed he would not face extradition to India or the death penalty.

The US acknowledged Monday that the wife of a key figure in the Mumbai attacks raised concerns about him months before the plot was carried out, but said the information was not specific.

US State Department spokesman Philip Crowley added that the information about Headley was forwarded to US government agencies and to the Indian authorities before the attacks that killed 166 people in November 2008.

Crowley, asked about a report Saturday in The New York Times, said US officials had two meetings with one of “Headley’s spouses in late 2007 and early 2008.”

She provided “some information. We followed up on that information and provided it to relevant agencies across the US government,” he said.

“Did we share information with our security partners, including India, prior to the Mumbai attacks? The answer is yes,” Crowley added.

“At the same time, the information was not specific,” he said.

If the US government had had specific information, it “would have absolutely provided it to the Indian government beforehand,” he said.

Source: SGGP

Aid begins to flow to flood-ravaged Pakistan

In Uncategorized on August 19, 2010 at 7:22 am

MULTAN, Pakistan (AFP) – Foreign aid has begun flowing to the 20 million victims of floods in Pakistan, but thousands remain without food or shelter as weather forecasts signalled there may be some let-up.

Monsoon systems were weakening after three weeks of torrential rains brought devastating floods that have left at least 1,400 people dead in the country’s worst natural disaster, with survivors hitting out at the government’s slow response.

(AFP) An aerial view shows water covering huge areas in the southern Punjab province.

The floods wiped out villages, farmland and infrastructure, and OCHA, the United Nations’ aid coordination body, said that more than 650,000 homeless families were still without basic shelter.

At a camp for 3,000 displaced people in the south of Punjab province, most sat in crippling heat, batting away mosquitoes. Concerns were growing about cholera and typhoid, while many were suffering from stomach problems.

Half were children, an army official told AFP, with a few crammed into tents furnished with straw cots, while others were held back by soldiers as they attempted to reach medical and food supplies arriving by helicopter.

The UN last week launched an immediate appeal for 460 million dollars, and said Wednesday that funding had reached 54.5 percent of this target, though that included pledges that were yet to turn into cash.

The nuclear-armed country is on the frontline of the US-led fight against Al-Qaeda and the Pakistani military is locked in battle with Taliban in the northwest, on the border with Afghanistan.

Pakistan Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi has warned that the disaster could play into the hands of insurgents.

US ambassador to Islamabad, Anne Patterson, said: “We don’t know what impact it’s having on the insurgents… the idea that this flood would essentially come on top of a very corrosive insurgency is extremely worrisome.”

Zamir Akram, Pakistan’s ambassador to the UN in Geneva, said the country had received more immediate relief aid through the UN and direct bilateral aid totalling about 301 million dollars (235 million euros).

The World Bank has also agreed to lend Islamabad 900 million dollars, warning that the disaster’s impact on the economy was expected to be “huge” and would take years to put right.

The European Union announced that it would provide an additional 30 million euros (39 million dollars) in emergency relief assistance, bringing its total aid to 70 million euros.

In Washington, the State Department said US aid to Pakistan had reached around 90 million dollars, adding: “America’s response to this tragic flood has been consistent with our humanitarian values and our deep commitment to Pakistan”.

Islamabad has confirmed 1,475 deaths, but WHO representative Guido Sabatinelli told AFP he suspected the toll was much higher.

“We’re talking about 20 million people affected today and there is no infrastructure and no health centres that can register the deaths,” he said.

About six million people are deemed to be at risk of deadly water-borne diseases, with typhoid, hepatitis and cholera major concerns.

“Two million dollars are needed every day to provide water, this is not sustainable. We don’t have two million dollars a day,” said Daniel Toole, the regional director for the UN Children’s Fund (UNICEF).

Ambassador Akram said reconstruction in northern areas alone could cost 2.5 billion dollars and said the floods had ravaged an area the size of England.

In Islamabad Information Minister Qamar Zaman Kaira said the government was worried about some half million expectant mothers among the flood victims, and was making plans for those who would give birth soon.

“Among 14 million affected people there are about 500,000 pregnant mothers and we plan to move to or near hospitals those who are expected to deliver within two weeks,” Kaira said.

Kaira said the official toll of dead and injured, as well as the number of damaged houses, could rise once the floods began to recede.

“Total confirmed death toll is 1,475 and 2,052 people were wounded, and 970,520 houses were damaged. These numbers may change on the higher side as the flood water recedes and damage assessment begins.”

Former Pakistani cricket hero and politician Imran Khan Wednesday, along with a leading newspaper group, launched a fund-raising campaign to aid the flood victims.

“People do not trust government, so we have come forward and every rupee donated for flood-hit people will be accounted for,” Khan told a news conference in Islamabad.

Source: SGGP

Flood-stricken Pakistan faces economic catastrophe

In Uncategorized on August 18, 2010 at 7:26 am

KARACHI, Aug 18, 2010 (AFP) – Pakistan faces economic catastrophe after the devastating floods that have wiped out farmland and ruined infrastructure, with feared losses of billions of dollars likely to set back growth by years.

The country’s worst ever humanitarian disaster has ravaged an area roughly the size of England, affected 20 million people, exacerbated a crippling energy crisis and raising fears of social unrest.

Pakistani flood survivors take shleter in a destroyed structure on the banks of Kabul River in Nowshera. AFP

“It seems we’re doomed to walking through a dark tunnel. We’re on an unending path of misery,” said Morio Pahore, a farmer from small town Thul in southern Pakistan who is now living in a tent on a highway.

Shirtless, his face burnt dark by the sun, the greying 50-year-old said he lost everything when the rains fell and the river burst its banks.

“We had goats and buffalo and a wooden hut. We had grain to eat. The river ate everything, leaving the whole family hungry and empty-handed.

“I don’t think we can start again for many years. Everything is under water and even if the river recedes, the water will be there for a long time.”

It is a tragedy repeated millions of times over for farmers and peasants across the country who saw their livelihoods washed away in minutes after the floods first hit three weeks ago.

Agriculture accounts for 20 percent of Pakistan’s gross domestic product. President Asif Ali Zardari said it would take two years to provide farmers with crops, fertilisers, seeds and food. Experts say it will take far longer.

On top of that, floods have inflicted widespread damage on infrastructure. In cities, flood waters have destroyed electricity installations, roads and phone lines.

The World Bank, which has announced a 900 million dollar loan for Pakistan, expects the economic impact to be huge, indicating that direct damage was greatest in housing, roads, irrigation and agriculture.

It estimated crop loss at one billion dollars, saying the full impact on soil erosion and agriculture could only be assessed when the water recedes around mid-September.

“We have lost around 20 percent of our cotton crops. The destruction of corn, rice, sugarcane, vegetable crops and fish farms are enormous as well,” Ibrahim Mughal, who heads the independent Agri Forum organisation, told AFP.

Damage to cotton, rice, sugarcane and maize will hit the export sector, the main source for Pakistan’s forex reserves. Textiles and agriculture account for about three quarters of Pakistan’s 21 billion dollar export target this year.

“The floods have eaten three million tons of cotton — over 20 percent of our 14 million bales for this year. It will negatively affect by 25 percent large-scale manufacturing and ultimately impact on exports,” Ashfaq Hasan Khan, a former government economic adviser, told AFP.

There are fears that Pakistan risks running up a higher fiscal deficit which would lead to increased government borrowing.

Before the floods, the country had a healthy forex reserve of 16.45 billion dollars, thanks to a 11.3 billion dollar IMF rescue package meant to stave off Pakistan’s worst balance of payment crisis and 30-year-high inflation in 2008.

After recording its lowest growth in a decade, GDP had been expected to grow by 4.5 percent in the fiscal year ending June 30, 2011, but the floods could shave at least one percent off growth estimates.

“Our assessment suggests Pakistan could achieve about 3.5 percent GDP growth rate this fiscal year,” Khan said. “It means a loss of around two billion dollars.”

Pakistan’s UN envoy in Geneva, Zamir Akram, has said reconstruction in northern areas alone could cost 2.5 billion dollars.

Food prices are already rising and there are fuel shortages in some areas.

The director general of the Pakistan Electric Power Company, Muhammad Khalid, told AFP they faced losses of more than four billion rupees (47 million dollars) due to the floods with some grid stations wiped out.

Around 1,000 villages in flood-hit districts of southern Punjab are without power, said Jamshaid Niazi, spokesman for Multan Electricity Supply Company. “Our two grid stations are badly affected,” he said.

“The loss is huge. We have to install new poles, wires, feeders etc.”

Experts have urged the government — already weak and unpopular — to move quickly, warning that the losses could fan unemployment and social unrest.

“The peasants are our lifeline, so by not helping them we are in fact committing suicide,” Agri Forum’s Mughal said.

“Jobless people can become criminals if they can’t get employment. In this case the number of such people is in the millions.”

Source: SGGP

Pakistan wins more flood aid

In Uncategorized on August 17, 2010 at 11:22 am

 Pakistan won more aid pledges Tuesday after concerns that money is not coming through fast enough to help 20 million people hit by unprecedented floods and stave off a “second wave of death” from disease.

Torrential monsoon rain triggered catastrophic floods which have affected a fifth of the country, wiping out villages, rich farm land, infrastructure and killing an estimated 1,600 people in the nation’s worst ever natural disaster.

The United Nations last week launched an immediate appeal for 460 million dollars to cover the next 90 days and UN chief Ban Ki-moon visited Pakistan at the weekend, calling on the world to quicken its aid pledges.

A female Pakistani flood survivor blows on a fire as she makes bread on high ground in the flooded area of Pathan Wala on August 16, 2010.

Officials now estimate that 35 percent of the funds have been committed. Japan on Tuesday came forward to pledge an additional 10 million dollars in emergency aid and Australia promised an extra 21.6 million dollars.

“There are grave risks that the flooding will worsen Pakistan’s social circumstances but also its long-term economic circumstances will be potentially devastated,” Australia’s Foreign Minister Stephen Smith told ABC Radio.

State media in Saudi Arabia said the country had raised 20.5 million dollars in aid on the first day of a national campaign for the Pakistani floods.

Flood survivors cramped into sweltering tent cities or camping out along roadsides have hit out furiously against Pakistan’s weak civilian government.

Britain, which is emerging from a recent diplomatic row with Pakistan, branded the international response “lamentable” and charities said Pakistan was suffering from an “image deficit” partly because of perceived links to terror.

A UN spokesman said Monday he feared Pakistan was on the brink of a “second wave of death” unless more donor funds materialised, with up to 3.5 million children at risk from water-borne diseases.

The World Bank also agreed to provide Islamabad with a loan of 900 million dollars, warning that the impact of the disaster on the economy was expected to be “huge”.

UN chief Ban Ki-moon has urged the world to speed up aid urgently, while Pakistani Foreign Minister Shah Mehmood Qureshi said the country could not cope on its own and warned the disaster could play into the hands of insurgents.

“We fear we’re getting close to the start of seeing a second wave of death if not enough money comes through, due to water-borne diseases along with lack of clean water and food shortages,” Maurizio Giuliano, spokesman for the UN Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs (OCHA).

He told AFP that about six million people were at risk of deadly water-borne diseases, including 3.5 million children.

Typhoid and hepatitis A and E are also concerns, he said, adding that the World Health Organization is preparing to assist up to 140,000 people in case of a cholera outbreak.

The United Nations estimates that 1,600 people have died in the floods, while the government in Islamabad has confirmed 1,384 deaths.

Britain’s Deputy Prime Minister Nick Clegg said about one quarter of the aid had come from his country and charged that some nations had not yet grasped the scale of the catastrophe.

“The response from the international community as a whole, I have to say, has been lamentable. It’s been absolutely pitiful.”

Care International spokeswoman Melanie Brooks said the UN must explain to donor states that “the money is not going to go to the hands of the Taliban”.

“The victims are the mothers, the farmers, children,” she said.

The nuclear-armed country on the frontline of the US-led fight against Al-Qaeda, where the military is locked in battle with Taliban in the northwest.

“At that very crucial time this natural disaster has affected the ability and the capacity and the economy of Pakistan,” Qureshi told the BBC.

“The damage and the magnitude is too large for natural resources to cope with it… Pakistan needs your help.”

Source: SGGP

UN chief pleads for world to aid flood-hit Pakistan

In Uncategorized on August 16, 2010 at 11:22 am

Pakistanis wade through a flooded town in Pathan Wala. AFP

ISLAMABAD (AFP) – UN chief Ban Ki-moon has appealed to the international community to step up aid for flood-ravaged Pakistan, warning the “heart-wrenching” disaster is far from over.

Ban held talks with Pakistani leaders and flew with President Asif Ali Zardari over some of the worst affected areas of the central province of Punjab on Sunday.

“I’m here to urge the world to step up their generous support for Pakistan,” he told a news conference with Zardari.

The UN secretary general said he would never forget the “heart-wrenching” scenes of destruction he had witnessed.

“Many have lost families and friends. Many more are afraid their children and loved ones will not survive in these conditions,” Ban said.

Aid agencies were monitoring the risk of “a second wave” of deaths in the shape of water-borne diseases.

Sami Abdul Malik, spokesman for the UN children’s fund UNICEF, said six million children were affected by the disaster.

“Children are always vulnerable. They cannot control their thirst, they will drink any type of water and may get watery diarrhoea, cholera, malaria and other diseases,” he told AFP.

The United Nations has confirmed at least one cholera case and said 36,000 people were reportedly suffering from acute diarrhoea.

Ban said a possible 20 million people were directly or indirectly affected by the floods and that one fifth of the country had been ravaged.

“This disaster is far from over. The rains are still falling and could continue for weeks.

“The United Nations and international community and international humanitarian community are moving as fast as we can to help the government deliver desperately needed humanitarian assistance,” Ban said.

The UN has appealed for 460 million dollars to deal with the immediate aftermath of the floods, but has warned that billions will be needed in the long term as villages, businesses, crops and infrastructure have been wiped out.

Pakistan’s weak civilian government has appealed to the global community to help it deal with the challenges of a crisis compared by Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani to the sub-continent’s 1947 partition.

Charities have complained that relief for those affected by the worst natural disaster in Pakistan’s history is lagging far behind what is needed, with six to eight million people dependent on humanitarian aid to survive.

Ban announced a further 10 million dollars from the UN central emergency response fund, making a total of 27 million dollars since the beginning of the crisis. “As the waters recede, we must move quickly,” he said.

Zardari said it would take at least two years to restore the livelihoods of people affected by the floods.

“This is a long-term affair. It is a two years’ campaign,” Zardari said. “We have to consider and keep it in mind that for two years we have to give them crops, fertilisers, seeds, and look after them and feed them to take them to where they were.”

Fresh floods hit the southwestern province of Baluchistan at the weekend, devastating hundreds of villages and causing tens of thousands to flee, said Sher Khan Bazai, the commissioner in the town of Jaffarabad.

“The situation is grim. I saw people sheltering on the roofs of trucks and buses as bridges and roads have been washed away,” Bazai said, adding that authorities had only one helicopter and four boats for rescue missions.

The UN estimates that 1,600 have died in the floods, while the government in Islamabad has confirmed 1,384 deaths.

The nuclear-armed country of 167 million people is on the front line of the US-led fight against Al-Qaeda. Western governments have traced overseas terror plots back to Taliban and Al-Qaeda camps in the lawless tribal mountains.

Source: SGGP

Cholera confirmed as UN chief to tour Pakistan floods

In Uncategorized on August 15, 2010 at 11:23 am

Pakistan’s Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said Saturday 20 million people had been affected by the worst floods in the country’s history as the UN confirmed the first cholera case.

Independence day celebrations were cancelled as floods continued to bring misery to millions and aid agencies warned of a “second wave” of deaths from disease.

“The floods affected some 20 million people, destroyed standing crops and food storages worth billions of dollars, causing colossal loss to national economy,” Gilani said in a televised address. “I would appeal to the world community to extend a helping hand to fight this calamity.”

Pakistani flood survivors lead their cattle through water as they evacuate Khangarh

The United Nations has appealed for 460 million dollars to deal with the immediate aftermath of the floods, but charities say the figure falls far short of what is needed.

UN Secretary General Ban Ki-moon was due to arrive in Pakistan on Sunday to discuss the relief effort and visit flood-hit areas.

“Outbreak of epidemics in the flood-hit areas is a serious threat, which can further compound the already grave situation,” Gilani added, as the UN confirmed the country’s first cholera case in Mingora, in the northwestern district of Swat.

Maurizio Giuliano, spokesman for the UN Office for Humanitarian Affairs, said at least 36,000 people were reportedly suffering from acute watery diarrhoea.

“We’re not suggesting that everyone who has acute watery diarrhoea has cholera, but cholera is certainly a concern and that’s why we’re stepping up our efforts,” he said.

Pakistan’s chief meteorological official, Arif Mehmood, said no new wave of flooding was expected in the next couple of days.

But charities said relief for those affected by the worst natural disaster in Pakistan’s history was lagging far behind what was needed.

“There are millions of people needing food, clean water and medical care and they need it right now,” said Jacques de Maio, head of operations for South Asia at the International Committee of the Red Cross (ICRC).

“Clearly at this point in time the overall relief effort cannot keep pace with the overall scale of the emergency.”

Humanitarian agencies in Pakistan were monitoring the risk of “a second wave of deaths induced by the floods in the shape of water-borne diseases”, de Maio said.

Celebrations marking the anniversary Saturday of Pakistan’s independence from British colonial rule were scrapped by President Asif Ali Zardari, who has come under fire for pressing on with a trip to Europe last week despite the emergency.

In his independence day message, Zardari said: “The best way to celebrate this day is to reach out to the victims of the natural disaster, heal their wounds and help them to help themselves.”

“I salute the courage and heroism of flood victims and assure them that the government will do everything possible to alleviate their suffering.”

However with up to two million people requiring shelter and six million depending on humanitarian assistance, troops distributed national flags among the people in the flood-hit northwestern town of Nowshera.

“We lost our houses and everything in the floods. We urgently need food and medicines and not the flags,” Rasul Khan, 80, told AFP.

US Secretary of State Hillary Clinton telephoned Zardari to express solidarity, even as US security operations continued in the northwestern tribal belt. A missile fired from a US drone on a rebel compound in North Waziristan killed 13 militants on Saturday, according to local security officials.

“The people and government of the United States are with the people of Pakistan in these difficult times,” an official government statement quoted Clinton as saying.

She also praised “the courage with which the people of Pakistan had braved the adversity”.

The United Nations believes 1,600 people have died in the disaster, while Islamabad has confirmed 1,343 deaths.

Ban on Sunday was expected to “see for himself the flood-affected areas (and) demonstrate the support of the UN and the international community to the government and people of Pakistan,” UN spokeswoman Ishrat Rizvi told AFP.

Meanwhile 90 percent of the 500,000 residents of Jacobabad left for safer ground after authorities warned that flood waters might deluge the southwestern city, provincial agriculture minister Jam Saifullah Dharejo told AFP.

Source: SGGP