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Asia

Pakistani president under pressure to go home amid floods

As much of northwest Pakistan remains under water with life-threatening food shortages increasingly likely, President Asif Ali Zardari has come under criticism for failing to cut short his trip to Europe.

Women affected by the floods queue up to receive food rations

Women affected by the floods queue up to receive food rations

The cabinet held an emergency meeting on Wednesday to discuss how to improve relief work in the flooded regions of northwest Pakistan, where the efforts have been hampered by damaged roads and bridges and ongoing heavy rain.

Many of the estimated three million people affected by the floods have complained that they did not have enough clean drinking water, medical supplies, food or electricity.

The World Food Program and other aid agencies have repeatedly said that it is incredibly difficult to gain access to the inundated areas.

Whole villages are inundated

Whole villages are inundated

"You can imagine for five or six days floods have caused havoc in these areas," a World Food Program spokesman said. "People have lost their food stocks. The markets are not up and running. Shops have collapsed. People are definitely in the greatest need of food."

Government hit by crisis after crisis

The agricultural sector has been especially hard hit with thousands of acres of crops destroyed. There is concern that Pakistan's rice exports could suffer and that the country might have to spend more money importing cotton and sugar.

In the light of this disaster, the fact that President Zardari has not returned from Europe has rankled with Pakistanis, many of whom already perceived the government as inept before the floods struck.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has been accused of not doing enough for the flood victims

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari has been accused of not doing enough for the flood victims

Former cricketer-turned-politician Imran Khan said that "talks could be postponed – surely the priority should be your own people." He said the money spent on this "lavish tour" could be used for the victims.

The president and the government have faced a number of crises over the past month, including diplomatic rows with Britain and allegations that the Pakistani secret services are supporting militants fighting US troops in Afghanistan.

act/Reuters/AFP
Editor: Thomas Baerthlein

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