Pakistanis divided over acceptance of Indian aid

Critics say Pakistan accepted Indian flood aid on the US’ call.

Islamabad: Pakistan government might have accepted the Indian offer for flood aid, but Pakistanis appear sharply divided over the issue, with the critics saying that the acceptance came on a US’ call.

Foreign Minister Shah Mahmood Qureshi, who was at the UN to attend an emergency session of the General Assembly on Pakistan`s floods, said this week that the government of Pakistan had accepted the Indian offer of USD 5 million.

"The government has accepted the Indian aid offer on the US’ call," Senator Raja Zafar ul Haq, chairman of Muslim League (N) party of former prime minister Nawaz Sharif said.

"It was earlier reported in the media but the foreign minister made it public on Friday. The US had urged Pakistan to accept the Indian aid offer," Haq said in comments published in the Jang newspaper.

Former foreign minister Abdul Sattar told the daily that Pakistan must have kept in mind incidents in the past but did not elaborate.

"It is beyond understanding that the government accepted the offer after few days," he said.

There were, however, people who backed the government`s decision to say yes to the Indian offer, at the time of an unprecedented disaster in the country.

Former foreign secretary Akram Zaki said it would not be suitable to decline the Indian offer when Pakistan is making appeal to the world seeking aid.

"On one hand Pakistan is calling for dialogue to improve relations with India and rejection of the offer would cause hurdle in relations," Zaki said.

But the harshest criticism came from the editor of The Nation daily, Shireen Mazar, who wrote that the government of Pakistan had shown its subservience to the US by accepting the "puny amount of USD 5 million".

She wrote that accepting aid from India at a time when people in Kashmir were agitating and "India is targeting Pakistan on false charges again on a regular basis, is a shame for the entire nation".

She recalled that Pakistan had accepted Indian assistance in the 2005 Kashmir earthquake as well, but said that aid was in kind and the two sides of Kashmir had been opened up on humanitarian grounds.

"But even at that time we had refused to accept India`s offer of helicopters for relief work - an offer which also had the condition that Indian crews would come with these copters," she wrote.

Pakistan has been hit by the worst floods in 80 years, which have soaked one fifth of its land, killed more than 1,500 people and impacted an estimated population of 20 million with around six million in need of emergency aid, which included 3.5 million children.