London/Islamabad: Instead of cheers,
Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari was greeted with shoes and
shouts of `Mr ten per cent` during a rally of the Pakistan
People`s Party at Birmingham.
However, the Zardari`s aides insisted that no such
incident had occurred during his visit to Britain.
Geo News channel and newspapers of the Jang media
group reported that a 60-year-old man named Shamim Khan threw
the shoes at Zardari yesterday in protest against the
President`s meeting with Premier British David Cameron.
Cameron had triggered a storm in Pakistan by saying
that Pakistan had links with groups that promoted export of
terror to Afghanistan and India.
But, the shoes failed to hit Zardari and the protester
was escorted out of the venue, where the President was
addressing a Pakistan People`s Party (PPP) convention, by
security guards, the reports said. British security took away
Khan, who shouted slogans,`The News` daily reported.
Khan told Geo News that he threw the shoes in protest
against Zardari`s meeting with Cameron.
Compelled by prospects of renewed fury back home if
Bilawal Bhutto`s political career was launched in Birmingham
amidst unprecedented floods, the plan was dropped even though
placards at the Birmingham venue sought to welcome 21-year-old
Outside the venue, protesters shouted slogans held
placards stating `Save Pakistan, Oust Zardari`.
Bilawal, who sought to rubbish reports that he would
address the Birmingham rally, confined himself to London where
he launched a flood relief donation centre at the Pakistan
PPP activist Khadeer Arif, who was one of a number
of people who walked out in protest at the Birmingham rally,
said there was simply no need for the President to visit
Britain while there are people dying back home.
He told BBC: "You wouldn`t see Barack Obama leaving
America, you wouldn`t see at the time of 7/7 Tony Blair
wandering around Europe.
The reality is simple; he was here for his family
needs, not for the people of Pakistan."
Zardari told the audience: "You are my family", as
the gathering prayed collectively for the late Benazir Bhutto.
People had travelled from nearby areas to see
Zardari, and many returned satisfied.
Shaquil Usman, who attended the rally, said: "The
vast majority of the people were satisfied.
There was a lot of controversy about his visit,
because of the floods, but by him coming here today I think
all these people will contribute towards the floods.
I think is the ultimate aim of everybody is to try
and get as much money raised for the floods as possible."
International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell
defended Zardari`s visit which he said had served to highlight
the disaster and help raise international relief funds.
He said: "He is drumming up support internationally
for the huge relief effort that is going to be required now in
Pakistan and is going to be returning very soon.
I think he is right to continue that visit."
A media report also quoted Information Minister Qamar
Zaman Kaira as saying that an investigation will be conducted
to determine how and why the man was invited to the gathering
for which special invitation cards had been selectively issued
by the Pakistan High Commission in London.
The incident inside the hall coincided with a protest
outside the venue, where hundreds of flag-waving protesters
carried banners and shouted slogans against Zardari`s visit to
The President has been criticised for travelling
abroad at a time when Pakistan has been hit by the worst
floods in 80 years that have affected over 12 million people.
Zardari`s speech at the convention was only covered
by state-run PTV, which did not beam any footage showing
anyone throwing shoes at the President.
Presidential spokesman Farhatullah Babar too denied
the incident, saying it would have been seen by the people
sitting in the hall if it had occurred.
"I confirm through the media that no such incident
occurred during the speech of President Asif Ali Zardari," he
The media could have openly reported the matter if it
had any proof about it, Babar said.
Asked about the Information Minister`s statement on
the incident, Babar said the minister has already clarified
and "he should not be misquoted".
The President completed his speech in 45 minutes and
it was "vigorously hailed by the PPP workers sitting in the
hall," Babar said.
The Jang group also claimed that Geo News channel was
blocked out in parts of the country for airing the news of the
man "hurling shoes" at the President.
It also claimed that the group`s English and Urdu
newspapers were stolen by unidentified persons early this
morning and burnt.
According to the media here, Zardari is the second
world leader to face a `shoe attack` in Britain after Chinese
Premier Wen Jiabao.
In February last year, a student at Britain`s
prestigious Cambridge University had thrown a shoe at Wen.
On December 14, 2008, an Iraqi journalist hurled shoes
at then US President George W Bush in Baghdad.