British ministers escape protests in flood-hit PakistanAugust 19th, 2010 - 6:18 pm ICT by IANS
Islamabad/London, Aug 19 (IANS) Two British cabinet ministers on a tour of flood-hit Pakistan were airlifted to safety after their convoy came under attack in an area ravaged by the catastrophe.
Britain’s International Development Secretary Andrew Mitchell and Conservative Party Chairperson and minister without portfolio Baroness Sayeeda Warsi had to be rescued by a Pakistan Army helicopter and flown back to Islamabad after their convoy entered a region known for its links to the Taliban, the Daily Mail reported Thursday.
Their convoy was swiftly re-routed to the nearest airbase after being confronted by protestors blocking roads near the town of Nowshera in Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa province.
A security consultant in Pakistan said: “It is certainly not the sort of place to get stuck. Everyone knows who is around and Westerners can quickly become targets.”
Officials in Pakistan said the protests had been about soaring electricity prices and energy cuts. However, there have been fears that militants want to exploit the floods to whip up anti-western sentiments and to undermine the incumbent government.
Mitchell later tried to play down the episode which occurred as he toured British-funded aid efforts. “We were returned to Islamabad by a helicopter — and are now continuing with our programme,” he said.
Announcing the delivery of a further 14.5 million pounds worth of aid, including tents and blankets, Mitchell said: “I have not in my lifetime seen such extraordinary deprivation and such extraordinary loss and misery.”
The brush with protesters comes just weeks after Prime Minister David Cameron sparked fury with his remark that elements in Pakistan faced “both ways” on terrorism.
The worst ever floods, which began nearly three weeks ago in Pakistan, have killed over 1,600 people and displaced about 20 million others in the country. Besides, the deluge submerged one-fifth of the country making it difficult for aid workers and officials to provide relief to the victims.
An emergency meeting of the UN Thursday will try to extract more pledges of help.
The world body last week launched an emergency appeal for $460 million for Pakistan, but the donor countries have been slow to respond as transparency in the use of aid is a major issue in Pakistan.
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