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Journal of America Team:

 Editor in chief: 
Abdus Sattar Ghazali

 Managing Editor:
Mertze Dahlin   

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President Zardari of Pakistan is pelted with shoes at the UK rally

By Abdus Sattar Ghazali

Taking cue from the Iraqi journalist, Muntadhar al-Zaidi, who threw both of his shoes at the then President George Bush to protest against the US invasion and occupation of his country, Shamim Khan from Azad Kashmir hurled both of his shoes at Pakistan’s unpopular President Asif Ali Zardari who was addressing a community gathering in Brimingham, UK on August 7. President Zardari was pelted with shoes to protest his current visit to the United Kingdom.

Reporting the shoe throwing incident Daily Telegraph of London said: “Mr. Zardari, who is under criticism for visiting Britain while Pakistan is suffering from devastating floods, was in the middle of a speech when an elderly man in the 1,000 strong crowd hurled both shoes at him. The gesture is considered a traditional insult in Islam. An unidentified man was later ejected by police and security officials from the meeting, which was marked by noisy protests outside.”

"Zardari was in the middle of a long campaign speech when a man towards the back of the crowd hurled the shoes at him," said one eyewitness. "They landed short of him, and it wasn't clear what exactly the man was protesting about."

There has been a bitter criticism of his visit to London on two grounds.  It is argued that the president should not visit the United Kingdom leaving the hapless people of Pakistan at the mercy of raging floods where at least 1600 people have been killed and millions have become homeless. The president should share the miseries of Pakistani nation in such worst condition.

However, the prime reason for a bitter opposition to Zardari’s visit to UK is British Prime Minister David Cameron’s comments in India last month in which he supported the Indian point of view that Pakistan is exporting terrorism to India. Speaking at the Infosys Technologies’ campus in Banglore, Cameron said:  “We cannot tolerate in any sense the idea that this country is allowed to look both ways and is able to promote the export of terror, whether to India or Afghanistan or anywhere else in the world.”

Shamim Khan, who belongs to Zardari’s Pakistan Peoples Party, told the Geo TV network that he threw shoes at President Zardari to protest his meeting with the British Prime Minister. He added said that this is also a protest against all his anti-people policies.

Cameron’s statement was bitterly criticized by the government of Pakistan and all the political parties and media commentators. President Zardari was urged to cancel his visit to London to protest Cameron’s statement.

British Prime Minister’s  scathing and ruthless criticism  against Pakistan has caused great anger among the members of  Pakistani and Kashmiri community in UK. They believe that Cameron deliberately targeted Pakistan while it overlooked the war crimes of India and worst violation of human rights in Kashmir.

The statement of Prime Minister Cameron encourages India to kill more innocent people and continue with violating human rights of Kashmiri people, said Mohammad Ghalib, President, Tehreek-e-Kashmir UK. Ghalib further said India has launched a fresh campaign to link Pakistan with terrorism with the aim to divert attention of international community from the worst situation in Kashmir.

Adding insult to injury, during his talks with Prime Minister Cameron, President Zardari did not bring his anti-Pakistan statement into discussion. This also fomented anti-Zardari demonstrations in UK. Scores of people staged protest demonstrations outside the Convention Centre on the occasion of President Asif Ali Zardari’s address to his party meeting in Birmingham.

Hundreds of people belonging to opposition parties and the civil society participated in the demonstrations. Heavy contingent of police stopped the protesters from entering into the Convention Center, however they continued their protest Zardari outside the center.

The shoe throwing incident led the President to stop his address and immediately leave the place in a security cordon in his car waiting for him outside. The incident caught global attention instantly as many enthusiasts circulated the news through internet.

Telling, while shoes were thrown at President Zardari inside the International Convention Centre, a demonstrator was holding a shoe up to a manipulated photograph of President Zardari outside of the Centre.

Perhaps, after the December 14, 2008 incident in which Iraqi journalist, Muntadhar al-Zaidi, threw shoes at President George Bush during his farewell visit to Iraq, shoe throwing has now become a tradition to lodge political protests.

Only 12 days after the show throwing protest against President Zardari, a shoe was thrown in Srinagar at the Jammu and Kashmir Chief Minister, Omar Abdullah, during the Independence Day (August 15) function by a Policeman, Abdul Ahad Jan. The shoe flung by Jan missed the target but an unfazed the Chief Minister referred to the incident in his speech and said "It is the best way to protest. It is better to raise slogans and hurl shoes but avoid stone pelting." Omar Abdullah was gracious to call the shoe thrower at his residence and ordered his release on August 17, 2010. Omar also ordered the police to withdraw the case against Jan who was taken into custody immediately after he hurled a shoe towards the Chief Minister. Jan was flown to his native village in a helicopter.

Here are some more incidents of shoe throwing as political protests around the world:

On June 5, 2010, hundreds of anti-Israeli protestors hurled old shoes at the US consulate in Auckland in an “expression of outrage and anger” over the Israeli commando attack on Gaza-bound humanitarian aid flotilla in international waters. The demonstration, organized by Global Peace and Justice Auckland, was a call for sanctions against the Israeli government after nine humanitarian aid workers were killed when Israeli commandos stormed the flotilla of boats traveling to Gaza with aid. The protestors marched to the US consulate where they threw the shoes before listening to various speakers, including Palestinians, an Irishman, a Turkish man and several others with friends in the flotilla.

On October 1, 2009, a demonstrator at a university in Istanbul, Turkey, threw a shoe at the head of the International Monetary Fund, Dominique Strauss-Kahn, to protest against the IMF policies. The man was part of a group protesting at IMF involvement in Turkish politics. The shoe fell short of hitting Dominique Strauss-Kahn. Word of the incident spread rapidly. Local TV news showed repeated the clip endlessly, sometimes using a split screen showing the Iraqi journalist who tossed a shoe at President Bush.

On April 7, 2009, Jarnail Singh, a New Delhi journalist, got into a heated exchange with the Indian Home Minister Palaniappan Chidambaram, launched his size 9 Reebok sneaker at the minister, who was standing five feet away. He missed the target. Fame of the incident quickly followed. The Shiromani Akali Dal, a Sikh political party, offered Singh a $4,000 reward for his "courage and bravery." Three days later, a retired school teacher threw a shoe at popular Congress lawmaker Naveen Jindal.  during an election rally in Haryana state.

On April 26, 2009, a 21-year-old student flung his footwear at the Indian Prime Minister Manmohan Singh at a rally in the city of Ahmedabad. The same night, at a different political gathering in Ahmedabad, a wooden sandal was tossed at prime ministerial candidate of the Bharatiya Janata Party's (BJP)  L.K. Advani. Advani was also the target of another shoe-throw earlier in the election season.

On February 2, 2009, a protester threw a shoe at Wen Jiabao, the Chinese Premier, as he delivered a speech on the global economy at Cambridge University, England.

On February 23, 2009, Turkish Prime Minister Tayyip Erdogan survived an attack from the 21st century citizen's weapon of choice - the shoe. A Syrian man of Kurdish origin was detained in Spain after throwing a shoe at Turkish Prime Minister Recep Tayyip Erdogan in the southern city of Seville. Erdogan was getting into a car after receiving a cultural cooperation award at the city hall. The 27-year-old man hurled a shoe at the prime minister, shouting “Viva Kurdistan.” The shoe hit Erdogan's car instead of the premier, and was picked up by his bodyguards.

On January 19, 2009, Anti-war protesters threw shoes outside the gates of the White House on President Bush's last day in office. About 500 people marched to the White House and threw about 40 pairs of shoes at the gate while tourists looked on and took photos. Supporters say they acted in solidarity with Muntadhar Al-Zeidi, the Iraqi reporter who threw his shoes at Bush during a news conference in Baghdad.

Shoe-throwing is a real expression of the frustration of the people. Targeting President Zardari with shoes was the climax of a massive protest campaign now underway inside Pakistan and outside against his unpopular regime that came into power through a dubious deal negotiated by his wife, Benazir Bhutto, the former Prime Minister. The US-blessed deal to share power with the former dictator General Perwez Musharraf was aimed at giving a civilian face to the pro-US policies of the General Musharraf. Unfortunately, Benazir was assassinated in December 2007 but her Pakistan Peoples Party emerged as the leading party in the February 2008 elections due to a sympathy vote.

President Zardari’s US-client government is implementing almost all the unpopular policies adopted by General Musharraf, particularly the so-called “war on terror.” Since 2004, at the behest of Washington, Pakistan army is busy in killing its own people in northern areas along the border with Afghanistan. Thousands of innocent people dubbed as “terrorists” have been killed by the brave army of Pakistan that has a record of launching a massive killing operation against its own people in East Pakistan that later seceded to become Bangladesh. Not surprisingly, the Zardari regime gave a three years extension to the Chief Of Army Staff, General Ashfaq Parvez Kiyani, last month for his ‘efficient’ job to carry on the most unpopular US-paid military operations against his own people.

Abdus Sattar Ghazali is the  Editor-in-Chief of the Journal of America.