Asif Ali Zardari Denies Pakistan Flood Crisis Bungling

Pakistan's embattled president, Asif Ali Zardari, today warned that Taliban extremists could take advantage of the country's floods crisis, as he defended his own much-criticised handling of the catastrophe. Zardari said the furore surrounding his overseas trip at the start of the disaster actually showed how much he is "wanted" at home. He said it would take at least three years for the country to rebuild the devastated areas, but "I don't think Pakistan will ever fully recover". However, he said he believed Pakistanis had the resilience to withstand the challenge. The president and his government have been widely castigated for their management of the disaster, which began last month and has inundated about a fifth of the country's land mass and affected 20 million people. His comments came as Taliban militants killed at least 36 people in three separate attacks in the troubled north-west of Pakistan, and the raging waters hit new areas in the south of the country, with the UN admitting that the floods are outrunning relief efforts. "Obviously the only political forces waiting in the quarters is the rightist forces," Zardari told the Guardian. "The ideal hope for the radical [is] that hopefully the structure of the state will fail and he will evolve and come out the winner. It's like when they assassinated my wife. It was not just an action to get rid of a prime minister-to-be, it was an action because her personality was a challenge to their ideology." Zardari's wife, former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, was assassinated in 2007 as she campaigned for election, catapulting her widower to the leadership of her Pakistan Peoples party and, two years ago, the presidency. Speaking about the potential threat to the flooded country, Zardari suggested Pakistani Taliban may kidnap children dislocated by the flooding and put them in terrorist training camps.