President Asif Ali Zardari said on Sunday that non-state actors were trying to break up Pakistan and institutions were being
pitted against each other, but vowed that every sacrifice would be made to protect democracy.
Addressing a gathering on the second death anniversary of former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, President Zardari warned that anyone daring
to cast an evil eye on democracy would be dealt with severely.
“We have shed our blood for building institutions and know how they have been built. We know what will happen when institutions clash and we
don’t want to see such a day.”
President Zardari said conspiracies were being hatched against the four provinces and the federation of Pakistan.
But all these will be thwarted by the people of Pakistan,” he said.
The president mentioned Iraq and Afghanistan and said: “We know what happens when institutions are weakened. But we are not that weak.”
Mr Zardari said he had faced jail for 11 years and was not afraid of threats. He said some people had been saying that he would leave the
President’s House in an ambulance and would be out by December. “But I want to know how do they know that?”
There were only two places where he could go and these were the President’s House and jail.
“Don’t think that we are weak, or we cannot fight.” He said although some elements were ridiculing his slogan, “democracy is the best
revenge”, he would not eat his words.
President Zardari described Garhi Khuda Bux as the “Karbala of the PPP” and said it was a rallying point for Pakistan People’s Party, but
vowed that “democracy will not be buried here”.
Referring to the situation in Swat and Malakand, the president expressed satisfaction that the national flag was again flying in a region
written off as a lost cause not long ago.
He said there were still a lot of things to accomplish, citing poverty and the Kashmir dispute.
President Zardari mentioned a series of measures taken by him and for which he was being targeted.
He said he was being criticised probably because of carrying forward Ms Bhutto’s mission of democracy.
Was it raising the flag of Pakistan at Garhi Khuda Bakhsh, launching of Benazir Income Support Programme for the women of Pakistan, raising
the slogan of ‘Pakistan khapay’ and to save the federation of Pakistan?” he asked.
People of Pakistan will not let their country turn into Iraq, Afghanistan or Somalia,” he said amid slogans.
The president said he was facing accusations also because of moves to change the name of the NWFP to Pakhtunkhwa, give rights to the deprived
people of Balochistan and stop the plunder of its natural resources, give rights over Sindh’s coal to its people and give the people the
National Finance Commission award after 19 years, that would be announced in Gwadar.
The president announced that a woman would head Gilgit-Baltistan as governor. “Benazir Bhutto is my leader and I am following her path,” he
If serving the 180 million people of the country is a mistake, I will continue doing it.” President Zardari said he had handed over the
command of the National Command Authority to parliament.
“They wanted it to be a joint control, but without anyone asking or telling me I transferred the control to the prime minister.”
“They are not afraid of Asif Ali Zardari, but of democracy.” He said certain sections were not happy with him for going to the United Nations
for a probe into his wife’s death. The UN launched the investigation after the first attack on her in Karachi.
He said it was the decision of the party’s central executive committee to go ahead, but they wanted it done through the government.
He said resolutions had been adopted unanimously by the provincial and national assemblies and the Senate for seeking a UN investigation.
“What is your objection? It has been my loss and that of my children,” he said.
President Zardari said he had taken an initiative to form the Friends of Democratic Pakistan group and presided over its meetings along with
the heads of the United States and the United Kingdom which were attended by representatives of 26 other countries.
“They don’t like my efforts for formation of the Friends of Democratic Pakistan.”
The president recalled former prime minister Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had faced similar accusations. “What was his crime? That he brought together
a broken Pakistan, gave a Constitution, made Pakistan a nuclear power and espoused the right of the poor to rule this country.”
He said the founder of the PPP had regained land lost to India in the 1971 war and got 90,000 prisoners of war released through dialogue.
“I ousted a dictator from the President’s House through dialogue,” he said.
He said Benazir Bhutto had “carried forward the mission of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, given the country missile technology and struggled against
dictators to bring the country back to the path of democracy”.
President Zardari said objections were raised to his foreign visits and if he stayed home, he was accused of having a “bunker mentality”.
“They want to have their type of hand-made leaders,” the president said and added: “Benazir Bhutto did not embrace martyrdom so that
non-state actors or anyone else could take over democracy.”
He praised party workers and leaders for standing with the parry’s chairman Bilawal Bhutto Zardari and proving that they were not like those
who had ditched Zulfikar Ali Bhutto and Benazir Bhutto.
“No one leaves the PPP. But if anyone does then no one stands by him.”
He said he had protected the party and its workers and if it was a crime, then “hang me”. He recalled that Zulfikar Ali Bhutto had said that
he preferred dying at the hands of a dictator to being forgotten by history.
President Zardari said his party had spoken of avenging the deaths of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, Benazir Bhutto, Shahnawaz Bhutto and Murtaza
He said the problem was that “we cannot change our habits and they cannot change their thinking”.
He said PPP workers had no doubt about his credibility and that he was a saviour of Pakistan.
“Only Bhuttoism will succeed. They will not succeed. Pakistan will progress, provinces will get their rights and the country will move
forward democratically. Elections will be held on time and I will administer oath to anyone who gets the mandate,” the president said.
The gathering offered fateha for Ms Bhutto. A documentary on the slain PPP leaders was also shown.
Bilawal Bhutto Zardari sat on the stage along with Bakhtawar and Aseefa Bhutto.
Thousands of people from across the country flocked to the tomb under tight security. They wailed in grief, but some also lashed out at the
Crowds of men, women and children cried, beat their chests, recited the holy Quran and chanted slogans urging that the government arrest Ms
Mourners poured through the gates into the mausoleum, taking flowers and some picking up petals from the grave as souvenir.
“I took some petals from Bibi’s grave because they are blessed,” said Aamna Abro. “I’ll give them to my ailing mother. I believe they’ll cure
She had traveled about 100kms to make the visit. The president and his three children visited the grave in private on Saturday night.
There were complaints from ordinary people initially held back from entering the mausoleum.
“The government of our own party is preventing us from visiting her grave, which clearly shows they fear for their life,” said Ghulam
Shabbir, 55, carrying a party flag.
Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani showered her grave with rose petals and prayed with ministers, before paying respects at the tomb of PPP’s
He said: “The deadline for UN investigation has been extended for a month, after which the facts will be brought before the nation.”--APP/AFP
Sunday 27th Dec,2009 | Muharram 09, 1431 A.H.