Pakistani president slams militants for exploiting religion of Islam

Islamabad (ANTARA News/Xinhua-OANA) - Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari Saturday condemned the militants for "exploiting religion of Islam" through attacking mosques, churches, schools, national assets and civilians.

Zardari told the parliament in his traditional annual address that the government of his Pakistan Peoples Party in 2008 had inherited a country at war, a divided nation, threat of terrorism and militancy, a fragile and weakened Federation and unclear roles and mandates of different institutions of the State.

The government, he said, dealt with enormous challenges and tried to meet the aspirations of the people and transform the country.

He said efforts to counter militancy and extremism in the country had begun to pay off and the situation had improved.

"Where necessary, we have used force to ensure that the writ of the state is not challenged. We will continue to show resolve on this issue," the President said, adding that "the country faced the threat of militancy and extremism and its forces, police and civilians had been attacked and martyred".

"Our bases, police stations, pipelines, railways, hotels, schools have been targeted. Even our mosques, churches and religious shrines have not been spared," he said.

The President regretted that the country`s image had been negatively projected and the economy has had to bear extra burden.

He said to deal with the mind-set of a small minority, the government mobilized the society and tried to generate a national consensus.

President Zardari lauded the sacrifices of the country`s armed forces, civil armed forces, police and all the innocent men and women who had suffered.

"I salute the courage and sacrifices of those who have laid down their lives to secure the future of our nation," he said.

President Zardari vowed general election to be held in a free and fair manner during the new parliamentary year.

"We are starting a new parliamentary year. During this period, we will see free and fair election," he said.

Parliamentary oversight and democratic accountability is a new and important facet of foreign policy, he said.

On international issues, he said Pakistan is committed to fully support for an Afghan-owned and Afghan-led peace process in Afghanistan.

"The government has signed the Pak-Afghan transit trade agreement which will open up our trade with central Asian countries with whom we have historical ties," he said.

He said Pakistan and China have a unique relationship which is deeply rooted and mutually beneficial.

"My eight visits to China are a manifestation of taking this relationship to new heights," he said.

The president said that important steps have been taken to open up trade between India and Pakistan.

He said Pakistan-United States relations are multi-dimensional and important, adding Pakistan seeks to engage meaningfully with the U.S. on the basis of mutual interest and mutual respect.

"We are looking forward to your recommendations for re-engaging with the United States," he said.

He said Pakistan`s relations with the European Union have expanded and deepened. We are grateful for the EU initiative on the tariff concession, adding that Pakistan also attaches importance to its relations with the Russian Federation. (*)