Democracy taking roots in Pakistan: Zardari
23 August, 2013
ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari said on Thursday democracy was taking roots in Pakistan as for the first time in the country's history one elected civilian president would be handing over charge to another elected civilian president in a smooth and orderly manner.
The president was speaking at a dinner he hosted in honour of the Islamabad-based diplomats at the Presidency to thank them for the support and cooperation that he received from them during the past five years.
Besides diplomats, the dinner was also attended by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif, the Senate chairman, National Assembly speaker, federal ministers and a number of members of parliament.
President Zardari welcomed Prime Minister Nawaz and said, "His presence here is a demonstration of the movement towards maturity of our democracy."
He said, "In our journey on the road to democracy and progress we all have suffered in varying degrees. Mr Nawaz Sharif also endured the rigours of exile and imprisonment in this journey."
The president, besides appreciating the role of the diplomatic core in strengthening the mutual relations between Pakistan and their respective countries, also spoke on challenge faced by Pakistan, including the war against terrorism and the country's relations with regional countries and other important capitals of the world.
He said the last five years have been extremely challenging and eventful years, adding, "Some of the old challenges still persist and new challenges have emerged."
The president, however, expressed his satisfaction that he would be handing over a far more stable and stronger Pakistan than what he had inherited five years ago.
"For the first time in Pakistan's history one elected civilian president would be handing over charge to another elected civilian president in a smooth and orderly manner. This fact alone speaks volumes about democracy taking roots in Pakistan," he remarked.
The president said Pakistan sincerely desires to establish durable peace and stability in the neighbourhood, adding, "We need peace and stability to realise the vast potential of mutually beneficial cooperation in diverse fields." As Afghanistan's closest neighbour, he added, Pakistan has borne the brunt of the crisis in Afghanistan in the past over three decades.
"The cost for Pakistan has been enormous. We have been hosting the largest number of refugees in the world over several decades. We have endured the inflow of drugs and weapons," he pointed out.
The president said the cost for Pakistan has been huge, in both blood and material losses, adding, "History has proved that the destinies of our two countries are inter-linked."
"Our dreams of peace and prosperity cannot be realised as long as Afghanistan remains in turmoil. It is for these reasons that helping restore peace and stability in Afghanistan remained on top of our agenda during the past five years," he added.
President Zardari said Pakistan has been engaged in serious efforts at the bilateral level as well as in concert with other key stakeholders. Pakistan has been part of several forums specially designed for this purpose, he added.
The president said since Afghanistan approaches the next important stage of transition as foreign forces will draw-down, Pakistan remains committed to supporting an Afghan-led and Afghan-owned process of transition.
"We are extending every possible support to the efforts for intra-Afghan reconciliation," he said.
Regarding relations with India, the president said Pakistan wanted to transform the bilateral relations into a friendly and cooperative partnership through resolving the outstanding disputes.
"We believe the way forward for the two countries is to resume the stalled composite dialogue process at the earliest," he added.
Zardari, however, maintained that the two sides need to ensure that the fall out of the recent incidents along the Line of Control was not allowed to derail the normalisation process. The president said, "Our new democratic government has exercised restraint," adding, "The prime minister is committed to peaceful relations with India and has stated that his government will continue to exercise restraint."