We need greater unity to confront militancy: Zardari

ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari on Sunday, while reiterating the resolve to continue fighting militancy, called for the need to have greater unity so as to confront militancy head on.
“There is need to have consensus following the policy of reconciliation to achieve the desired results in the war against terror and ensure peace and security” said the President while addressing the concluding session of 5th National Conference of South Asian Free Media Association (SAFMA) here at Aiwan-e-Sadr.
Welcoming the SAFMA delegation to Presidency, the President complimented SAFMA and its Secretary General Imtiaz Alam for its role in promoting freedom of media and peace in the region.
He said that SAFMA deserves to be commended by all those who wish to promote peace and cooperation in the region.
The President said that the basis, proposed two decades ago by Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto for fruitful cooperation among the SAARC countries, was still valid.
He quoted Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto who, during inaugural session of 4th SAARC Summit had said that “Even the greatest military powers have come to realize that they cannot carry the burden of a spiraling arms race. It is therefore time that we should seek and consider ways of limiting expenditures on armaments and seek regional political solutions, curbing the arms race and the danger of nuclear proliferation”.
The President said that he was pleased to learn that SAFMA has addressed some of the most important issues – ranging from attack on Malala Yousufzai, to the threats to democratic values, to media accountability, gender issues and holding of free and fair elections.
The President drew attention of the participants towards polarization in the society and emphasized upon the need for greater unity in wake of the threats by the militants to the peace including attack on the children.
He urged all the segments of the society including the media to sit together and help evolving consensus of the society to defeat the mindset that attack our innocent girls like Malala Yousafzai.
President Zardari said, “the attack on Malala Yousafzai was an attack on our values and on the future of our new generation.”
Spokesperson to the President Senator Farhatullah Babar added that the President while referring to attack on Malala said this was not an ordinary terrorist act.
He said that Malala Yousafzai was attacked because she raised the flag of peace and education for children.
The President said the government provided best possible treatment to Malala and other girls injured in this incident. He said the government also offered security to Malala but her father refused it.
According to prepared text of President’s speech, the President expressing his deepest anguish and that of nation on the cowardly attack on Malala Yousufzai and her two school mates Shazia and Kainat, said that these girls, like many others, represent a defiance of all threats.
“They represent a challenge to the terrorist assault on our values and Malala was targeted because of her defiance of the extremist mindset,” the President continued.
The President said that the terrorist seek to impose their agenda by force which he said cannot be allowed under any circumstances; it will not be.
The Spokesperson said that the President underscored that the fight against extremism was going to be a long one and on all fronts.
He said that it was wrong to link attack on Malala case to the reaction against the war in Afghanistan or drone attacks.
Those doing so are in fact justifying terrorism, he added.
The President said, “We are the inheritors of Shaheed Benazir Bhutto who challenged the extremists and laid down her life fighting them.”
He said that Government has taken a firm stand against terrorism in any forms and on any pretext.
“We have consistently opposed drone attacks and we will continue to oppose them. Drone attacks were a violation of our sovereignty and are counterproductive,” he added.
The President expressed Government’s firm resolve to protect the people from extremists and militants.
He said, “We will also not permit the militants use our territory to launch attack outside our borders.”
The President said that terrorist on both sides of the border kill the people of Pakistan and Afghanistan.
He said that both people and the governments of Pakistan and Afghanistan should join hands in eliminating the terrorists and their hideouts.
Blame game will be counterproductive to the cause and will only strengthen the militants, he said.
Referring to sacrifices rendered by Pakistan in the war against terrorism, he said, the Government has taken a firm stand against terrorism and developed consensus before undertaking operations in Swat.
He said there is need for creating the same consensus in order to confront the terrorists head on.
Pointing out polarization in society on the issue of dealing with militancy, the President regretted that when former Governor Punjab Salman Taseer was martyred in the broad day light there were very few people who came up in the open to condemn the extremist mindset.
President Asif Zardari while recounting Pakistan’s huge sacrifices in the war against terror and the resulting economic challenges, appreciated Chinese assistance and said that China helped Pakistan in coping with the daunting economic problems.
Referring to the scenario after withdrawal of international forces, he said foreign forces are withdrawing from Afghanistan leaving behind the residual of weapons.
“We will have to continue the war against terrorism till its complete elimination,” said the President.
Referring to the martyrdom of Benazir Bhutto in a terror attack, the President said, he called the UN for investigation into this case.
The President said, “All the important personalities did not appear before the UN’s team, therefore, we rejected the UN report in this regard”.
The prepared text says that the President also said that the country was close to a historic occasion.
He said, “We are close to witnessing a historic transition from democracy to democracy in Pakistan.”
Reiterating commitment to hold free and fair election under the 20th constitutional amendment, the President said that the government has already achieved the unanimous nomination of the Chief Election Commissioner and the setting up of a powerful and neutral Election Commission.
He said that unanimous amendment in the Constitution provides for a neutral caretaker set-up with consensus of the Opposition to oversee elections.
He said, “We have showed tolerance towards dissent, respected independence of the judiciary and a vibrant media.”
The President said, “We took the road of reconciliation with all those who were ready to play their role in strengthening democracy.”
He said, “We are following the policy of reconciliation as envisioned by Shaheed Benazir Bhutto and got mandate from the people by pursuing the philosophy of the Shaheed leader.”
The President said, “If we will not tread the path of reconciliation with our political parties in the country, how can we reconcile with the outside nations.”
He said, “He does not claim that all has been perfect during the last four and a half years but in view of the multidimensional problems, the government did its best to confront the challenges.
The President said that as a remarkable step forward, “We managed to strip the presidency of all its powers as part of efforts to further strengthen the democracy.”
Appreciating the healthy criticism from the media, the President expressed the confidence that it will play constructive role and guide the government in steering the country out of challenges.
Lauding the efforts of SAFMA and South Asian Women in Media for media freedom, media development and Peace and cooperation in South Asia, the President reiterated Government’s commitment to providing genuine access to information for the sake of transparency and accountability.
In this regard, the President mentioned that Ministry of Information has taken the ownership of the Freedom of Information Act from the Cabinet Division and has also got inputs from the stake-holders, the media organizations including SAFMA, APNS, CPNE,
PFUJ and APNEC; NGOs, Human Rights Organizations etc. He said that there was a clear consensus to repeal the old Ordinance of 2002, and bring in a new Act of the Parliament.
Secretary General of SAFMA Imtiaz Alam strongly condemned the attack on Malala Yousafzai, describing the incident as a defining moment in the country’s history to wage an all out war against terrorists.
He said Malala represents a new face of Pakistan which should be portrayed at the international level.
President SAFMA Nusrat Javed also spoke on the occasion.
Later the President hosted a luncheon reception for the participants of the conference which was also attended by Minister for Information and Broadcasting Qamar Zaman Kaira and journalists representing different cities.-APP

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