NEW YORK - Asserting that Pakistan's independent judiciary has been restored, President Asif Ali Zardari has accused PML-N Quaid Nawaz Sharif of attempting to destabilise democracy following the Supreme Court ruling barring him and his brother Shahbaz from holding any elected office. "The recent agitation in the province of Punjab (supposedly in favour of Mr Sharif) is an attempt to destabilise our democracy and a major distraction from Pakistan's critical problems, which include reviving our economy and fighting violent extremism," Zardari wrote in an op-ed piece in the Wall Street Journal on Wednesday. The president said, "Recent decisions of the Pakistani Supreme Court have been criticised by many in my country, and indeed by some in my political party. In particular, my government had taken legal steps to overturn a lower-court decision that would not allow former Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif and his brother to serve in public office. The Supreme Court, however, chose to uphold the lower court decision. This is the nature of an independent judiciary, and this is the process of rule of law. "An overwhelming majority (57 out of 63) of superior court judges dismissed under the previous government's emergency rule has returned to the court. The judiciary of Pakistan has been restored, and is independent. In a mature polity, when one loses in court, one respects the decision of the court and moves on, seeking other constitutional remedies. It is not the nature of democracy to appeal court decisions to the streets. This is part of the culture of cynicism and negativity that for too long has permeated Pakistani politics. "When the US Supreme Court decided the presidency in Bush v Gore, Vice President Al Gore did not call for his millions of supporters to take to the streets to try to overturn by force the ruling of the court. He and the Democratic Party accepted the Supreme Court's decision and moved on. The Democrats later regained the Congress and now the presidency. That is the mark of a successful democracy. The recent agitation in the province of Punjab (supposedly in favour of Mr Sharif) is an attempt to destabilise our democracy and a major distraction from Pakistan's critical problems, which include reviving our economy and fighting violent extremism." Zardari also said "Failure is not an option" in Pakistan's battle against terrorism. "This is an existential battle. If we lose, so too will the world. Failure is not an option," he said a day after a Mumbai-style attack on members of Sri Lanka's cricket team in Lahore killed eight people including six Pakistani policemen and two civilians. Tuesday's attack, said Zardari, "shows once again the evil we are confronting." Speaking for his government, Zardari also said "we have not and will not negotiate with extremist Taliban and terrorists," adding that the recently struck deal in the troubled Swat Valley was not with the Taliban. "The clerics with whom we have engaged are not Taliban," he said, adding that Pakistan had made clear to the clerics "that it is their responsibility to rein in and neutralise Taliban and other insurgents" in their area. Zardari warned, however, that "our security forces will act accordingly" if the Swat Valley authorities were unable to control the insurgents. He also said the government would not tolerate the closure of any girls' schools in Swat Valley, insisting that "the education of young women is mandatory. "This is not an example of the government condoning or capitulating to extremism - quite the opposite," he said in response to international criticism that the women of Swat Valley were being sacrificed for the sake of regional security. The president praised the meeting last week in Washington of US, Pakistani and Afghanistan top officials, calling it "a crucial step forward in the war on terrorism and fanaticism in South and Central Asia," and in relations between the two neighbours. "By reaching agreement, we have overcome the past legacy of distrust that has characterised Pakistani-Afghan relations for decades and has complicated strategic planning and common goals." Zardari said such "straight talk" was essential if the three countries wanted to prevail against terrorism. "Pakistan's fight against terrorism is relentless," he said. He recalled that his wife and former prime minister Benazir Bhutto - "the greatest champion of democracy in my country" - was assassinated in December 2007 while "fighting for the values of liberty."