ISLAMABAD - Former President Asif Ali Zardari yesterday said the battle lines drawn in the 2007 Karsaz bombing had only sharpened.

In a message on the 9th anniversary of Karsaz tragedy, he said October 18 was an important day in the national calendar as “on this day in 2007 battle lines were drawn between democracy and pluralism on the one hand and religious fanaticism and bigotry on the other.” Those battle lines, he said, have only sharpened during the past nine years and beckon us to continue the fight till final victory.

“Nine years ago on this day Benazir Bhutto returned to Pakistan from exile, defying all odds and warnings, because she sensed that Pakistan was faced with existential threat from the bigots and religious fanatics on the one hand and dictatorship on the other,” he said.

Zardari said it was on this day when the enemies of democracy and Pakistan who were waiting brutally attacked her caravan. “Nearly two hundred party workers and democrats embraced martyrdom in the cause of democracy and freedom from dictatorship, religious bigots and extremists,” he recalled.

He said: “the PPP saluted the martyrs, they are the heroes and heroines and the strength of the nation. In laying down their lives they have raised our hopes and steeled our determination.”

He said the 18th of October was also an occasion to reiterate the pledge to fulfill the mission of Benazir Bhutto to uphold democracy and defeat militants and those who flaunt their bigoted version of religion to advance their anti democracy and anti women agenda. The Salam Karsaz Shuhada (martyrs) Rally organised by the Party on October 16 in Karachi, he said, was aimed at paying homage to the nation’s heroes as well as reiterate the pledge loudly and clearly. “I wish to commend all those who helped organise it,” he added.

Zardari said the leaders lead the fight from the front. “On this day Benazir Bhutto led from the front the nation’s fight against dictatorship and religious fanaticism,” he said. The PPP leader said extremists and their political backers who could not face her politically were continuing their attacks on the progressive and democratic forces behind the façade of religion. “Today let us also rededicate ourselves to fighting extremism and the enemies of democracy,” he said.

The PPP leader added: “As we remember the martyrs of Karsaz let us also remember in our prayers the personnel of the armed forces, civil law enforcing agencies and the people who have made untold sacrifices in the fight against extremism.”