ISLAMABAD -  Former president Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday said that the 18th day of October was an important day in the national calendar as on this day in 2007 the battle line was drawn between democracy and pluralism on the one hand and religious fanaticism and bigotry on the other.

In a statement issued here on the 10th anniversary of Karsaz tragedy, the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) co-chairman said those battle lines had 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 200 PPP workers and democrats embraced martyrdom in the cause of democracy and freedom from dictatorship, religious bigots and extremists. “Today we salute 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 added.

Zardari said 18th of October was also an occasion to reiterate the pledge to fulfil 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 Rally organised by the PPP two days ago 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. 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. The extremists and their political backers who could not face her politically are continuing their attacks on the progressive and democratic forces behind the façade of religion. The battle lines drawn on this day have only sharpened. We will continue this battle till final victory,” the PPP leader said.

Today, Zardari said, “let us also rededicate ourselves to fighting extremism and the enemies of democracy. As we remember the martyrs of Karsaz, let us also remember in our prayers the personnel of the armed forces, civil law enforcement agencies and the people who have made untold sacrifices in the fight against extremism.”

ZARDARI FELICITATES HINDUS ON DIWALI

Former president Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday greeted the Hindus on the occasion of Diwali – being celebrated today (October 19) - and called for strengthening interfaith harmony for promoting the cause of peace in the country and in the region.

In his message, Zardari said: “I wish to extend on my behalf and on behalf of the Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) heartiest greetings to the Hindus on the occasion of Diwali.” On this occasion, he said: “We also reiterate our commitment to fight religious apartheid and promote interfaith harmony in the country and everywhere.”

The PPP he said respected “and upholds the UN resolution calling for interfaith harmony. It reaffirms its commitment to safeguard the rights of all minorities in accordance with the teachings of Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto.”

He added: “I wish to reiterate that the Hindus, indeed all minorities, of Pakistan are equal citizens of the state and entitled to equal rights.”