WASHINGTON - Warning that the Taliban and the Al-Qaeda could spread to other parts of the world if they were not defeated in Pakistan and Afghanistan, President Asif Ali Zardari has called for urgent international assistance to enable his country to root out the terrorist groups. "If the Taliban and Al-Qaeda are allowed to triumph in our region, their destabilising alliance will spread across the continents," Zardari wrote in an opinion piece in The Washington Post on Monday. "We need immediate assistance," he said, adding, "Pakistan and the world community cannot afford defeat in the war against terror." He noted that the administration of US President Barack Obama recognised that only an economically viable Pakistan could contain the threat of terrorism and the United States had committed 1.5 billion dollars a year for five years to help stabilise the Pakistani economy. "Now, the rest of the world must step up and match the US effort," the Pakistani leader wrote. "Pakistan needs a robust assistance package so that we can deliver for the people and defeat the militants." He also called for international assistance in helping Pakistan deal with the millions of people displaced by a conflict in the northwest of the country. The president underlined the urgency to back Pakistan's anti-terror effort with a "robust economic package" to help the democratic government deliver for its uprooted civilians. In making a strong case for urgent international assistance, Zardari urged the world community should rally in support of Pakistani democracy. "... Pakistan paid a heavy price more than the US and NATO in the anti-terror war," the president wrote. "In the battle against international terrorism, we are in the trenches for ourselves but also for the world. We have lost more soldiers -- 1,200 of them -- fighting the Taliban in Pakistan than all of the countries of NATO have lost, combined, fighting the Taliban in Afghanistan. Thousands of civilians, victims of attacks such as the recent bombing of the Pearl Continental Hotel in Peshawar, have died," he wrote. At a personal level, Zardari said, "I lost my wife (former prime minister) Benazir Bhutto, the mother of my children and Pakistan's greatest leader." He appreciated the expression of support by President Obama's administration but said the European economic powers must join the effort to back Pakistan's crucial struggle against militancy. APP adds: Advocating the critical importance of democracy and economic development to defeating terrorists, President Asif Ali Zardari Monday asked the international community, particularly the Western powers, to support Pakistan with immediate assistance as well as expanded trade to help it address challenges of global implications. In an article published in The Washington Post, the president called the internally displaced persons as the latest victims of terror that has afflicted the country in recent years. Pleading the case for international assistance, he asked the rich Western countries to ensure greater access to its markets for the Pakistani products and launch preferential trade programmes for it. "In the long term, Pakistan needs trade to allow us to become economically independent. Only such an economically robust Pakistan will be able to contain the fanatics and demonstrate to the 1.5 billion Muslims worldwide that democracy and economic development go hand in hand." He applauded the US' initiative to move forward with the preferential trade programme called Economic Opportunity Zones (ROZs) in Afghanistan and the Federally Administered Tribal Areas (Fata) of Pakistan. The programme, he said, would remove trade barriers and provide economic incentives to build factories, start industries, employ workers and give hope to the people. "This opportunity zone concept should be a model to Europe, as well. Europe must realise that it is in its own self-interest, as the US has realised, to do everything possible to grow the Pakistani economy and to provide incentives for Pakistani exports to the continent." The President faulted the Western capitals for supporting Pakistani dictators in the past at the cost damage to democracy. "The West, most notably the US, has been all too willing to dance with dictators in pursuit of perceived short-term goals. The litany of these policies and their consequences clutter the earth, from the Marcos regime in the Philippines, to the Shah in Iran, to Mohammed Zia-ul-Haq and Pervez Musharraf in Pakistan. The West stood by as a democratically elected government was toppled by a military dictatorship in the late 70s. Because of the Soviet invasion of Afghanistan, the West used my nation as a blunt instrument of the Cold War. It empowered Gen Zia dictatorship that brutalised its people, decimated our political parties, murdered the prime minister who had founded Pakistan's largest political party, and destroyed the press and civil society. And once the Soviets were defeated, the Americans took the next bus out of town, leaving behind a political vacuum that ultimately led to the Talibanisation and radicalisation of Afghanistan, the birth of Al-Qaeda and the current jihadist insurrection in Pakistan." He pointed out the problems created by the heroin mafia, which arose as a consequence of the efforts to implode the Soviet Union and said it now takes in $ five billion a year, twice the budget of our army and police. This is the price Pakistan continues to pay. He went on to say, "Dancing with dictators never pays off. Frankly, the worst democracy is better than any dictatorship. Dictatorship leads to frustration, extremism and terrorism. But the past is the past, and we can't undo it. We can, however, address the consequences of past mistakes and make sure they are not repeated." "My wife travelled the world preaching democracy to what should have been its loudest choir. The doors of many Western governments were shut to her, but she was not deterred. She was relentless in her passion for democracy, and unwaveringly optimistic about its ultimate success. She said, famously that truth, justice and the forces of history are on our side. Today, we shall see if America and Europe are on our side as well."