ISLAMABAD - Former president Asif Ali Zardari Sunday said that there was no room for theocracy in Pakistan.

In his message on the eve of the 141st birth anniversary of Quaid-i-Azam Muhammad Ali Jinnah – to be celebrated today (December 25), he said: “There is no room for theocracy in Pakistan, which was envisioned by founding fathers as a progressive, modern and egalitarian state where in the words of Quaid, religion will have nothing to do with the business of the state.”

Zardari added: “Democracy, freedom of religion and freedom of conscience and rule of law are the guiding principles behind the creation of Pakistan. We cannot permit a few to control the thoughts and actions of people in the name of religion or in any other name.”

Ideology and religion, he said, were being increasingly misused to stifle dissent and free expression, adding “there is need for course correction.”

The Pakistan People’s Party, Zardari said, reiterates its resolve to defend the founding principles of Pakistan.

“On this occasion, we pay homage to the founding fathers and to all those [who] laid down their lives and suffered grievously for the cause of an independent homeland,” he said.

 Zardari paid homage to all those in the armed forces, the police, the civilian law enforcement agencies and the people who made sacrifices in the fight against extremists and militants.

 In a separate Christmas message, Zardari greeted the Christian citizens.

“I wish to felicitate Christians all over the world particularly our Christian brothers and sisters in Pakistan on the auspicious occasion of Christmas,” he said

Jesus (May Allah be pleased with him), Zardari said, preached love, forgiveness and brotherhood -- values that we need to inculcate more than ever before.

“On this occasion, I also condemn the growing incidents of misuse of some religion-based laws against the citizens and call for an end to it. The PPP reiterates its pledge to protect the Christians, indeed all non-Muslims from discrimination, and misuse of religion-based laws against them,” he said.

The PPP, he said, “wishes to acknowledge with deep appreciation the great contributions of the Christian community towards the development and wellbeing of Pakistan.”