Pak battling for its sovereignty: Zardari

Islamabad, June 13: Terming the stepped up strikes by militants as an attack on the “sovereignty” of Pakistan, President Asif Ali Zardari on Saturday underlined his determination to fight the Taliban insurgency to the end.

“We are fighting a war for our sovereignty,” Zardari said, responding to a spate of deadly terrorist attacks that have killed dozens across Pakistan.

In a televised address, the President called on the people to unite behind the anti-Taliban cause.

“We will continue this war until the end, and we will win it at any cost”, he stressed, adding “This fight is backed by the parliament, the political parties and the people of Pakistan”.

He described the insurgents as “enemies of innocent people” who want “to terrorise the people and to take control of the country’s institutions”.

Noting that recent suicide attacks by terrorists, including Tuesday’s bombing of the Pearl Continental hotel in Peshawar, had killed members of the armed forces and civilians, he said: “We must win this war at all costs. We will win with the help of the people.

“There will be a new morning and we will all see this morning. It will be the victory of the people,” he said, adding that the “whole country has risen up against the terrorists”.

Pakistan is fighting “those who want to impose their agenda forcefully on the nation,” Zardari said.

The President pointed out that the militants had targeted his slain wife Benazir Bhutto shortly after her return to Pakistan from self-imposed exile in October 2007 and assassinated her two months later after “she challenged them and vowed to take them on”.

Zardari said: “They call themselves Taliban (students) but they are the enemy of knowledge. They destroy schools with bombs, butcher innocent people, desecrate corpses, bomb mosques, shops and homes and kill doctors for giving polio medicine to children”.

“By spreading terror and scaring people, they want to take over the country’s institutions,” he said, adding that the militants had killed thousands of people, including those who died in two suicide attacks in Lahore and Nowshera on Saturday.

He underlined that the insurgents were doing everything in the name of Islam “but they have no connection with the religion”. “They are cruel terrorists and the people of Pakistan have recognised their true colours,” he said.

Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani called in the armed forces last month to launch an offensive against the Taliban after they violated a peace deal in the northwestern Swat valley and extended their influence to other districts.

The Pakistan Army claims over 1,400 militants have been killed so far in operations in the country’s northwest and over 100 soldiers have also died in the fighting.

Praising the security forces for their role in the anti-militancy operations, Zardari announced an increase in allowances for military personnel equivalent to a month’s salary. Those engaged in the operations against militants would be paid this allowance immediately while others would get it from January next year.

He also paid tribute to the tens of thousands of people displaced by the fighting and said the government would not abandon them in this difficult time.

“We will send them back to their homes with dignity.

Their homes and businesses will be restored,” he said.