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Zardari: Pakistan's sovereignty is sacred

Text by REUTERS

Latest update : 2008-12-10

Pakistan's new president, Asif Ali Zardari, made his first parliamentary address on Saturday, asking parliament to reduce his power. He also said Pakistan's sovereignty would not be threatened over foreign anti-terrorism measures.

Pakistan's new President Asif Ali Zardari Saturday called for a parliamentary committee to investigate abolishing his powers to dissolve the assembly and dismiss the government.
  


"Never before in the history of this country has a president given away his powers," Zardari said in an address to a joint session of parliament.

 

 

In the same address, he said that Pakistan will not tolerate any infringement of its sovereignty or territory in the name of the fight against  terrorism.

 

Zardari won a presidential election this month to replace firm U.S. ally Pervez Musharraf who stepped down in August under threat of impeachment.

 

Zardari is close to the United States and had earlier vowed to maintain nuclear-armed Pakistan's commitment to the U.S.-led campaign against militancy, even though it is deeply unpopular with many Pakistanis.

The United States and Afghanistan say al Qaeda and Taliban militants operate out of sanctuaries in remote ethnic Pashtun lands on the Pakistani side of the Afghan border.

 

 Frustrated by an intensifying Taliban insurgency in Afghanistan, the United States has stepped up attacks on militants in Pakistan with six missile attacks by pilotless drones and a helicopter-borne ground assault this month.

 

 The U.S. attacks have infuriated many in Pakistan, which is also battling militants, and the army has vowed to stand up to aggression across the border.

 

 But a senior Pakistani official told Reuters earlier the latest missile strike, which killed five militants on Wednesday, was the result of better U.S.-Pakistani intelligence sharing.

 

 

Zardari, the widower of assassinated former prime minister Benazir Bhutto, did not refer directly to the U.S. strikes but said territorial infringements would not be tolerated.

 

"We will not tolerate the violation of our sovereignty and territorial integrity by any power in the name of combating terrorism," Zardari said in his first address to a joint sitting of parliament.

 

At the same time, Pakistan must stop militants from using its territory for attacks on other countries, he said.

 

"I ask of the government that it should be firm in its resolve to not allow the use of its soil for carrying out terrorist activities against any foreign country," Zardari said.

 

India accuses Pakistan of arming, abetting and sending insurgents across the border into Indian-controlled Kashmir, where militants have been fighting security forces since 1989.

 

Pakistan says it only offers political support to what it calls a legitimate freedom struggle by the mostly Muslim people of Kashmir.

 

"We must root out terrorism and extremism wherever and whenever they may rear their ugly heads," Zardari said.  

 

Date created : 2008-09-20

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