Need to eliminate extremist tendencies: Gilani

The tragic assassination of Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer has "underscored the imperative need for Pakistani society to marginalise and eliminate extremist tendencies," PM Yousuf Raza Gilani said.

Last Updated: Jan 13, 2011, 23:48 PM IST

Islamabad: The tragic assassination of
Punjab Governor Salmaan Taseer has "underscored the imperative
need for Pakistani society to marginalise and eliminate
extremist tendencies," Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani said
on Thursday.

Gilani made the remarks during an interaction with
envoys of Western countries.

Taseer was gunned down in Islamabad on January 4 by a
police guard who confessed he was angered by the Governor`s
opposition to the country`s blasphemy law.

"It is true that some fringe groups had tried to make
political capital from the debate about the blasphemy laws.

The real issue is the misuse of the law, for that matter any
law by any one," Gilani told the envoys.

"We cannot allow such aberrations to happen. The
tragic assassination of Governor Salman Taseer has underscored
the imperative need for Pakistani society to marginalise and
eliminate extremist tendencies," he added.

Gilani also said that Pakistan wants to cultivate good
relations with its neighbours and is "aggressively pursuing
the policy of friendship with Afghanistan, Iran, India and
China".

He regretted that "whenever we make some headway in
ties with India, the Mumbai incident is used to stall the
progress".

Gilani`s comments on extremism in his country came a
day after US Vice President Joe Biden said during a visit to
Islamabad that societies which tolerate developments like
Taseer`s assassination "end up being consumed by those
actions". Biden also said Taseer was killed "simply because he
was a voice for tolerance".

Taseer, a leader of the ruling Pakistan People`s Party
and a confidant of President Asif Ali Zardari, earned the ire
of religious hardliners after he vigorously defended a
Christian woman sentenced to death last year for allegedly
insulting Prophet Mohammed.

The envoys "observed that the goodwill and sympathy
generated for Pakistan after the floods has been lost because
of the... killing of the Punjab Governor and images beamed by
the media," said a statement issued by the premier`s office.

The envoys said "pictures aired by the Pakistani media
in support of the criminal who assassinated Salmaan Taseer
painted a negative image of Pakistani society".

"Pictures of extremists showering petals of flowers
generate Islamophobia in societies which are ignorant of
Islamic teachings," he said.

They pointed out that those who believe Islam is a
peaceful and progressive religion should speak out at all
forums. Gilani responded to concerns expressed by Western
countries by saying that "concerns shown regarding the rights
of minorities and rising tendencies in Pakistan have been
exaggerated and (were) not entirely in consonance with
Pakistan`s overall national ethos".

Islam is a religion of peace that preaches tolerance,
he said.

He also said the Pakistani people`s resilience has
helped his government overcome multiple challenges and the
country is "moving fast on the recovery track".

He urged Pakistan`s allies to fulfill their pledges
for aid as any delay in development work "provides room to the
extremists to project their negative agenda".

Pakistan`s economic woes are mainly the result of
terrorism and an international recession, last year`s
devastating floods and the presence of 3.5 million Afghan
refugees had aggravated socio-economic problems, he said.

When the PPP-led government came to power, the
foremost challenges it faced was the revival of democratic
culture and restoring state institutions and a system
disrupted under by erstwhile authoritarian rule.

The government addressed this by amending the
constitution and also introduced reforms in the economic and
energy sectors, he said.

Gilani said the challenges of terrorism and economic
difficulties are inter-related and inter-linked and Pakistan
has a firm resolve to fight terrorism.

Speaking on the political situation, Gilani said his
government is taking all "political parties on board in
resolving national issues, including the economic reforms
process".

Referring to corruption, he said the government is
doing a tightrope walk as it balances development activities
and checks corruption simultaneously.

The government is also consulting the opposition to
frame anti-corruption laws, he said.

Free, fair and transparent elections could help
eliminate corrupt individuals, he added.

The envoys said "economic reforms are crucial for
Pakistan itself, otherwise it could miss the millennium
development goals and would be left behind".

They said it would be "difficult for developed states
to have meaningful relations with Pakistan" without economic
stability.

PTI