Pak on tinderbox poised to explode: Zardari

Blaming the recent political assassinations on religious fanatics, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari on Saturday warned that fanaticism in his nation was a "tinderbox" poised to explode.

Last Updated: Mar 05, 2011, 18:07 PM IST

Washington: Blaming the recent political
assassinations on religious fanatics, Pakistan President Asif
Ali Zardari on Saturday warned that fanaticism in his nation was a
"tinderbox" poised to explode across the country and asked
Washington to avoid confrontation and work together with
Islamabad against terror.

"The religious fanaticism behind our assassinations is a
tinderbox poised to explode across Pakistan. The embers are
fanned by the opportunism of those who seek advantages in
domestic politics by violently polarizing society," Zardari
said in an oped in the `Washington Post`.

But he declared that his government will not retreat nor
will it be intimidated and will give a determined and
calibrated response to terrorists.

Charging that assassinations of Punjab Governor Salman
Taseer and another PPP leader Minority Affairs minister
Shahbaz Bhatti was carried out by the "same elements" who
killed his wife Benazir Bhutto, Zardari quoted her words to
say that the fight in his country was due to internal tensions
within the Muslim society, which was threatening to degenerate
into a clash between Islam and the West.

He said the small but increasingly belligerent
minority was intent on undoing the very principles of
tolerance upon which his nation was founded in 1947 and for
which principles by Pakistan`s founder Mohammad Ali Jinnah,
lived and died.

"The extremists who murdered my wife and friends are
the same who blew up the Marriott Hotel in Islamabad and who
have blown up girls` schools in the Swat Valley," he said.

Zardari said the fight against terror and religious
fanatics would suffer if there was friction between US and his
country and referred to the recent standoff over the Davis
affair.

He said "it was in none one`s interest to allow this
(Davis case) matter to be manipulated and exploited to weaken
the government of Pakistan and damage further the US image in
our country".

Pakistan, Zardari said, was committed to peaceful
adjudication of the Davis case in accordance with law and US
and Pakistan should avoid political incidents that could
further inflame tensions and provide extremists and
opportunists with a pretext for destabilising "our fledgling
democracy".

"The Raymond Davis incident in Lahore, which directly
resulted in the deaths of three Pakistani men and the suicide
of a Pakistani woman, is a prime example of the unanticipated
consequences of problematic behavior," he said.

In his first comment on the Davis issue, the Pakistan
President said "We need not go into the legal, moral and
political intricacies of this case. Suffice it to say that the
actions of Davis and others like him inflame passions in our
country and undermine respect and support for the United
States among our people."

At the same time, he said threats of applying sanctions
on Pakistan over the Davis affair would be
"counterproductive".

"It is a threat, written out of the playbook of America`s
enemies, whose only result will be to undermine US strategic
interests in South and Central Asia," he said.

"We in Pakistan know our challenges and seek the trust
and confidence of our international allies, who sometimes lose
patience and pile pressure on those of us who are already on
the front lines of what is undeniably a long war," Pakistan
President said.

Zardari warned that the environment in this area was
"incendiary" and any hot rhetoric and dysfunctional warnings
could start fires that will be difficult to extinguish.

PTI