Kashmir a symbol of UN’s failure: Zardari
New York: Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari has once again tried to attract international attention over Kashmir. Addressing the United Nations General Assembly (UNGA) in New York, Zardari brought up the contentious issue saying his country will continue to support the cause Kashmir and its right to self-determination.
Accompanied by Foreign Minister Hina Rabbani Khar, the Pakistan President said Kashmir is the biggest failure of the United Nations.
"We approach our relations with India on mutual trust. The contacts between our leadership are expanding. I was encouraged by my discussions with the Prime Minister of India last month in Tehran, who I met for the fifth time in four years. We will continue to support the right of the people of Jammu and Kashmir to peacefully choose their destiny in accordance with the UN Security Council's long-standing resolutions on this matter. Kashmir remains a symbol of the failures, rather than strengths, of the UN system. We feel that resolution of these issues can only be arrived in an environment of cooperation," said Mr Zardari.
In his address, the Pakistan President also declared that his country had suffered enough in its fight against extremist terror and should not be asked to do more.
"No country and no people have suffered more in the epic struggle against terrorism than Pakistan," he insisted.
"To those who say we have not done enough, I say in all humility: Please do not insult the memory of our dead, and the pain of our living. Do not ask of my people what no one has ever asked of any other peoples," he said.
"Do not demonise the innocent women and children of Pakistan. And please, stop this refrain to 'do more'."
Beginning his address to the UN General Assembly with a denunciation of the recent American-made movie trailer and French cartoons that insulted the Muslim prophet Mohammed, he demanded that such material be banned worldwide.
Then, speaking next to a photograph of his late wife - Pakistani politician Benazir Bhutto, who was murdered by Islamic militants - he set about defending the Pakistani people's record in the war on violent extremism.
Mr Zardari said that regular US drone strikes against targets in his country made his task of selling the fight against terror to his people harder, as did the massive increase in Afghan drug exports since the US-led invasion.
"There are a lot of questions that are asked of Pakistan these days," he said, his voice rising as he warmed to his theme.
"I am not here to answer questions about Pakistan. The people of Pakistan have already answered them. The politicians of Pakistan have answered them. The soldiers of Pakistan have answered them," he declared.
"We have lost over 7,000 Pakistani soldiers and policemen, and over 37,000 civilians," he added. "And I need not remind my friends here today, that I bear a personal scar."
Pakistan has long been seen as a safe haven for myriad Islamist armed groups, whether Taliban fighting along the Afghan border, domestic extremists or Kashmiri Muslims bent on capturing Indian-held territory.
Suspicions that the government and military were turning a blind eye to some groups came to a head in May last year when US commandos launched a raid deep into Pakistani territory and killed Al Qaeda kingpin Osama bin Laden.
But Mr Zardari stoutly defended his government's record, insisting Pakistan's problems stemmed from decades of military rule, when Pakistan was left to cope with an influx of Afghan refugees and the West courted its dictators.
"I remember the red carpet that was rolled out for all the dictators," he said. "These dictators and their regimes are responsible for suffocating and throttling Pakistan, Pakistan's institutions and Pakistani democracy.
"I remember the jailing of Pakistan's elected leaders. I remember the 12 years I myself spent in prison. And I remember the billions provided by the international community to support those dictatorships," he said.
"My country's social fabric, it's very character has been altered. Our condition today is a product of dictatorships."
Mr Zardari's government has often been accused in the West of not doing enough to fight armed extremism, and since bin Laden was found - in a garrison town near the capital - some in Washington have called for aid to be cut.