President Asif Ali Zardari addresses the farewell lunch hosted in his honour at Prime Minister's House on Thursday. – Online Photo
Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif greets President Asif Ali Zardari on his arrival at PM House for a farewell reception hosted in the president's honour on Thursday. – APP Photo
ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardari Thursday urged all political parties and the nation to stand united to confront internal and external challenges facing the country.
Speaking here at a farewell luncheon hosted in his honour by Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif at the PM House, the president said keeping in view the evolving situation in the Middle East and the threats of extremism and terrorism the country faced, “it is vital that there is unity in our ranks and files.”
“The fire raging in the Muslim world is not far from us and we must put our house in order to protect ourselves,” the president said while referring to the situation in Egypt and Syria.
“History will not forgive us, if we are split and do not act now and do not forge unity in our ranks and files,” Zardari told the participants that included the top leaders of political parties, the services chiefs and president-elect Mamnoon Hussain.
“We need to be self-sufficient ... we cannot rely on others to come and help us ... we have to have the unity and strength to confront the challenges ahead,” said President Zardari, who completes his term of office, at the end of his five-year tenure, on Sept 8.
He assured support of Pakistan People’s Party (PPP) to the ruling PML-N government and said “we will strengthen your government and Pakistan for the next five years.”
“We will only do the politics when you announce the general election. Not now, as the country faces grave challenges.”
The President said no one should be allowed to exploit the internal differences among the political parties or the people, as it could weaken the nation and the country.
He said the politics of reconciliation as pursued by the previous government was as important then, as it was important today and said Pakistan at the moment needed internal cohesion and strength to stand up to the issues it was confronted with.
Cherishing ‘sweet memories’ at farewell
The farewell reception had all the flavor of nostalgia as the two leaders fondly cherished the memories of their political associations.
Asif Zardari and Nawaz Sharif acknowledged the warmth and support extended to each other despite their political differences, for the sake of democracy.
Recalling the “pleasant memories” – from the meeting in Jeddah with Benazir Bhutto and Asif Ali Zardari, and the signing of Charter of Democracy in Dubai to the Raiwind rendezvous, Nawaz Sharif said the spirit of goodwill prevailed among them for the sake of restoration of democracy.
He said memories could be both sweet and bitter but his heart was only filled with the pleasant ones at the moment, and he wanted to bid adieu to President Zardari with the sweet memories.
He said Asif Zardari's warm-hearted approach during the Jeddah meeting and taking lead in interactions proved that the leader had the intent to turn this social alliance into an important milestone of politics.
Sharif said the memories were so fresh as he could still feel the scent of the roses which were presented to him by the daughters of Asif Zardari and Mohtarma Benazir at a lunch hosted by them at their London residence.
He recalled Asif Zardari's visit to his house in Murree after he gained success in 2008 elections. He said he had extended felicitations to Zardari on his victory from the core of his heart.
He said he could not forget the moments of grief when he paid a visit to Naudero to condole the death of Mohtarma Bhutto.
Prime Minister Sharif paid tributes to President Zardari for completing his tenure by upholding the spirit of reconciliation and introducing the spirit of personal rapport and camaraderie in politics.
He termed it a historic moment as for the very first time an elected Prime Minister was bidding farewell to an elected President who was completing his five-year tenure in the country's 66-year history.
“This is an unprecedented golden chapter being added to our history. It's a new history in the making,” said the premier.
Sharif said credit goes to Asif Zardari for sagaciously introducing 18th amendment and restoring the 1973 Constitution.
President Zardari thanked Prime Minister Sharif for hosting the farewell reception for him.
He said he had some painful memories of the arrest of his prime minister wife and children at the PM House years back, however said “I never let these affect me and turned my pain into my strength”.
The reception was also attended by President and Prime Minister of Azad Jammu and Kashmir, federal ministers, services chiefs and leaders of political parties.