Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari with his Turkish counterpart, Abdullah Gul during their meeting in Istanbul on Monday, October 31, 2011.—APP Photo

ISTANBUL: President Asif Ali Zardari has said Pakistan has lost over 36,000 innocent men, women and children and suffered a direct economic loss of over $70 billion in the fight against terrorism.

In an interview with leading Turkish newspaper Hurriyet, Mr Zardari, who is in Istanbul to attend a trilateral summit on Afghanistan, said: “No country has made greater contributions and sacrifices in fighting terrorism than Pakistan. We have lost our great leader and my wife Benazir Bhutto at the hands of terrorists. No-one should question our commitment or intentions in fighting the war.”

President Abdullah Gul will host the sixth Turkey-Afghanistan-Pakistan summit here on Tuesday and President Zardari will meet his Afghan counterpart Hamid Karzai for the first time since the assassination on Sept 20 of former Afghan president and peace council head Burhanuddin Rabbani and evolve a new strategy on the war against terrorism.

President Zardari said the Osama Bin Laden issue was now 'history' and Pakistan was looking forward to a new chapter of relations with the United States. He said the source of the greatest evil of the new millennium had met his eventual fate.

“We should look into the future and ensure that the militant mindset is defeated. The sooner we stop public criticism and finger-pointing at each other and coordinate our resources, the better it will serve the cause of peace and stability and in the fight against extremism and militancy,” he said.

“Our relations should be based on respect for sovereignty and mutual trust.”

He said after the Soviet defeat in Afghanistan, the international community abandoned the region, leaving “us at the mercy of so-called Jihadis. Today, our innocent citizens are killed mercilessly by these terrorists. This is a historical fact. The international community owes it to Pakistan to support it in the fight against militant mindset”. Mr Zardari said Pakistan was grateful to the Turkish nation for their deep compassion and sublime generosity towards the millions of Pakistanis affected by the floods and the 2005 earthquake.

He said under the present arrangement, visa was no more required for holders of diplomatic and official passports and the eventual goal was a visa-free regime for all citizens and a currency swap agreement to increase bilateral trade.—APP

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