Zardari ask people to foil all conspiracies

Islamabad: Breaking his silence, embattled Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari today asked countrymen to "foil all conspiracies" against democratic institutions, a remark that comes amidst tensions between the army and the civilian government over the memo scandal.

Referring to the assassination of his wife – former premier Benazir Bhutto – on this day four years ago, Zardari said in a special message: "Today we pay tributes to her. The best way to do it is to defend and protect democracy and democratic institutions in the country and foil all conspiracies against it".

This is the first remark made by 56-year-old Zardari on speculation that erupted over the future of the government after he was rushed to Dubai on December 6 for medical treatment. Prime Minister Yousuf Raza Gilani had recently said conspiracies were being hatched to "pack up" his democratically elected government.

Zardari today called on people to "rededicate" to the democratic mission of Bhutto, whose "life was dedicated to fighting dictatorship and those seeking to defame and dismantle democratic institutions".

"I therefore urge all the democratic forces and the patriotic Pakistanis to foil all conspiracies against democracy and democratic institutions," he added. Meanwhile, Gilani, who was at Bhutto family`s mausoleum at Garhi Khuda Baksh in Sindh province today said that all institutions must work within their constitutional limits.

The alleged memo that sought US help to prevent a feared coup in Pakistan after the killing of Osama bin Laden has triggered tensions between the civilian government and the powerful military. Zardari`s remarks came despite denials of a military coup from army chief Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani.

Bhutto was killed by a suicide attacker on December 27, 2007 in the garrison city of Rawalpindi after addressing an election rally. Zardari said her assassination was a conspiracy to "rob Pakistan of its best hope to establish a fully functional democracy".

"The government is determined to expose and punish in accordance with the law the conspirators and perpetrators of the crime. They cannot and will not go unpunished," he said. Bhutto`s assassins "may have succeeded in eliminating her physically but the ideas and ideals of Benazir Bhutto shall never be killed", he added.