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I want to be remembered for defeating militancy: Zardari

July 06, 2009 18:30 IST

With his forces battling Taliban militants in the country's troubled northwest, Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari does not see India as the foremost threat and says the "position of being able to take over another state is nullified" after both countries acquired nuclear arms. As his goodwill gestures towards India, clubbed with a domestic campaign to end militancy, have attracted criticism at home, Zardari says "it rankles the small mind."

"It does not rankle the army, because after India and Pakistan became nuclear powers, that position of being able to take over another state is nullified," the President said in an interview to The Daily Telegraph.

In remarks that may give a boost to the United States' hopes for a united front against al-Qaeda and the Taliban, Zardari said that his security forces' operations against militants would in future target figures who were the military's "strategic assets".

"I don't think anybody in the establishment supports them (militants) any more," Zardari said. "Military operations are all across the board against any insurgents whether in Karachi, Lahore or whether he is in any part of Pakistan," Zardari said.

Zardari added, "My problem is terror. I have focused myself on terror. The (ruling) Pakistan People's Party has focused itself against the extremist mindset. Terror is a regional problem, it cuts across borders."

"I would love to be remembered for creating a Pakistan where militancy -- I know it can't totally be diminished -- is defeated," he said.

On the US role in Afghanistan, he said "what the US does in Afghanistan is its own business. It is a sovereign state." Referring to Afghanistan President Hamid Karzai, Zardari said, "Karzai and myself are friends."

When pointed out that he was known as 'Mr 10 per cent' for his alleged involvement in corruption, he said it was a cliche "created by the opposition".

"They tried me for 11 and a half years (the time he served in jail without being sentenced). I think a man should be judged by the fact he has walked on fire and come out without a spot," he added.

He also renewed a call for the US to sell aerial drones to the Pakistan military in place of mounting cross-border attacks. "My position is that I have always asked for possession of the drone; I want the Pakistani flag on it," he said.

On the assassination of his wife and former premier Benazir Bhutto, Zardari said that after the incident "the people in the street were calling for blood and we went for a democratic offensive."

"I wish (former President Pervez) Musharraf had looked after my wife" by providing her adequate security, he said.

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