Islamabad: President Asif Ali Zardari on Monday pledged that the people of Pakistan will continue the campaign against militancy and extremism to the finish as it was a fight for their survival and for protecting their values.
Zardari, who became the first democratically elected Pakistani President to address the provincial assembly of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa, said he had come to Peshawar to declare
again that "we will continue our fight against militancy and extremism to the finish and we will not falter, we will not give up".
He said: "This was the fight for our survival, for our values. Failure or retreat is not an option and we will fight till final victory." Zardari said northwest Pakistan is a key part of the country as it borders Afghanistan and the people of the region had played an important role in confronting militant groups.
"These groups have their eye on the world but (they will target) Pakistan first," he said. The militant mindset had been brought to northwest Pakistan "from outside" and political workers of the region had made tremendous sacrifices while confronting the militants, he said.
The people of Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa were on the frontlines in defending the country, he added. "What is Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa's future? You have everything, like gas, petroleum and minerals. The only thing you don't have is law and order," he said.
Noting that the army had conducted successful campaigns against the militants, he said the political authorities will have to motivate the police to "occupy the vacuum" as the armed forces could not remain for an extended period. Zardari further said real revolution was only possible through the evolution of democracy.
"All we need is a practicing democracy, where there is tolerance and mutual understanding of each other's perspectives," said Zardari, whose Pakistan People s Party is a key ally in the Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa government led by the Awami National Party.
Later, a 70-million dollar project to reconstruct the shortest route between Pakistan and Afghanistan was launched in Peshawar by Zardari and US Consul General Robert Reed.
The US is providing 70 million dollars to rebuild the 46-km Peshawar-Torkham highway over the next two years. The secretariat for Pakistan's tribal areas will manage
the project to refurbish the highway that is the shortest route to Afghanistan and Central Asia.
The highway is outdated and sustained substantial wear and tear over the years, largely due to heavy container trucks and oil tankers ferrying supplies to US and allied troops in
The new project will widen the road, straighten sharp turns, reduce steep gradients and rebuild bridges and culverts to make it an all-weather highway. "The Peshawar-Torkham highway is a gateway to increased trade and economic development in the region," said Consul General Reed.
He noted that emperor Sher Shah Suri had recognised its economic potential when he built the road nearly 500 years ago. "To connect communities and facilitate trade, the US is helping to build more than 1,000 km of roads in (the tribal areas), Khyber-Pakhtunkhwa and Balochistan," he said.
Since 2009, the US has helped build over 650 km of roads in northwest Pakistan. Other US-funded projects will add over 400 km of additional roads in the coming years.