ISLAMABAD - Former president Asif Ali Zardari said Sunday that the parliament was a shield against dictatorship.

Democracy has always been fragile in Pakistan with a long history of military rules. The last such rule led by Pervez Musharraf ended in 2008.

Democracy returned in 2008 and the PPP won the polls to form the government. In the next polls, in 2013, the Pakistan Muslim League (Nawaz) was victorious marking the first transfer of power from one elected civilian government to another.

In a message to mark the anniversary of Karsaz tragedy when terror struck the late Benazir Bhutto, Zardari said that the parliament must be strengthened, not undermined.

“The PPP will not allow anyone to undermine the parliament. Let there be no doubt or mistake about it,” he said.

He paid glowing tributes to the martyrs of Karsaz, Karachi, who laid down their lives while welcoming Benazir Bhutto on her return home from exile.

Former prime minister Benazir Bhutto had returned to Pakistan on October 18, 2007 after an exile of nine years. She was welcomed into the country with a horrifying explosion which killed more than 175 people and wounded 500 people.

Benazir Bhutto eventually died in another terror attack on December 27, 2007 at the Liaqat Bagh in Rawalpindi after addressing a rally.

“Today we salute the martyrs of Karzaz and indeed all martyrs of democracy and vow to carry forward the democratic and egalitarian mission of the PPP as envisioned by its leaders Benazir Bhutto and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto,” Zardari said.

“We pledge to continue her mission to banish extremism and root out dictatorship in all its forms and manifestations,” he added.

“An important lesson of democratic struggle is that dictatorship rears its ugly head in different forms and in different manifestations at different times,” he said.

He said a subtle and little noticed form of threat to democracy is when institutions and individuals exceed their constitutional authority and trespass into the domain of other constitutional institutions.

“We must be vigilant against the dictatorial mindset that seeks to drive from the rear seat. This tendency must be exposed and fought,” he said.

Zardari said that on this day in 2007 the battle lines were clearly drawn between forces of democracy on the one hand and the militants and extremists on the other. “Since then the battle lines have sharpened. The battle must continue till it is won,” he added.

Terror attacks can’t scare

PPP leadership: Sherry

Vice President Pakistan People’s Party Senator Sherry Rehman said Sunday that cowardly attacks by the terrorists cannot scare the party leadership.

PPP believes it is a target of the militants as charismatic leader Benazir Bhutto was assassinated in a terror incident in 2007. In the 2013 general elections too, top PPP leaders could not mobilise voters amid security threats.

“Cowardly attacks cannot keep PPP’s leadership away from its workers and the people of Pakistan,” Senator Rehman said in a statement.

Paying glowing tributes to the martyrs of Karsaz tragedy, she said, “Today, PPP marks the eighth anniversary of the Karsaz tragedy. None of us can ever forget how brave PPP workers made a human shield around the truck and gave their own lives so that we all could live. Nearly 200 diehard workers of Pakistan People’s Party embraced martyrdom as a result of the two heavy bomb blasts on the historic welcome caravan of Benazir Bhutto on October 18, 2007. I salute the loyalty, bravery and courage of all those martyred and wounded party workers.”

She added, “The PPP workers wrote history with the blood and conveyed to the terrorists that they can sacrifice their lives for leadership and the country but will never bow down in front of them. PPP workers and its leadership have proved over the period that we are determined to defeat terrorism and extremism - and will sacrifice our lives for democracy in this battle.”

Senator Rehman said that there is a family like affiliation between the leadership and the workers in PPP which cannot be seen in another political party.

After the first lethal blast, wounded PPP workers did not run away but stayed on their positions with broken arms and legs to protect and rescue our leader, Benazir Bhutto, she recalled.

Similarly, she said, on the morning of October 19, 2007, Benazir Bhutto - without any fear, reached the hospital to see the wounded party workers and recognize their sacrifices.

Sherry Rehman pledged that PPP will always remember the sacrifices of Karsaz martyrs and wounded workers. She said that party will continue the vision of its leadership and mission of enlightened and brave party workers for a peaceful, prosperous and democratic Pakistan.