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'Army should have non-political role'

Pakistan's ruling PPP chief Asif Ali Zardari advocates a non-political role for the country's armed forces, saying their involvement in politics had made the military "controversial" in the past.

world Updated: Sep 05, 2008 18:35 IST

Pakistan's ruling PPP chief Asif Ali Zardari on Friday advocated a non-political role for the country's armed forces, saying their involvement in politics had made the military "controversial" in the past.

In a message on the eve of Pakistan's Defence Day, Zardari said the people would respect the armed forces only when they are "dedicated to their professional duties".

Zardari, who is likely to be elected President in polls scheduled for tomorrow, said it "is reassuring that the military leadership has decided to keep the armed forces out of politics".

In Pakistan, the President is also the supreme commander of armed forces.

The PPP co-Chairman said the party "would like to see professional armed forces carrying out their functions in defence of the territorial integrity of the country, as is the case in other countries".

"The PPP has always been concerned that the involvement of the armed forces in the political affairs of the country was making them controversial, which is not good for the image of the armed forces or the security of the country," he said.

"Only when the armed forces are dedicated to their professional duties (will) people respect them for their valour, courage and dedication in service of the motherland."

Since his appointment as army chief by former President Pervez Musharraf, Gen Ashfaq Parvez Kayani has kept the armed forces out of politics. Kayani has withdrawn hundreds of officers from civilian departments and barred senior commanders from meeting politicians.

Despite distancing itself from politics, the army remains a powerful institution. It is widely believed that the army played a key role in Musharraf's resignation last month and that it served as a guarantor for a deal that the former President would not be humiliated after he quit.

Zardari said Pakistan's future as a prosperous country was linked with the restoration of complete democracy. "On this day, therefore, I wish to reiterate our resolve to preserve, protect and enhance democracy and democratic traditions in the country," he said.

September 6 is celebrated as Defence Day in Pakistan in commemoration of the defence of the eastern city of Lahore during the 1965 war with India.

Zardari said the Defence Day is a memorable occasion as it was on this day that the people of Pakistan forged an unprecedented unity to deter external aggression.

"This day will also always remind us of the brave resistance put forth by our valiant armed forces in defence of the country," he said.