09/09/2008, 00.00
PAKISTAN

Mgr Saldanha’s wishes to Zardari, hope for peace and minority protection

Qaiser Felix
In a message to the newly-elected head of state, the president of Pakistan’s bishops mentions support for the president’s party and demands that everyone “may enjoy their just rights as equal citizens” and “be protected from fundamentalist and extremist elements.”

Lahore (AsiaNews) – In his message to Pakistan’s President-elect Asif Ali Zardari on assuming office today Mgr Lawrence John Saldanha, president of the Pakistan Catholic Bishops’ Conference, expressed his hope that he will bring “unity, peace and development” to the country and that religious minorities may be protected against fundamentalist and extremists elements.

Pakistan’s eleventh president took the oath of office, which was administered by Chief Justice Abdul Hameed Dogar, this morning in a ceremony in the Aiwan-e-Sadr, the President’s House, in the capital. Afghan President Hamid Karzai attended the ceremony on the special invitation of President-elect Asif Ali Zardari.

Following the oath the President met guests from all sections of society, and was presented with a guard of honour by a contingent drawn from all three armed forces.

In his letter Monsignor Saldanha said that he took “great pleasure in extending to you heartiest congratulations and good wishes,” and added that “We have offered prayers in our churches for your well-being, safety and good health.”

The prelate also said: “We are a peace-loving and progressive community who have supported your party and have contributed greatly to the education and growth of Pakistan.”

“We earnestly hope that you will use your exalted office to bring unity, peace and development in our land. We especially express our fervent wish that the religious minorities, who are small in number, may enjoy their just rights as equal citizens of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan and be protected from fundamentalist and extremist elements,” he said.

Archbishop Saldanha concluded by saying that “Under your leadership, may Pakistan grow and prosper! We assure you of our whole hearted cooperation and support in building a better Pakistan according to the dream of the late respected Benazir Bhutto.”

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