(ISLAMABAD) — Pakistan President Asif Ali Zardari is hoping to head off a potential military coup by imploring Pakistanis to reject attempts at usurping democracy.
Zardari made his remarks Tuesday in southern Sindh province on the fourth anniversary of the assassination of his late wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto.
Bhutto had just returned from exile two months earlier and was rumored to be seeking a return to power when she was slain on Dec. 27, 2007.
Zardari, who was later elected president, told his supporters that his wife’s enemies “may have succeeded in eliminating her physically but [her] ideas and ideals … shall never be killed.”
He also told the thousands who gathered at the family shrine to pay tribute to his wife that it was up to them “to defend and protect democracy and democratic institutions in the country and foil all conspiracies against it.”
Zardari has always had uneasy relations with Pakistan’s powerful military and his camp believes they will either try to remove him by force or through the judiciary. His ouster would be a blow to Washington, which considers Zardari one of its strongest allies in Pakistan.
Copyright 2011 ABC News Radio
Don Melvin and Greg Botelho, CNN Newswire
Eliott C. McLaughlin, Holly Yan and Euan McKirdy, CNN Newswire