ROME, Oct 1: Pope Benedict urged President Asif Ali Zardari on Thursday to guarantee protection of Christians in Pakistan.
President Zardari met the Pope at the Vatican at the end of a four-day visit to Italy mainly aimed at promoting trade.
A Vatican statement said that Mr Zardari’s talks with the Pope and Vatican officials centred on Christians in Pakistan following violence against the community two months ago.
“Emphasis was given to the need to overcome all forms of discrimination based on religious affiliation, with the aim of promoting respect for the rights of all citizens,” it said.
The statement said that talks also focussed on “elements that have favoured such incidents”, an apparent reference to groups that have exploited Pakistan’s blasphemy law, which allows the death penalty for blaspheming Islam. Government officials said at that time that the violence was the work of religious groups linked to Al Qaeda and Taliban.
The Vatican said the talks with President Zardari examined “the situation in Pakistan, with particular reference to terrorism and the commitment to create a society more tolerant and harmonious in all its aspects”.
After the Vatican meeting, the president flew back home.—Agencies