YANGON: President Asif Ali Zardari on Wednesday presented Myanmar’s Aung San Suu Kyi with an award in recognition of her long struggle for democracy as he visited the military-dominated country.
“I’m sure she will be this century’s leader to be remembered by the coming generation,” the president said as he bestowed on the opposition leader the Benazir Bhutto Award for Democracy, created in memory of the assassinated former prime minister.
Suu Kyi, a Nobel Peace Prize winner, has spent most of the past two decades under house arrest. She was released from her latest stint of detention just days after 2010 elections, following half a century of outright military rule.
“We want to stop as far as possible the suffering of families in our country,” Suu Kyi said at the award presentation in Yangon.
“I hope the day will come when our two countries will be able to cooperate very closely to ensure that the rights of families and people everywhere are safeguarded by sound, secure values.”
Suu Kyi held about 45 minutes of talks with President Zardari in private.
Pakistan has been ruled by generals for around half its existence and Suu Kyi’s past has resonated strongly with democracy advocates there.
President Zardari’s own relations with the military are increasingly tense amid allegations that a secret memo was written at his behest last May in a bid to prevent a feared military coup.
The president is under huge pressure at home with the courts trying to re-open corruption cases against him in Switzerland and a probe into the Memogate scandal.
He held talks with Myanmar President Thein Sein in the capital Naypyidaw on Tuesday on upgrading relations, and promoting economic and trade cooperation.
A new nominally civilian government took power in Myanmar last year but its ranks are filled with former generals. Even so, the regime has surprised observers with a series of reforms, including talks with Suu Kyi, who has been allowed to stand in April by-elections, and the release of hundreds of political prisoners.
Published in The Express Tribune, January 26th, 2012.