Asif Ali Zardari hosts Nitish Kumar, says Pak wants to be friendly

Nitish Kumar

President Asif Ali Zardari will host a special Diwali dinner for Bihar Chief Minister Nitish Kumar on learning that his meeting with the visiting Indian leader coincided with the Hindu festival of lights, officials said today.

Kumar and his delegation were earlier scheduled to call on Zardari at the presidency this evening and the meeting was to be followed by a formal dinner hosted by the Foreign Ministry.

On finding out that he would be meeting Kumar on the occasion of Diwali, Zardari decided to host a special dinner for the Indian delegation at the presidency, officials of the Indian High Commission said.

The President's decision reflected the importance being attached to Kumar's visit by the Pakistan People's Party-led government at the centre.

Zardari has taken a personal interest in pushing for better ties with India, especially in trade and commerce, said Fawad Chaudhry, a special assistant to Prime Minister Raja Pervez Ashraf.

In a special message on the occasion of Diwali, Zardari greeted Hindus and called for strengthening interfaith harmony and protecting the rights of minorities. The festival of lights is a time for celebration and reflection, he said.

"We partake in Diwali celebrations for promoting interfaith harmony as a means to fight religious apartheid and those who seek to impose their ideological agenda on the people," Zardari said.

Hindus and all minorities of Pakistan are "equal citizens of the state and entitled to equal rights", he said. "Let it be made clear yet again today that no one will be allowed to victimise and hound members of minority communities in thename of religion and faith," he said.

The Bihar Chief Minister began a week-long visit to Pakistan on Friday.

Over the weekend, Kumar has shared his experiences in improving governance in Bihar with functionaries of the southern province of Sindh.

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