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Pakistan's Zardari: 'March of Democracy Goes On'

A Pakistani man listens to President Asif Ali Zardari's speech to joint session of parliament, on televisions at an electronics shop in Islamabad, March 17, 2012.
A Pakistani man listens to President Asif Ali Zardari's speech to joint session of parliament, on televisions at an electronics shop in Islamabad, March 17, 2012.

Pakistan's embattled president is touting his achievements, setting the stage for a parliamentary debate over the country's strained ties with the United States.

Pakistani President Asif Ali Zardari addressed a joint session of parliament Saturday, telling lawmakers the country is better off than it was a year ago.  He said, "the world can see that the march of democracy goes on."

Zardari has faced a steady stream of criticism and renewed furor over allegations he and his late wife, former Prime Minister Benazir Bhutto, laundered millions of dollars through Swiss bank accounts in the 1990s.  Opposition lawmakers expressed their displeasure with Zardari, jeering loudly before eventually walking out on the speech.

Despite the interruptions. Zardari pressed on, promising to continue the military crackdown on militants based along Pakistan's border with Afghanistan.

The Pakistani president said he would "continue to show force against them [the militants]," saying ongoing operations have already begun to pay off.

Zardari's speech was his fifth to a joint session of Pakistan's parliament, more than any other civilian president.  It comes ahead of this week's debate that will focus on the future of Pakistan - U.S. relations.

The Pakistani president said he expects ties between the two nations to improve.

"Pakistan-United States relations are multi-dimensional and important. 2011 was a challenging year. We seek to engage meaningfully with the U.S. on the basis of mutual interest and mutual respect. We are looking forward to your recommendations for re-engaging with the United States," he said.

Pakistan essentially cut off ties with the U.S. following an errant NATO bombing run that killed 24 Pakistani troops last November.  Islamabad responded by closing its border to NATO supply convoys crossing into Afghanistan.

Some information for this report was provided by AP and Reuters.

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