GARHI KHUDA BAKHSH, Pakistan - Pakistan's embattled president on Tuesday vigorously defended his rule and urged the nation to foil "conspiracies against democracy" on the anniversary of his wife Benazir Bhutto's murder.
Asif Ali Zardari addressed at least 300,000 mourners at the Bhutto mausoleum in his first public speech since being treated in hospital in Dubai, brushing his illness under the carpet and delivering a veiled barb against the army.
It was a rambling, at times incoherent performance designed to hit back against rising tensions with the military, agitations from the political opposition and persistent speculation that his days in office are numbered.
"Today we pay tributes to her. The best way to do it is to defend and protect democracy and democratic institutions in the country and foil all conspiracies against it," Zardari said in a statement issued by his office.
Bhutto, who was twice elected prime minister, was killed in a gun and suicide attack on December 27, 2007 in the garrison city of Rawalpindi after addressing an election rally. No one has ever been convicted of her killing.
Addressing the mourners at Garhi Khuda Bakhsh in southern Pakistan, Zardari issued a jab against the army by invoking Nobel laureate and democracy leader Aung San Suu Kyi, who campaigned against military rule in Myanmar.
"Making a nation is the art of the impossible and I believe that I am doing the art of the impossible," he shouted from behind bullet-proof glass.
"Today America needs Aung San Suu Kyi. She is a little girl sitting at a place and the superpower walks towards her. This is the way to fight, adopt this way," he said.
Zardari tackled head on speculation about his health following eight days in hospital this month for an illness which has not been publicly disclosed but which aides likened to a mini stroke with no lasting effects.
"It was said that I am medically out. I am not medically out, but yes just like your muscle was pulled, maybe my muscle was also pulled," he said.