Transcript of interview with Mr. George Vergese of “The Hindustan Times” at Rawalpindi on May 4. 1972.
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Question: When do you think the summit is going to take place?

President: I think you know my position. From the beginning I have felt that the sooner it takes place the better, before positions harden and attitudes crystallize and old notions reassert themselves. So I thought it would have been better to meet immediately after the war because the lessons of the war, the consequences of the war would be felt everywhere and with that point in mind I thought we should meet soon. But now I think we would be meeting in the near future. We have left the dates to your Government when Mr. Dhar came here, I told him that I don’t want to quarrel about procedures, although procedures are important in their own place, but procedures as to whether it should be the beginning of June or end of May, that is left to your convenience. Whether it should be in Delhi or some other place in India, that is also left to your convenience.

Question: How do you think the emissaries’ talks have gone? Have they gone beyond fixing the date? Have you been able to make any headway here so that the way to the summit door has been eased?

President: Yes and no. I am glad they moved cautiously. Sometimes we fly off the trapeze more or less in the subcontinent and that is why I think in the past one of the reasons why we haven’t made any progress. Hopes will light up, soar up. With a little turn of the wrist, they will dash to the ground. So I think they have done, on the whole, a good job taking these factors into account. Primarily, I told our people, my delegation, that they should confine themselves to working out the agenda because the moment they enter into it would be better that they kept themselves strictly to the agenda, to the procedural question. When Mr. Dhar met me here, he advocate going forward a little bit, eating into the substance a little bit, not chewing it altogether. I said it is all right. If you want to do that, if it facilitates your discussions or if you think it makes a contribution to the meeting that we are going to have with the Prime Minister, certainly, nothing sacrosanct about it. I thought it would have been better to leave it there but let us go ahead. So I think they have done a neat job of the agenda and they have also discussed a little bit of the substance. So we have a peep into your thinking a little bit and you have to some extent into ours. I don’t think that will do any harm. The main bout or the main problem will come when we get together and have to take some hard decisions.

Question: Prior to the summit you expect that there will be any move at all for sort of pre-summit adjustments of any kind such as restoration of diplomatic ties, normalization of P. & T, flights, things like that?

President: Pakistan’s position is abundantly clear. I said before I went to the Soviet Union and on my return, yes, why not? Let’s restore diplomatic relations. It is much better to deal with each other bilaterally than through third countries, although we have respect for the third countries who have assisted us in this delicate phase. It is much better to deal with one another directly, so again it is for you to respond to what I have said. I will be prepared. I am ready to send someone tomorrow. We have even got the person in mind so we would like to anticipate some of these developments. We are completely ready for that. And even for the other matters, the question of P & T, travel, communications.

Question: These are hopeful steps. If these were taken they will certainly improve the atmosphere and get some of the smaller problems out of the way.

President: Yes, but the main problem is not these question. The main problem is to really fight hard against the prejudices of the past. And the more vistas open up, the more it is possible to fight hard these built-in prejudices which have become monuments of hate and suspicion. These are the monuments that have to be broken. Of course, by opening up new vistas and new a avenues of communication and dialogue, if you haven’t really had a change of heart, we can put another brick on the pyramid. Or if we have had a change of heart we can demolish it brick by brick. I think our people are ready for a settlement, a good settlement, a fair settlement, a proper settlement. I hate to use the word “Hnourable” We’ve over-used that phrase. And we are ready. I think. If I sense our peoples feelings, they are ready for a good and firm settlement but I would also like to tell you quite frankly, not that I want to introduce a jarring note, that they have felt and we have felt a tremendous sense of feeling of loss of pride. That has come into the picture. I don’t have to dilate on it. So they are sensitive, we are sensitive and the other, I told your other colleagues that, please try and put yourselves in our shoes and we’ll try and put ourselves in your shoes. We’ve never tried to do that in the past and if you put yourself in our shoes you’ll find that we are treading on very delicate ground-the raw feelings of the people. And the healing processes have barely begun so you must take that factor into account.

Question: A spokesman, I think after the Muree talks in Islamabad, said that, I think the phrase he used was that Pakistan would have no objection if Sheikh Mujib Joined these summit talks. Has this issue come up and do you think this is a possibility? Some of the issues are tripartite, some are bilateral.

President: Exactly. What I’m going to say, actually the point is that there are some problems which concern al three of us. At least that’s the position you’ve taken. Although it is strictly a legal position, but, however, I won’t go into that. But that’s the position you’ve taken. We have to take that into account. The second thing is that there are certain matters which concern you and us exclusively and there are some problems which concern Mr. Mujib Rahman and us exclusively, Now I told Mr. Dhar that when we begin our negotiations, let us have a preliminary discussion between ourselves, between your Prime Minister and us. And then at any stage that we feel that its appropriate to have some kind of discussion with Mr. Mujibur Rahman, that can be done. I have no objection to that because you see, I can meet Mr. Mujibur Rahman and you cant draw any inference from it because it don’t have to tell you that it is, that doesn’t mean itself it is a factor, that we have taken a certain position. I have no objection to that, no inhibition as such as that would mean the we have taken a legal step towards recognition. So, I have no objection.

Question: But is this something that has been processed further? Is it merely an idea that has been thrown up or is it something that is being pursued so as to try to achieve that and facilitate these talks so that all the knots can be united rather than there be a pause and a further effort to try and get a meeting at some other level or some other place at some other time?

President: Yes, I thick it is an idea thrown into the discussions but here again I am afraid and I tried to explain this difficulty to Mr. Dhar and I would also like you to please bear in this with me. I don’t think it will be possible to unite everything in one mighty go and this was exactly what I told Kosygin and Ayub Khan and Lal Bahadur Shastri at Tashkent. I said, well you people have seen the world more than I have and you know problems better than I do, but I know our people and they are not going to stomach all this in one capsule, one go, one shot, the whole lot. You must prepare them, step by step, slowly, explain to them, make them feel that it’s the right thing that has been done. There are so many factors which get injected into the situation and Indo-Pakistan affairs have remained irrational, the methodology is very important, otherwise, when irrational people do irrational between two rational people. So when rational people become irrational, the methodology is very important, otherwise, when irrational people do irrational things it is like a storm and you know a storm also subsides and settles down. But you see the position now. The point is that you have your difficulties, we have ours, but objectively speaking the difficulties are here (pointing to has heart) because you don’t have to recognize Bangladesh. You recognized Bangladesh, you assisted them, you went in unilaterally to bring it about. Whether we recognize it or not, that we have to do here. It is a problem for me really. It is neither a problem for Mujib nor Mrs. Gandhi. Then if it does take place it will be a moment of joy and satisfaction and jubilation for you. But it is for me here to carry my people on this difficult problem. And on other questions also to carry them with me. Basically, the weight of the decision falls on us. There fore, I think you have to rely on our judgment, on how we proceed and I can assure you that if you get the impression that I am just trying to buy time, I am not so stupid to plead this because I am not doing it for that purpose. You can’t trick us; we can’t trick you. We know each other too well. Perhaps in one meeting we might get away with something but then you will see through the whole thing. We know each other too well. Perhaps in one meeting we might get away with something but then you will see through the whole thing. We know other. We have lived together for centuries. No one knows us better tan we know each their. So that is out of complete sincerity that I am telling you that you will have to have faith in my judgment rather tan have the whole thing blow in our face and I dno’t want that to happen. I want to face this challenge with a sense of vision. It will be a satisfaction that where our leaders in the past failed, we have succeeded in bringing peace, provided I do succeed in bringing a settlement that our people think it is fair, it is right, it is a good settlement and in my opinion, for me personally, that will be a sign of very great satisfaction that I was able to bring back peace which our people accepted, which they thought was the right peace and that now they can look forth to a better tomorrow, development, eradication of poverty and, apart from all that, sleep in comfort. That I think is a very big challenge, a very big task and I am not going to allow it to flit away, fizzle out over small little things and taking a petty approach. We have for too long taken petty approaches. So please do understand this and when you go back through your papers do try to explain this to your people. I tried to explain this to Mr. Dhar and I think he understood my difficulties and I am hopeful that the people at large will also understand this.

Question: One problem that seems to arise that Mujib has taken a position because he says that he faces over difficult kind of house situation with is people there. He says that recoganisation should precede talks. The position you had taken earlier was let there be talks first and then see what comes out of that and then the rest might follow. How does one bridge this gap because the issues that you have stated are uppermost in your mind and one can understand that about prisoners and the return of these prisoners. Bangladesh people have talked about some war crimes trials which also touches on a part of this problem. How can one come to grips with these problems unless there is some meetings of the minds and what would be the kind of manner or method by which this dialogue could be started because if it starts then perhaps there is some hope of getting some reconciliation?

President: I tried to explain our difficulties to Mujib when he was here on the 27th of December and 7th of January. And at that time I tried to explain to him how I saw future events being unfurled and I had to tell him that I must make a genuine search for some equation between us and the people must know that a search has been made and they must know that we made every sincere endeavour to try to maintain some link among ourselves. For this reason, I had a break diplomatic relations with certain countries. I knew we would like to restore them again but it is not important as to what I think. It is important what my people think. And that is why we had to take certain steps of that nature. Here also, how can I explain to our people that, in the abstract, one fine morning I say that we recognize Bangladesh when they say that this Banladesh come about of the mistakes of our military rulers or due to the invasion of India, or both, or whatever it is. And some people say, well now the people of East Pakistan should be allowed to have a referendum. Let us hear them, what they have to say once the military forces are vacated. So there are all sorts of appealing theories on the matter. We have lived together for 24 years. We struggled together for Pakistan. The sacrifices of Bengal were no less than those of people here, perhaps more and they are Muslims. They must be feeling for us now that they have seen what has happened to them. I cant just one fine morning say, “Look, we have decided to recognize Bangladesh”. It is all right for other countries. It has been a part of our country so it is different for Pakistan. It is more logical that if we meet Mujibur Rahman and after discussions, I come back and tell my people, “Look, I have done my best. I met him. I discussed the question with him. I told him please do try and find our what we can do to have some sort of communication, some association. But he is adamant. He says no. he is a representative of his people. No, nothing doing. Now what choice have we got left?” Something like that would be logical, sensible. What does Mujib lose by that? After all, he should to be a spilt child. The question is he loses nothing by that. It is a funny sense of pride that you must first recognize us. Sot is only a matter of modalities, one meeting or so, one meeting even, I can come back and tell my people after tall there is a limit to human endeavour. I think he should have no objections to that. If it took United States 30 years to recognize the Soviet Union and they have not yet recognized China, well this was a part of our country. If it means a matter of months of weeks then by then I think we would done the right thing, made every effort. It is not that I am tying to be a stickler for this. I don’t see why he is being a stickler. Here he seemed to understand my difficulties but now from there he seems something entirely different. And it is about time he controlled some of his people on these things. There will be people who will try to complicate the problem. He will complicate his own position by taking this kind of attitude. I don’t see any sense in it. I told him I will take a flexible attitude. It is only a question of telling our people, coming back and telling them this is what they say. This is what I got from the horse’s mouth. And that is all.

Question: Do you think it will be possible to make a start then, through an intermediary or correspondence so that that could start the dialogue?

President: But I wrote to him in January or February telling him that please do not think I want to interfere in your affairs. Therein itself is our thinking or the way how, step by step, we have taken our people to this new situation. It is not that I haven’t written to him. That letter went to him. Then I sent him food grains. Again he took the position that is should be routed through the UN. I don’t see why we should route it through the UN. We are short to food ourselves. If we are going to spend 11 million dollars and send the food, it should not be lumped together with some of the other contributions. Our people are making a sacrifice. There again their reply is negative. In the Lahore Speech of mine which ia made on return from the Soviet Union I said well if they keep saying “Assalmo Alaikum”, “Assalamo Alaikum”, we might have to say “Walekum Assalam”. So he has heard that said in front of 500,000 people. And if we were not moving in that direction, I wouldn’t have said that. I don’t really understand why he is being difficult in this matter. Correspondence, yes. Emissaries, yes. But the best thing would be for him and me to wait and we better meet and it would be better if we meet at some place outside the subcontinent because if we meet sin Delhi on these questions, you will be accused of having influenced him. In Dacca there will be some compulsions. If the comes here, then there will again be some matters. So it should be some friendly country outside the subcontinent. I see no objection to that.

Question: You say that you would like to see some links are retained or re-established. What kind of links would you wish?

President: I leave it to them. If they say none, then it would be academic going into this.

Question: But what would be the possible like?

President: Nothing spectacular. Now, we are realistic enough to know you can’t put the clock back. The moving finger has written. So trade and communications. That sort of thing. Nothing profound to begin with.

Question: What about this other problem, about the Biharis there and Bengalis here? Since this again is a human problem, would some movement here help to amend the situation in a more favrouable manner? That is, to change peoples thinking?

President: The Bangalis are here. I know there’s something economic and Mr. Mujibur Rahman made certain statements but since you’re in Pakistan. I don’t mind if you go anywhere and see the position. After all, the Bengalis are volatile, as you know. They are sensitive. But that, I can’t take care of that. I know there’s some grievance in their mind and they are upset. Well, they get upset very easily. Without any disrespect, but really I tell you the truth, we’ve gone out of our way to see that their feelings are not hurt and no dislocation and inconvenience is caused to them. But at the same time, certain degree of segregation has become inevitable. This has happened because Bihari feelings have been worked up. there was some trouble there and it continues. We have quite a volatile Bihari population. In Karachi there was a huge demonstration a day before I went to the Soviet Union. And they have been wanting to seek revenge and otherwise, generally, people’s feelings, well, they want to go, they’ve left us. You know how it is among the people, uneducated people. So I don’t want that to happen because I know if that happened, there would be quite a problem to face, so some element of segregation is there. But we are not doing anything to cause them inconvenience or trouble and as I’ve said, we welcome you in this context to see the situation yourself. But as far as Biharis in East Pakistan are concerned, before Mujibur Rahman left he volunteered the statement that he’s going to look after them and he’s going to tell the Bengalis that now the past is over and that they are free citizens. They should be permitted to go to their work, live honourably, properly. And I think in his first speech were these ugly demonstrations in the stadium and various other things. But now the question is Biharis are the citizens of that land. A full generation of them have grown up, 25 years have passed. They have no toher country. It’s their right to live there. They’ve contributed to the growth of that place. They are part of it and you can’t whimsically and arbitrarily say that that one million people are not wanted. Today it is the Biharis, tomorrow it will be the Chakmas. There are some other ethnic communities. Is Mujib then building what some people feel a racist state? And on the one hand is it going to be that? But on the other hand he says it’s secular state, democratic state. So secular that those people who left East Pakistan 25 years ago are also, under certain conditions, permitted to come back seeing their draft interim constitution. I have had the position it is his duty also, in principle, to protect because there are so many ethnic minorities and others here. All of a sudden one pocket of influence starts getting up and putting pressure that they should be declared second class citizens or they should be thrown out of Pakistan. That’s the law of the jungle. Let him accept his responsibilities. Then after he’s accepted his responsibilities and they feel a sense of safety and security, then, after that, if there is some head-for-head shifting to be done, divided families, other hard cases, or if one Bengali goes a Bihari can come, that kind of thing we’ll be prepared to accommodate and adjust. But we simply cannot go back to the 1947 horrors. Because you know one such episode of that kind is enough in a lifetime of a people and it really makes me shudder to think when I look back as to how it is, massive exodus that took place, both sides. You had your problem but I’m talking about our problem, shanty towns, slums, diseases, crime, questions of integration. Now we have some dreams of building this country and they will be put into the reverse here if, in this frenzy and fear, they are told, well, what’s your option you want to go? Then naturally, everyone would say yes. They want to go because they feel a sense of insecurity. They’re not wanted. The people are being encouraged to persecute them. But if they stop and normal conditions return, because you know the poor people, the ones who sleep on the streets and in the Jhuggis and the huts, they’re the ones who suffer the most really in all such debacles and the rest. And secondly, they’re the ones who forget earlier than the others. They’ve got a very big heart. If you and I retain these things, our mentality, the educated ones, the middle class, never forgetting we must direct things, the poor, the heart, they forget it. So they settle down. And the Biharies living around various parts of East Pakistan, it will be all over for them. It won’t e over in the minds of other educated elements but for these people. So once that happens and there is some sensible approach that you want to make the great trek thousand miles away, then I think the people will be matched.

Question: I think that Mujib has said that his own estimate is that if the offer is made, I think in one of his speeches, he said that perhaps the outside half might want to come away and half might want to stay. Now, I’ll certainly agree with your point of view even half, it’s a human problem and it’s a large one but would you think it possible that if there’s some movement of Bengalis who want to go back from here, they’ll go, any of the Biharis who wants from there to come over here can’t. then there are in theory large number may be on the lists of wanting to make the move. In point of fact, once the option is given, the climate will change. Simply put, would not people say, well now we have the option to go, so now should we go? The debate will be enough that we must be allowed to go but should we go and, therefore, he context would change. Do you see any possibility of making a start so that some will go from here and some come from there and then may be once that process starts, the feeling’s process will be in motion also?

President: Yes, but you know on that problem I released Mujib unconditionally to create a climate of confidence, make a gesture. Now you see what happens is that was, I hate to use such words, but that was regarded as the biggest lever in our hands and I didn’t want to, it was disgusting to me, I felt repugnant when people started saying tome, well, you know, this is the big lever, use this. I though that was not the way to begin the search for peace. If we go about in that miserly way that I’ve got something in my hand and let me keep to it and let me extract something out of them then I will release this bird. So I though that, no, I took the calculated risk of saying, no, we don’t approach the problem in that way. Let us have a different mental outlook rather than that. And we’re not going to a gambling den, we’re going to live together on the some subcontinent. After having done that, there as not even been a microscopic reciprocity. Just so much water down the dam. As if it didn’t happen. As if he was always in East Pakistan. Forgotten, really forgotten. And if there had been some reciprocity either from his side or from Delhi, then I had the strength and I would have said, look, this was the right thing to do. But it’s the right thing to have done. I don’t regret it. But in the long, looking at the long run, the people, the man in the street doesn’t look at the long run. He says “Kia Kia” What happened? We expected that the moment Mujib goes our prisoners of war will come back. But they’re still there. The war has ended. There’s a cease-fire. Emissaries have come and gone. Leaders of both countries have talked of peace. There are two United Nations resolutions. There is Article 118 of the Third Geneva Convention. Still this is not happening. Our Mr. President, he’s an emotional man. He has sent away Mr. Mujibur Rahman. Look how Indians are calculating, approaching this problem. Even in victory they’re not being magnanimous.” Now the other day I said I’m prepared to send to embarrass us. So now the question is, well we shouldn’t have done this in a hurry. Now if I do all these other things I put myself in a more difficult corner, to be very frank with you.

Question: What about, of course, this is about normalization between Pakistan and India. Where do we start? What are the issues and which are the most urgent ones and how do we, how do we proceed as you would see it or as you would us?

President: Well, you would like to proceed on the basis that we’ve been wanting it for the last 25 years. We’d like to proceed the way you’ve wanted it for the last 25 years. Pandit Nehru used to say let’s first go with the smaller ones and build ourselves up to the biggest one. That would create confidence, that would generate good will and I have had the privilege of having many meetings with him on this question and we used to eloquently and fervently argue that no, get to the heart of the problem. When Mr. Dhar was talking I went back. It was a little nostalgic and reminiscent. But the words he was using were the words I used to use with you and the words that I was using were more or less the kind of words that you used to use with us. Now, you know, the point is, why did that happen? The real reason why that happened is that at that time you found it more difficult to get your people to agree to the kind of a settlement that you felt might emerge out of grappling with the fundamental. That’s why, psychologically or subconsciously, you wanted to put it back so that you could proceed and tell your people the advantages of settlement. That’s the real reason why, because now it will perhaps, according to your estimation or ours, may not be exactly when we were pleading the other way around. So the question is, and I hinted about it earlier, that it is really I who have to do the selling and since I have to do the selling, please leave the timing and the procedures on these matters to me. And I think we won’t fail.

Question: Apart from the normalization part of the diplomatic ties and communications and travel and so on, in the aftermath of the war, our prisoners, both Eastern and Western, there are the territories that are occupied on either sides, there is the cease-fire line. Now withdrawal from all the points, that will be made. Now, as far as the exchange of prisoners on the Eastern side, I think that’s no problem at al. that could be immediately done. As far as the question of withdrawals is concerned, one question that will arise and this is one of the issues in which Indian Popular opinion, I think, Mrs. Gandhi would have to carry, is withdrawal to where. The cease-fire line or what becomes is the way the argument starts. So why not allow more scope for the kind of give-and-take which will have to be there so that if it was issue by issue, there are certain things that can be straightaway settled.

President: You see, it can be on that basis but on the ground, no. we can talk it over ad have some, draw a picture in our mind but the picture that should come out or will come out can’t be, Bass” thats all, here it is, the grand sweep. That will not be possible for me. Quite candidly. But in our own mind we can resolve something on those lines. And these, all these are actually connected problems, prisoners of war, the withdrawal of forces. I told you, you know I told your people and Mr. Dhar that prisoner of war problem will as the time passes, become counter-productive of diminishing returns. You have diminishing blocks in your hand. In January the problem here was extremely explosive. February. But then we got to our people. We integrated them. It is not a military government. I’ve sent my people out, party have to bear with us. And now i think, other foreign journalists have also observed, that pressure onus, that’s gone. On the other hand, a sympathy has developed that well, yes, we must strengthen our present hand and we’re not going to allow principles to be bartered for human flesh. And they know now that they’re there. Lists have come. It is only a painful separation. And, like our son who goes to Oxford or Harvard, you feel and miss him and all that, and then after some time you know he’s there to study. You get letters. You get used to it. So the question is this, that if a gesture had been made instead, that would have been a breakthrough kind of thing. But whoever advised the Prime Minister let’s keep them on, I don’t think that was the right advice. However, the problem is that I said to some of your colleagues in January when I met them in my house in Larkana that please don’t waste time on this matter because today, I told them quite candidly, it’s hurting me like hell. But after some time it won’t because I said that I have been thrown u[p by the people like your leaders have but, in the circumstances in which I was thrown up by the people, our conditions are entirely different from yours. You had Pandit Nehru, who was a legendary figure, and the Congress of his time, his strength, his discipline, his image. They’ve won one election after another. But there was almost a setback at one stage after his death and Mrs. Gandhi at one time headed for the Congress Party. People were saying outside that well she can’t fight the old guard.

But in our country there was a different situation. We had no elections. and we had no assemblies. So when you have no elections and no assemblies, leaders don’t get time, they don’t get noted. A politician gets to be known either in an election or in the assembly. And that’s a democratic procedure. That’s how people come into prominence and here in 1947 after the assemblies were dissolved and then President Ayub Khan came, then Yahya Khan came. Thirteen years, no assemblies. No politics. A politic situation even. You had to suffocate. So that point is that to have an election after such a long period of time and then for an unknown person to defeat the old guard, their political ideals, who clung to the old notions also, who try to play on faith. I’m a Muslim. I’m proud of being a Muslim. But because we wanted reforms, they told our orthodox peasantry that we were not Muslims, we were infidels. And the ulemas, the mullahs they all got up against us and having fought the languages, fought provinces. They had by that time become so antipathetic to each other that something popular in Punjab, well that should be unpopular in another place. Something popular in other places, absolutely unpopular in Punjab. Mr. Mujibur Rahman, he had people speaking one language; they were all Bengalis; they were all united and talking of exploitation from West Pakistan. He had a negative campaign. But my political career was very short compared to all these stalwarts who claim to have been in Pakistan movement and all that sort of thing. And we had no funds at al. people say that well China was giving us funds. Out of the question. And I wish they had, we would have done better. But no funds at all. Nothing of the kind. And the great powers were hostile. Soviet Union thought I had messed up Tashkent. The United States thought that I was pro-China. So it wasn’t an easy task. Now the question is, see, when the dust settles and the achievement of our victory, and your people are hostile, you wrote also distorted things. So the point is, I succeeded because I really went to the people. I have tried. I know their thinking, I know what they wanted. So I think I know how. And knowing our people, I’m telling you that if that gesture had been made at that time, I would at once have gone ahead because I want to go ahead. And at the same time now I say that in the situation in which we find ourselves, I am quite confident that we will achieve peace. I feel so. There’s something in my heart that tells me that we’ll achieve peace. And there’s something in my political sense of judgment, the sixth sense, that makes me feel that, and I’m telling you the truth. I’ll make such a search for that, even if it kills me. I don’t mind. So now in that, in that spirit we are, with that mental approach we would like to begin these discussions. But then as I said, because I have to do most of the, take most of the difficulties, let this be really a patient thing in which we don’t forget the past history, the past failures. It’s much better that three months or two months or six months have been taken instead of something going ahead and dashing to the ground. And then we again involve the great powers, again we go about with hat in hand to chanceries of the world making a fool of ourselves.

Question: Would you say the crucial issue ultimately is Kashmir, once these immediate problems of the aftermath of the war come out? Now in the interviews you granted to the other Indian journalists earlier you spoke of co-operation. You referred to a phrase again used that you’ve taken a kind of sweep of history and I think in the interview granted to Kuldip Nayyar of “The Statesman” you used language of approximately the same kind that you’ve willing to consider the concept of a soft frontier. Could you elaborate on that? What kind of idea do you have at the back of your mind because this is the concept that I have been propogating and I see it has a starting point of achieving some kind of notice.

President: I would not like to elaborate. I said something on those lines. Because you know one tends to get caught by works. Your three colleagues who came here, we had good discussions. I’m not saying that they misquoted me. Perhaps they misunderstood me some way or the other and if one of those limes and bits and pieces were picked up here by our defeated politicians, by others and all, some of them said that I promoted confederation. Someone said I am prepared to sell everything just down the river and all that sort of thing. And I know that was not the intention because naturally you don’t want to write something which will unnecessarily cause complications for me and especially something that I’ve not said. Os I leave it for the general position that I read that article you wrote, a longish one. I studied and I think something on those lines, we can talk about that. I don’t think that any heaven will fall if we take such steps. And then, of course, it depends so much on everyone, almost on every citizen, the contribution that he makes. Now for instance when your journalist friends came here, went to hotels and knew the kind of reception they got there, they were happy. There wasn’t hostility. I don’t know why your government is not allowing some of our journalists to go across. But they haven’t said no; they haven’t said yes……that’s all right but I thought they would also go and they would also see the atmosphere, the people’s feelings. That would help. So that’s why I want you to stay here. You’re welcome to travel around and see my problems, see my difficulties and we’ll appreciate it if you know the problems that we face, problems we inherited. When I look back to those four months, I wonder how we really survived them, picked up the morale. At one time everyone thought that now Pakistan has become a peach melba. The peach is Frontier which is surely going to fall off and the melba, Baluchistan, which is going in the other direction. All sorts of things were said and done. But I think that with goodwill, give-and-take, we have, I think, made a little progress, even in bringing about some internal cohesion. But you know if things go wrong, if you mess up your society, then naturally everyone gets angry and everyone gets frustrated; and if you make it good, then everyone feels happy. So at one time I, who now am the President of Pakistan, was so disgusted my self. I said, what’s the future? And it was a painful thing you know. I’m not trying to blame the system for our present plight because you might think that I’m trying to find an escape for the basic reasons. But at one time the condition of Pakistan had deteriorated to such an extent that people really had lost all hope. They didn’t want to look for the next day to come. And I’m happy to see now that there’s a sense of buoyancy. Confidence is again coming back to the people and they would like to make a participation. And they are gradually coming into the picture to make a participation. That’s why I tried, I’ve held the swearing-in in public; bring them all in because it is no longer now three or four people ruling the country. So I think in that way we can make a much greater contribution to the people of our country by letting down arms and by picking up a shovel and a plough and ploughing the fields and bringing about economic prosperity. I think that if we do that we’ll pass you and we’ll pass our friend there. And that will be a big achievement.

Question: How do you envisage the future of this subcontinent? There was a partition settlement in 1957 which, in a sense, has come unstuck. So while it is a tragedy in one sense. It is an opportunity in another to reconstruct it in a manner that will take care of our aspirations and needs for the future. What kind of possibility do you see here? You have previously said that words like “no war” and “confederation” are an anathemas here in their particular connotations. Setting aside those particular words which immediately conjure up a sense of surrender, defeat and things like that. But what kind of concept do you have as to how we can rebuild it nearer to the heart’s desire?

President: Again, in non-legal terms because these legal terms have become terms of art and I don’t see why Europe should be different from us. Europe has also had its wars, its problems. Today, Western Europe is collaborating with Eastern Europe. So the point is that we can see the same kind of pattern for the future in the subcontinent, keeping our identities as it is. And that is not necessarily to beak our personalities. These personalities have now emerged in 25 years. Let us see how their personalities emerge at the other end; but ours has in some form or other. You have also built some kind of a structure in 25 years past. Sometimes people have to go apart to get together. So I don’t see why we can’t build the proper bridges, we can’t have greater and greater collaboration. I can’t define it.

Question: do you think the great power may feel differently about it? They may feel that their interests may be prejudiced if these countries get together to co-operate.

President: It is a consideration and it has been a consideration but it is not a consideration that would influence a person like me. If I had been influenced by considerations like this, as Foreign Minister I would not have burst forward with a policy which anyone else would have burnt his fingers with. But it is a consideration which we have to keep in mind.

Question: One more question about the Indo-Pakistan war. There seems to be a feeling of uncertainty in the minds of some of the Pakistani Hindus of Sind who got left behind in what are now occupied territories. They may feel that because they did not leave, they may be considered collaborators and, therefore, in some difficulty or trouble later.

President: That will not happen and they know we have a broad outlook. They come from my province and I know some of them very intimately. And apart from that we have some other affinities. The last post which the Pakistan Army captured in the 1965 war in Rajasthan was called Bhuttowala. So we got people on the other side. We have got Rajput affinities also although first we are completely Sindis. Sind’s culture is such that it absorbs all other cultures so we do not talk about these things; but I know them very well. I know the Thakurs. One of them is a Member of our Provincial Assembly. He is from our party. He stood by me in those difficult times when I was being persecuted by Ayub Khan. So there is no problem at all there, unless you have made some of them your agents. Then, naturally, we will have to take action against them; but otherwise, nothing doing.

Question: On the political front here, what kind of constitution do you see coming up? Now you have a combination in the interim state of the presidential and the parliamentary. The PPP is committed to the parliamentary form. Is there a general consensus on this?

President: Our problem really will be the quantum of autonomy for the provinces. If we had got started sensibly, we would have had a pattern of autonomy that your Union has. But as far as the system is concerned, parliamentary by all means. Deliberately, at this moment of time, I have made some experiments. Not that we do not want a parliamentary system, but for thirteen years we did not have democracy. We did not have politics even. Now the question is I want to see how everything works in our conditions. So with this background we have kept a governor in the Punjab, for instance, who would otherwise have been the chief minister. In Sind I made chief minister the man who should be chief minister; and governor, the man who should be governor. I want to see how this combination works because there is going to be trial and error and a little bit of experimentation in this interim period. But again, I have sometimes a pattern in mind. And at this stage I would maintain a kind of presidential system, not because we want to create on because that is left to the Assembly. We just need to see how the whole thing works and that will help us in evolving the final pattern. But, essentially, parliamentary.

Question: At the moment you have a coalition government at the centre in the sense that Qayyum Khan belongs to the Muslim League. Originally, you invited the NAP and JUI to participate. Is that invitation to them still open with the object of reconstructing and forming a national government so that at the centre you have a national government to deal with the national problems that you face?

President: This again is part of the compelling events of which I have to take a broad outlook. In the National Assembly, the NAP has only seven seats and the JUI has seven seats altogether. Qayyum Khan’s party has ten seats. We have 88, now 90 out of 146. we don’t need a coalition or a national government from that point of view. But I have thought let us have some new traditions, although legally or politically speaking it is not necessary; but I said let us look at the bigger picture. So form that point of view I have given Mr. Qayyum Khan a post in the cabinet and the Interior Ministry, most important portfolio. In the same spirit I made an offer to the NAP and JUI and that offer remains, but I can’t keep it open indefinitely. Work has to be done and I am keeping some ministries open. So it is up to them. I have given them the reasons I have given you. Secondly, it is to have liaison between the centre and the provinces. But I can’t keep it open indefinitely. I believe there is a divided outlook on it. Some of them are interested, others are not.

Question: In yesterday’s paper there is a statement by Mr. Wali Khan asking for a statement from the government about what happened during the emissaries’ talks and that the opposition should be taken into confidence. Also to include the opposition in the coming talks but not as “decoration pieces” but as participants. This may solve your problem of carrying the whole country with you.

President: The primary responsibility lies on my shoulders and on my party. Even if I associate people in the cabinet or take them with me, it is not that I am not the president or we are not the majority party in the country. Since I have that primary responsibility to the people in all the decisions I have taken, I would also like to see that there is one man in the driver’s seat driving the car with his hands on the steering wheel. I took our friends to the driving the car with his hands on the steering wheel. I took our friends to the driving the car with his hands on the steering wheel. I took our friends to the Soviet Union and China as a gesture of goodwill. It has never been done before in Pakistan. It did not mean that they enter into substantive discussions because that can be only done by governments. At moments only heads of states talk and those are really the decisive moments. I can’t have some monkey sitting on my shoulder when someone says look, I want to have a word alone with you. It happens thousands of times. It happens all the time. It has happened to me when I was foreign Minister. But from that it should not be inferred that an elected leader is going to sell his country down the river. It is unfair. It is uncharitable. So I reject that suggestion. I don’t reject it—it is internationally rejected. Even in the American concept of bi-partisan foreign policy does not mean that intricate negotiations are bi-partisan. At the height of the war, although Labour was in the Government, it was Churchill who was with Stalin and Roosevelt in the crucial Yalta talks.



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