For quite sometime I have not met the press formally. I have found this meeting necessary as a number of important developments, both national and international have taken place in the past few weeks about which I would like to exchange views with you. You will recall that in my first statement on assuming office I said that our people had been fed too long on lies by previous its policy of keeping the people informed, whenever it is possible and whether the news is good or bad. We shall continue to do so.
In the space of a few weeks, at long last, Martial Law has been with drawn, the National Assembly has met and adopted a Constitution for the country, Provincial Governments have been formed and provincial Assemblies have been convened and prorogued. These are satisfying achievements, and I can say with some satisfaction that acute political tensions have for the time being subsided and that our search for an equilibrium in the country is taking some positive shape. I repeat that these are no mean achievements but I would also like to warn the people that we are nowhere near the end of the road. I think we have emerged from the dark tunnel of tyranny but certainly the golden bridge is still far away.
Today I would like basically to talk about three matters; my impending visit to the Middle East and Africa, the state of relations between India and Pakistan, and generally the political events of the recent past.
I intend shortly to visit the remaining Muslim States of the Middle East and Africa to complete my personal mission to the fraternal Muslim States west of Pakistan. We can never forget that these Muslim Nations, bound to us by the imperishable link of Islam, magnificently stood by us in our hour of crisis. The purpose of this visit is exactly the same as my earlier tour to express our gratitude to the leaders and the people of these countries for the unstinted support they gave to a fellow Muslim state in our just and righteous both within and outside the United Nations, to explain further to them the complex situation and problems we face, and to seek their continued understanding.
Many powerful forces have been at work in the Muslim States I visited earlier, and those I am going to visit, to bring about a change in their attitude and approach towards Pakistan. But our friends and brothers refused to forsake us. We are indeed thankful to them. We appreciate their concern for Pakistan. We fully intend to continue the profound dialogue between us, a dialogue of brotherly understanding to our mutual benefit.
When I assumed office, Pakistan was in danger of disintegration, the problems facing us were overwhelming. In the space of a few months, we have, with resurgent national spirit and with the sympathetic appreciation of our friends, made considerable strides. The understanding of the fraternal Muslim States west of Pakistan has immensely strengthened our position in our international relations. We look forward to their continued understanding and support, particularly as we are about to embark on the task of delicate negotiations within the subcontinent.
We are undertaking this mission before our meeting with the Prime Minister of India so that we can complete the task we had begun in January. There is no question of first and second tours. We would have wished to visit all these countries together in January but our circumstances at home did not permit a long absence. We hold all these States in equally high esteem. On this mission, I also intend to visit Ethiopia whose Emperor, Government and great people have given us vigorous support in the difficult days we have experienced the events of the last year have altered the focus of Pakistan. Though the people of South-East Asia remain of deep concern to us, we are for the moment removed from that area and our prime interest must inevitably lie in the region west of Pakistan, in West Asia and Africa, with brother Muslim States with whom we share so much in religious, historical and cultural terms. I touched upon this subject at some length in my address to the National assembly on the 14th April. For this reason I would not like to repeat the compelling reasons for us to concentrate our efforts in this direction.
Our national crisis is of such magnitude that it can only be successfully surmounted by inter-related domestic and international action. It is with this in mind that I am undertaking my mission to the Muslim countries to the west of Pakistan. I know I will have the blessing of the people of Pakistan for my mission.
The much awaited meeting between the emissaries of India and Pakistan was held between the 26th and 29th April at Murree and Rawalpindi. Mr. D.P. Dhar, Special Emissary of the Prime Minister of India, also paid a courtesy call on me.
As usual, certain quarters have seized upon these necessary negotiations to attempt to create confusion in the public mind. Apart from what is normally kept confidential in international dealings, and in this case not more than absolutely necessary, the people have been kept informed. The joint statements issued during the negotiations, and at their conclusion, are unambiguous and self-explanatory. Let me categorically state that there has been no secret agreement or understanding, there has been nothing contrary to our professed position.
The purpose of the negotiations was to formulate an agenda for the meeting between the Prime Minister of India and myself. Inevitably, other related matters were also touched upon, but without commitment. The agenda for the future meeting between the Heads of Governments has not been disclosed for the time being for the simple reason that we do not wish to spoil and confound the atmosphere through protracted public debate when such vital negotiations are on the anvil.
Speculation gives rise to distorted hopes and expectations. The last 25 years have been marked by this tragic experience. Substantive discussions will take place when the two Heads of Governments meet in June. Till then we will not be able to have a clearer picture of how the future of the subcontinent unfolds. It is patently premature to give a definite picture to the people at this stage. Mr. Dhar left on an optimistic note and yet only yesterday there were, unfortunately, serious breaches of the ceasefire in Jammu and Kashmir and near Lahore. We can neither be optimistic nor pessimistic. I can only state now that we will approach the meeting with open minds, we will have to accept certain realities, but we can never accept dictated terms. We seek a durable peace, but we will reject one that is imposed. We are sensitively aware of our national interests and we will make every human endeavour to safeguard them. However, let us not forget, in only four months’ time, that these discussions with India are being initiated because of the outcome of military events. There are certain inherent implications stemming out of a lost war. Otherwise why should there be so many prisoners of war in India?
The people repose their confidence in me, as demonstrated in the last elections. at every step, be it in normal times or in time of crisis, be it over an insignificant internal matter or an important international development, I am deeply conscious of the people’s mandate. Then again, only a few days back, the National Assembly of Pakistan gave a unanimous vote of confidence in me. I am thankful to the people and the national Assembly for their faith in my leadership to steer the destiny of the country in these highly critical times. Delicate negotiations with India are ahead and we must be prepared for the necessary ups and downs. But I am confident that the cause of justice will finally prevail. This is our view, and it is shared by no less than 104 countries of the United Nations. I pledge to the people that at every necessary step, always at the proper time, I shall keep the people informed of essential developments in keeping with their confidence and trust. Without your help and support we cannot overcome the terrible legacy we have inherited. I hope and pray that, Insha Allah the people of Pakistan will finally stand vindicated in our future relations with India. We want peace with honour, and if this desire is shared by India, we will find the peace that has eluded us for generations.
There have been some inspired reports that the government have reached a “secret” agreement with the National Awami Party, Jamiatul Ulema-i-Islam (NAP-JUI) alliance. I wish to make it clear that we do not subscribe to “secret” agreements. We believe in taking the people and are at all times accountable to them. Now that the Provincial Governments have een formed, and the provincial Assemblies have met and been prorogued I think it is an opportune time to dispel unnecessary speculation and inform our people of the recent negotiations with the NAP-JUI culminating in the results you have witnessed.
In my 6th March broadcast to the nation, I said that we had entered into negotiations with the NAP-JUI to arrive at a political settlement which would help overcome the political tensions in the country. With this in view we also held discussions with other political parties. You are familiar with the terms of the settlement reached on the 6th March. You are also aware of the subsequent disagreements which arose. We maintain today, as we maintained then, that the terms of the 6th March accord were clear and unambiguous. But I do not wish to dig up the past, nor blame any individual or party. This is behind us.
However, I should like to emphasise that, even after the accord was broken we did not abandon our efforts. On the 8th April, we put forward a new “basis for negotiations.” We absolved the NAP-JUI from their commitment to give a vote of confidence in the Government and to approve the continuance of Martial Law till the 14th August. At the same time, we continued to respect the NAP-JUI coalition as the majority, however narrow, in the provinces of Baluchistan and the North-West frontier.
The NAP-JUI had wanted the choice of Governors in the Province of Baluchistan and the North-West Frontier Province on the contention that, in the circumstances of Martial Law, “Governors meant Government.” After the coming into force of the Constitution on the 21th April, and with the Provincial Assemblies to be convened on the 2nd May, their contention, if ever valid, ceased to have any relevance. However, in my quest to achieve national purpose and unity, which was and will always remain my supreme object, we resumed negotiations with the NAP-JUI coalition on the appointments of Governors in those two provinces. There was sufficient provocation for us to break these negotiations, but in the supreme national interest, with patience and diligence, we pursued our efforts to reach a settlement.
On the 26th April, a fresh tripartite agreement was prepared. I also addressed letters to the Governors-designate of the north-West Frontier Province and Baluchistan. The agreement was signed on the 27th April and on the same day I received from the two Governors-designate confirmation and acceptance of my letters. The tripartite agreement, by two letters and the two letters of acceptance, copies of which are now being made available, are self-explanatory and require no elaboration. The earlier documents and correspondence, including the basis for negotiations of 8th April, have already been reproduced. On the 1st May I also wrote to the Chief Ministers of the North-West Frontier Province and baluchistan, copies of these two letters are also now being made available. All these documents are being published for public record and to set good traditions and conventions. This will also demonstrate that there was no secrecy for the sake of secrecy or for any diabolical purpose, nothing was done behind the back of the public. This, however, does not mean that it may not at times be necessary to keep certain matters confidential for a while. In this case we had to wait till the Governors were appointed and assumed office. A study of these documents, juxtaposed with the statements of others, will show our good faith and fidelity to national interest.
I would like to point out that this is the first time in the history of the subcontinent that Governors have been appointed on the recommendations of opposition parties, governors who are neither non-party men nor members of the ruling party at the Centre. It has never happened before, neither in India, where in several states of the Union there are Governments formed by those not in the Central Government, nor in Pakistan. Nor for that matter, has it happened, to my knowledge, in any of the dominions of the Common-wealth which have the institution of Governors. This has been done as a gesture of good faith and confidence. However, it was made abundantly clear and accepted that this singular step taken in the grave national crisis did not set a precedent.
In the new agreement, we also went a step further by again offering two Minister-ships for the NAP-JUI at the Centre. The agreement clearly records that this offer was made “for the purposes of harmonious liaison between the two concerned provinces and the Central Government and also to strengthen national effort to overcome the existing crisis.” The offer was made on the 26th of April. Since then I have delayed completing the Cabinet at the Centre. The offer to the Nap-JUI was not, and indeed could not, be of indefinite duration. Instead of replying to this offer, press statements have been issued to the effect that it is not binding on the Nap-JUT. Instead of striving with us to achieve national harmony, the Nap-JUI continue to strike a discordant note.
Though we do not finch from confrontation, we do not believe in the politics of brinkmanship. We believe that all problems should be solved in a democratic spirit and with mutual confidence. We have consistently exhibited this spirit, even in the face of grave and continuous provocation. We shall continue to do so.