Question: Mr. Bhutto, you pass yourself as a radical politician a man for the peasant and the worker and yet you yourself come from a most wealthy and feudal background. When do you think you made the break from tradition and decided to become Bhutto the socialist and reformer rather than Bhutto the playboy and the reactionary.
President: Well, I wouldn’t say so, wealthy families, land-were hold extensive lands, that’s true, but there wasn’t much water. So, I wouldn’t categories myself among the most wealthy families as is sometimes done in the foreign press. That’s not correct. However, the family background was conservative. It was feudal and the values were feudal. But at the same time, one gets educated, seeks knowledge to break such barriers and very early in my life was appalled by the poverty. I could not understand it, the great disparities that existed, especially in our part of the country. I couldn’t reconcile myself to them. I would say I got attached to the concept of reform and revolution for Asia in my school and college days.
Question: Was your father alive to see the transition that you made?
President: We had many arguments.
Question: I wonder what he thought when he heard you denounce the power of the landlord group, the industrial group. Well, what did he think of that?
President: Took it cynically. And he himself was a politician, a politician who had a distinguished career in our country. He was Chief Minister of our province of Sind. He went to the Round Table Conference as a delegate: and he was a member of the Central Assembly, member of the Bombay Government. He himself knew politics and he had a tolerant approach to politics. He did not get easily alarmed and did not panic. He was very calm and collected person. We used to have many arguments. That’s all.
Question: You mentioned cynicism, but I think you know that some of your critics say your radicalism is just a show and that you are as much a preacher of the establishment as Ayub Khan. What do you think of that?
President: No, God forbid. They came from a different establishment. Even if one is committed to the establishment, you cannot completely uproot yourself from your moorings. In China they had a Cultural Revolution fearing that people were going backwards. In the Sovit Union they have had similar problems. So I wouldn’t deny the historical processes and the depth of the people’s own roots. They go very deep. So it is in Australia. Everywhere. But change is inevitable. Change comes.
Question: But both Ayub Khan, and Yahya Khan when they started out, promised a better deal for the poor people of paistan. Now what do you think makes you different from these last two men?
President: it was a sort of ad hoc confused thinking. It was to do some little good so that they get populate and they remain in power, they remain in office, they get accepted. They were as naïve as the Fabian socialists were. They were wanting to be good men in inverted commas. But they didn’t have a concept, an idea as to how this is brought about because they didn’t have that background.
Question: Well, you yourself served as a senior Minister under both of those men and yet you…..
President: No, not with Yahya.
Question: Not with Yahya? You represented Pakistan in the Untied Nations.
President: Oh, that’s when he was going, when he was about to fold up and he at the last minute informed the Government then that I was Deputy Prime Minister-designate. Because of the war we accepted that position and in the situation in which Pakistan was placed I would’ve accepted any position to serve my country because we were being subjected to aggression and I think you or anyone else would do the same thing.
Question: You don’t think that perhaps you compromised your own position and your own principles by serving in any capacity with either of those men?
President: With Ayub Khan, of course, I was a minister, very much so. When Ayub became President as you have said so yourself, he gave good promises to the people and he said he had a plan and he did have some measure of reform. Superficial, but they were reforms. It was a break from the past that the landed aristocracy for the first time lost their lands. And there were some other reforms also. Education. He began well. Nobody can deny that. But afterwards the deterioration set in. and our differences also began to get wider and wider till the final break came and I left the Government.
Question: Now we hear from prescreports about your campaign for reform, your crackdown on the so-called 22 families, your reforms of the civil service and the Army and yet it does seem that those moves have met only limited success. Would you say that it’s fair to call them a limited success?
President: It’s too early to tell because my Government came into office only four months ago and we eventually have to stand on our record. We were in pieces, shattered. The economy was in complete bankruptcy. We had lost half the country. There was utter demoralization. So it wasn’t an easy task. We have introduced the reforms. We will have to await the implementation. But the reforms are basic and nobody can deny that.
Question: Well, can you describe these reforms, the ones that you consider most urgent for your country at the present time?
President: Well, in the first place, land reforms which affect the mass of the people. And here we have given land to the peasants without any encumbrances. They didn’t have to pay a penny. The lands have been taken away from the landlords without any compensation and where the lands were retained by the land-owners, they have to buy, to pay for all the things like seeds, fertilizers and taxes. The burden has been shifted entirely from the peasantry to the landed gentry wherever lands do remain and the maximum holding now varies from 150 acres to about 300 acres.
Question: What about industry?
President: Just as you have land reforms, we’ve taken over, the state has taken over the basic industries and then we had labour reforms. We’ve done away with the managing agency system and we have nationalized life insurance.
Question: Can I interrupt you there? When you say you have taken over the basic industries, you haven’t actually nationalized them but you’ve put in a managerial system. Is that correct?
Question: But they’re still allowed to have private stockholders?
President: Well, we couldn’t pay compensation and we had to pay compensation. We could not do it.
Question: Frankly, Sir I’ve hard you described as a man walking a tight rope, a man who would like to do much more for his people and yet he has opposition from the establishment, the industrial elite and so on, would you agree with that characterization?
President: I took stock of the objective conditions, both external and internal, but there was no resistance from the industrial tycoons as such. There were little intrigues and things like that but basically they can’t fight the Government because the Government has the backing of the people for what it’s doing.
Question: Now it seems clear that your Government does, in fact, have the backing of the people, that is the first popularly-elected Government and yet it is a fact that you’re only in power now by leave of the Army. Is there any chance of the Army intervening if they don’t like what you’re doing.
President: I don’t think it is correct to say that I am here in office today by leave of the Army, looking into the future, if we messed it up, if we didn’t make the parliamentary system work, if our constitution breaks down, then there’s a possibility of the Army stepping in again. But for the moment neither are they physically in a position nor mentally is the Army interested.
Question: Mr. President, I’ve talked to many people about you and about the only thing they seem to agree on is that you’re both a brilliant man but a very baffling man who seems to change policies, for example. You have been described as pro-China but now you seem to be wooing the Russians and the Americans. Is there any basic philosophy in what you do in all these changes or do you play things by ear? Are you a pragmatist?
President: No, I don’t think about that. But I think that the fundamental principles that we uphold, not only as individuals but as a party because my party is a majority party and by virtue of that we’re in office, we have a manifesto. We’ve gone by it. We’ve stood by our manifesto. I think the first party in Pakistan in the last 25 years who are implementing their manifesto. I don’t think this charge is valid. It doesn’t hold good. But there are objective conditions I one has to take cognizance of those factors without changing your basic principles. These basic principles stand. Sometimes it becomes necessary to make adjustments and by making adjustments and remaining a little flexible I don’t think that’s the wrong thing to do. Because the basic thing is that the people must be happy and the people must be prosperous. They must stand behind the decisions or they must support those decisions. Now if the people are really at war and they want to lay down arms and stop confrontation because they feel the confrontation has gone on too long – 25 years, since Pakistan and India came to be and before that between the Hindus and the Muslims in the subcontinent and there have been three wars in these 25 years and the last one was fairly disastrous war, so the people can feel that it’s about time they started reviewing their outlook, the happened in Europe as well. France and Germany had that kind of relationship. The allies at first were a opposed to Soviet Union and then later on when the power of Germany grew, they started having second thoughts. Then Germany and the Soviet Union signed a treaty, then they broke that treaty. The Japanese and the Americans were on good terms and there was Pearl harbour. The Americans and the Chinese had the best of relations. Then they were on bad terms. There was a policy of confrontation between China and the United States for such a long time. Even now the United States doesn’t recognise China, yet Nixon goes to China after some period of time. These are events and where events move, men must move with the events.
Question: It does seem difficult to reconcile a very close relationship with China with an attempt to bring about a closer relationship with Soviet Union. Do you really think that a nation like Pakistan is going to achieve a balance in these friendship?
President: Yes. I don’t think that there’s any incompatibility because we have made it quite clear to the Soviet Union and to China that we want good relations with both of them, because both of them are our neighbours. And as such we’re not involved in their ideological quarrels or in their quarrels of power politics. We have our own interests. If they weren’t our neighbours it wouldn’t have been necessary for us to have good relations with both of them because it’s essential for a country to try and get along with its neighbours. And if you don’t succeed that’s a different matter. So it is really from that point of view that we want good relations with both our neighbours. With China we have a common frontier, a very difficult part, a very difficult part of the country up in the Himalayas, the Karakorams. And we can’t say we would like to have our armies facing each other. Take India. There are tensions between our two people. We would much rather prefer that there were trade, intercourse and communications. Pakistan is separated from the Soviet Union. We have to have good relations with them. That’s why we have to have good relations with Afghanistan. And we have made concerted efforts to improve our relations with these countries.
Question: There are reports that there is a great deal of co-operation between Pakistan and China and that you are looking for arms and equipment from China.
President: I would say we have had co-operation. We have made no secret of it. We have had assistance from China for quite a few years now. We are members of SEATO and CENTO. We have a bilateral agreement with the United States but since 1965 the United States has stopped supplying arms to Pakistan. The Soviet Union at one point gave us a few arms. Then they stopped supplying us arms. Nevertheless, we don’t get any arms from any other source. Resources are limited. So I don’t think there is any harm if we get some arms from China.
Question: Just getting back to you personally. Sir, I’ve seen Press reports describing you as anti-American and yet I know that you yourself went to university in the States. Is there any truth to this that you may be anti-American?
President: It is not correct. Why should I be anti-American? American people have achieved great progress, great strides. They have made remarkable contributions to science, to technology, education, culture literature. So how can I be anti-American? But I opposed United States policy on many occasions in the past and I also don’t like your policy assumptions in Vietnam. But that doesn’t make me anti-American.
Question: You yourself were educated in America, then educated in England. You’ve had a hence to see both systems work. Does it leave you with any lasting impressions or lasting influences?
President: Yes, of course, I was impressed by the society in both countries and the progress their people have made in the standard of education both in the Untied States and England. They’ve got very fine institutions. Not only Pakistanis but people from all over the world have benefited from them. And of course in Oxford you have Rhodes Scholar and many Australians were there as my contemporaries. And they did very well both in sports and studies. In Oxford I think I was more happy, more tranquil, came out more when I was at Oxford.
Question: Sir, I don’t want you to think this as insulting in any way and yet perhaps the criticism I’ve heard of you, it’s alleged that for many years you’ve desired to become, the leader of Pakistan, that you changed your policy, that you are on opportunist. Now I’m sure you’ve heard that. Does it not disturb you?
President: No, many bad things have been sad against me. This is not important. People have their ideas and their notions. There are many people who would have bet their last buck that I’ll never make it. So its rejoiced at my taking command of the national affairs and the common man, left to himself, would have given me this command much earlier. Soon after Tashkent, if I had been an opportunist, I would have done things interests and my country’s future were involved. And it took a lot of rubbing to wear off the fact that after Tashkent I didn’t jump into the fire because if I had at that time, Ayub Khan would be toppled. Looking at it now with the loss of East Pakistan and the intervention of Yahya, one wonders if it would not have been a good thing to be an opportunist at that time. But no, my people have wanted me to occupy this position and I have made no secret of the fact. One has to be honest and for a long time I had this feeling that one day I would be in charge of the affairs of my country.
Question: What does power hen mean to you, political power?
President: Power means to build, to construct, to wipe out the gutters, and the slums, to give education to our children, where they can’t afford it, to help people being attended to in the hospitals, to help them make their best, come out in the world, be a part of the world which is happy and prosperous. And it means to build a monument.
Question: The Indians I talked to find that, at the time of partition, fo course, you were a very young man then, but that you made some inflammatory speeches that tended to raise strife and tensions. Do yu see any basis at all for a claim like that?
President: I was a student. I was in school and it was in Bombay and the Pakistan movement was on. I was a part of it. I did a lot of work in the Pakistan movement and Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah himself on one occasion complimented me for my efforts. Although I never talked about it because I have seen in Pakistan so many people lay tall claims to how they made Pakistan. And I don’t claim to have made Pakistan. People made Pakistan and the Quaid-i-Azam would agree to that. We have played our little parts and I don’t mean to brag and I’m glad about it. But I did say things inflammatory to convince people. Muslims in Bombay were on the defensive and it was only we who were trying to keep them safe, telling to et them organized.
Question: Did you yourself go to Pakistan immediately at the time of partition or did you stay on in India?
President: You see, I originally was in India because my province of Sindh was a part of Bombay province and it was separated from Bombay in 1937. But even after separation there were certain common institutions. As I said to you, my father was a Minister in the Bombay Government but later went to Sindh and the legislature was in Bombay. So we had to spend a lot of time in Bombay but we were all the time there in the capacity of representing the part of Sindh which was a part of Bombay presidency.
Question: In the speech you made to the National Assembly some weeks ago there was one phrase that struck me. You were referring to the history of the events leading up to partition and you referred to the grasping Hindus and the defiant Muslims. Now does that strike you in retrospect as being somewhat prejudiced?
President: It’s a question of economic domination. You have to see the factors that led to Pakistan. Basically, they are over simplified in terms of Muslim and Hindu conflict but at the bottom of it certainly there was this idea of ridding ourselves of the economic domination of the Hindus. It’s the kind of thing Mr. Mujibur Rahman has been talking about, the domination of West Pakistan, economic domination. And that was there in great abundance.
Question: Perhaps it’s a little difficult for us in the West to understand that when you refer to a whole people, the Hindus, as grasping. It seems the same as what for instance the Germans said about the Jews, that they were all money-grabbing and so on.
President: It was a generalization and it wasn’t meant to colour every individual with the same brush. It was a generalization which I could confine to the attitude of the ruling class and to the attitude of the Indian National Congress.
Question: Pakistan being a Muslim state, you yourself have no prejudices as such against Hindus?
President: No, I’ve never had them, never entertained them and people in India will tell you that. They know me. They know quite well that I’ve never had it and I’m glad I never had it and I hope I’ll never have it in the future.
Question: Would you describe yourself as a particularly religious man in a sense?
President: Religious in the sense that I believe in God. I believe in God. I believe in Islam being the final message of God. I have got great reverence and respect for my religion but I don’t believe in exploiting it, to perpetuate the abominable status quo.
Question: I understand that Yahya Khan opposed birth control on the grounds that the Quran opposed birth control. I n the first place, is that true? Do you know whether that’s true or not?
President: I don’t think it’s true but that is a matter which is subject to interpretation. You can argue greatly that there is prohibition or that there isn’t, so I don’t think there’s anything in the Holy Quran against family planning as such but at the same time it an be argued both says.
Question: Well, how would you describe yourself on moral questions like birth control, abortion and so on? Are you a liberal or a conservative?
President: Population pressure is very great on our people and we have to make efforts to control the growth of population. We are growing at the rat of 2 ½ to 3 percent and that’s far too much .Very soon we will be eating ourselves at this rate. So if the people are made to realize the implications of the population explosion I think they themselves will also try to exercise discipline. At the same time the State has a responsibility and I don’t believe that I would be our people if I shirked this responsibility.
Question: What about other social issues? For instance, we hear a great deal about the revolt of the young and so on. Are you disturbed by what you see in the young people today?
President: No, I’m not disturbed by it. It causes us concern but I’ve seen it. I’ve been in it in the sense that first as a student leader and then after wards in the political life one had to keep in touch with this phenomenon and the students of Pakistan have always been kind to me. Sometimes they get angry but basically they’re kind. So I have an idea of their thinking. This is a sense a world wide phenomenon that has taken place. But I see it also now settling down by and large, not only here but generally.
Question: Now we referred previously to the problem of “Bangladesh” which is, of course, inescapable for you. General Yahya Khan is now reaping most of the blame for that and yet the fact is that at the time Pakistani officials including yourself tried to minimize the degree of oppression, the Army’s killings, the flow of refugees. It is because you perhaps didn’t know what was going on or do you still believe that these excesses were exaggerated?
President: In the beginning we didn’t know what was happening. We had some idea that the military had taken action but military takes action in many countries to stop secession. They use rubber bullets also. They use teargas. They put people into jail. They put people under house arrest. Military action is taken sensibly, simultaneously with political action and we thought that kind of thing was perhaps happening. Later on, we came to know that they didn’t have a framework and they didn’t have any political guidance and we protested. I myself made harsh speeches against it on a number of occasions but not that I’, condoning the actions because even the figures given out and the stories that have been circulated, there is a great deal for exaggeration there. No doubt about it. Mr. Mujibur Rahman says three million people were killed. That’s absolutely incorrect. That’s a gross exaggeration but I’m not going to fight with him over that because he likes to exaggerate.
Question: General Tikka Khan who initiated the military aaction in East Pakistan is now serving as your Army Chief of Staff. Does that mean that you condone what he did?
President: No. general Tikka Khan is Chief of Staff because he’s the senior most General after the one who left. Actually the one who left had superseded him and General Tikka Khan was senior to him. He’s a respected General in the Army and there’s nothing abnormal about the poor man. He’s got a bad press and there’s a CENTO meeting I believe soon in London and if the people of his level are attending on the military side, I’m going to unleash him on London very soon.
Question: Right now there’s an inquiry going on into the Pakistan Army and civilians role in what happened in “Bangladesh” and I know that you hesitate to comment on that but at least you feel that General Tikka Khan has no place in an investigation of this nature.
President: He was interrogated by the Commission, Commission headed be our supreme Court Chief Justice and two judges of our Provincial High Courts. It’s a high-powered justice Committee, Commission rather, and we’re giving them all the facilities, whatever they want, all the papers, the records. Whoever is summoned to them is allowed to go there. I myself went there. They wanted to come to interview me. I said no, I’ll come to you because you’re the Commission. So, we’re awaiting the findings of that commission.
Question: You have no idea, beginning for the moment, what the results of the findings might be? What type of disciplinary action might result from those findings?
President: I think the two are connected because if the Commission comes to the conclusion that it was unadulterated savagery and barbarism and unforgivable, unpardonable, naturally one will have to take cognizance of that and in that fashion. If on the other hand, they say that the intentions were good, it absolves the military. And for certain reasons excesses were committed and someone committed more that the others, then we will take those people to task.
Question: Does that mean that Pakistan itself might launch its own war crimes tribunal or war crimes trials?
President: I’ve already said that to Mr. Mujibur Rahman in my speeches and had it conveyed to him that we’re quite prepared to try people and there are laws for any excesses committed by them. But we didn’t approve of them.
Question: It’s been said that one of the reasons why General Yahya Khan unleashed the Army on “Bangladesh” was that you had refused to serve in a parliament that would almost certainly have been dominated by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. What do you say to that?
President: That’s entirely incorrect, without foundation. What we said was that in order to frame a federal constitution two thirds of the country must agree to a federal constitution. As a matter of fact. All federated provinces must have a consensus on the constitution and that one province a thousand miles away could not impose a confederal arrangement on Pakistan because the six points of Mr. Mujibur Rahman were not federal., they were confederal. That is the position he took and we said that we are prepared to go to the Assembly without a consensus, without an agreement, provided Yahya Khan would waive the 120 day period for the framing of the constitution. Because we couldn’t envisage anything in those circumstances when there was no agreement at all. One part was demanding a confederal arrangement and we were wanting a federation. So there would have been a deadlock and the Assembly would have been dissolved. That would have put us right back to square one. I only said that either we should have time to negotiate a broad consensus and failing that, the 120 days should be waived for the framing of the constitution.
Question: Let us be quite clear on this. Are you saying that you didn’t in fact put a boycott by your party on the Assembly but you did in fact set up certain conditions which apparently Sheikh Mujibur Rahman found that he could not meet.
President: we repeatedly said that we were not boycotting, we were not boycotting. All we seek is a little bit of time to have negotiations and if that’s not possible then the period of 120 days should be extended.
Question: Even though you’re convinced that you acted properly, do you think what you did might have been an excuse or a point where Yahya Khan might have misconceived the situation and launched the attack that he did?
President: Well, then anything could have happened. If the intentions were that it was just an exercise, then if it were not this, then it would have been some other measure. If we had gone to the Assembly and certainly there would have been a deadlock in the Assembly, there’s no doubt about it, it would have been the vibration that would have then sparked off some kind of trouble because trouble was always inherent in the situation. In 25 years, grievances had grown, democracy had been denied to the people in East and West Pakistan, and the conflict was getting larger and larger. We were becoming more and more irreconcilable, and we would have missed the chance to have brought about reconciliation. Then Yahya Khan also went about with a heavy hand, not only finally, but even otherwise. So this kind of a disaster was more or less inevitable but the magnitude of it naturally was beyond everyone’s expectations.
Question: Well, looking now at the magnitude at what did happen, do you have any doubts that you acted in the way you should not have through that crisis?
President: We had no other alternative because you know we were also representing our people here, we had been given a mandate. Mr. Mujibur Rahman’s party lost the elections here, not a single one of their candidates got elected. All of them lost their security deposits. And we had been determined that parliament was on the basis of certain promises and pledges and with certain understandings that the people had with us. Now could you go in that situation and agree to a confederal arrangement.
Question: Again on a personal note. I don’t think most Australians realize this that it’s said that you, in fact you, saved the life of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Now could you tell us something of the circumstances because they appear to be confused. Was there an execution order ready for the Sheikh?
President: Yes, there was confusion at that time. I was in New York and messages were coming to me, frantic messages to return immediately. I returned next day to the President’s House where Yahya was and people were agitated. There were demonstrations. We could hear their noise outside. So in that situation there were no sort ofroutine office files around which was could discuss across a table. And while relinquishing power, handing over to me, in the course of the conversation Yahya Khan said to me that it was a mistake for him not to have hanged him, execute him. I said what good it would do. Those were the words, I think, he used. And he said: “Well I’m quite prepared to do it now and then hand over”, but I told him no, that would make me the cause of it. I wouldn’t accept that. But that got me a little suspicious and by way for abundant caution, when I took over I passed orders and I said I wanted to see Mujibur Rahman safely brought to Pindi immediately. A helicopter was sent and he was brought and kept in the custody of our people but it is possible Yahya Khan may have done something silly like that. I think it is better to ask Mujibur Rahman that question because if there were any preparations going on he would be more aware of them.
Question: How do you see the future relationship between Pakistan and “Bangladesh”?
President: I hope we can restore our links and I do not define them. They are sensitive about these mattes. I do not say the people are but the Government there is extremely sensitive to this. On the other hand, I believe the people in that part are more and more disenchanted with the state of affairs. That may be basically because of the problems they have but I feel they are having some preliminary second thoughts. I would not jump to any conclusions but this certainly means that in the future we can have good relations between the two parts. We can come closer. If we are making efforts to have good relations with India, why should we not try to have good relations with the people who were part of our country and have been separated by military conquest?
Question: In the last war there was a very fascinating alignment of big powers, with the Soviet Union supporting India and China and the Untied States supporting Pakistan. Do you see any implications of that sort of alignment for the future?
President: Not only for Pakistan but I think for the whole world. The world must sit up and take a lesson from how our country has been dismembered. What has happened to Pakistan. Can happen to any country of Asia, Africa or Latin America. The seeds of Bangladesh are in many parts of the world. The world has to sit up and take note to see that this does not become a precedent.
Question: What about the American role? There seems to be increasing American support and Chinese support to each other on this issue. Do you think we will se more of America and China working together against the Soviet Union?
President: Yes, there was support from the Americans and Chinese but support with teeth inside the lips.
Question: There are reports that there is a great deal for Soviet naval activity in Chittagong. Some of the correspondents fear that this is the start of a permanent Russian naval base in the Indian Ocean. Have you any evidence to support this?
President: I have reports of that nature and I know that before Mr. Mujibur Rahman assumed office and responsibility, he had, I think, indicated something like that to some of the great powers. That is the story but I think you should ask him.
Question: What about the relationship with India without precluding anything that may happen at the future summit meeting? What do you see as the most pressing issues to be solved between Pakistan and India?
President: Indians will tell you that Pakistan’s problem is the prisoners of war. I would have told you that two months ago but I must salute our people’s courage because what I did was to literally contact everyone affected by the prisoners of war issue. sent my party workers, sent others, wrote them letters telling them to bear with us, to be patient. And today that problem is not the most pressing one. Two months ago I also told the Indians that they were mistaken if they thought that they could use it as a pressing problem. We would handle it, look at it squarely in the face and handle it. We did that. In any case, to keep human beings as hostages has diminishing returns. The war has ended. There is a cease-fire. Both countries want peace. They proclaim they want peace. They have the Geneva Convention, United Nations resolutions but India nevertheless keeps our men behind barbed wire but this is today no longer the most important test. In my mind the most important test is to find an equilibrium between Pakistan and India.
Question: Both you and Mrs. Gandhi seem to have gone great lengths to avoid making statements that might aggravate tensions. Do you see that there’s hope of a reconciliation in the same way that the United States and the Soviet Union seem to have come to a stable relationship after the Cuban missile crisis. Do you think the war might accomplish that?
President: I think that’s a good and a valid analogy and our point of view has changed. We must find an equilibrium but it must be found in its own good time and not in an unrehearsed way because that might upset everything. When I say in good time, I don’t mean spin it out but in a decent period of time.
Question: I’ve heard this expressed by some Pakistan officials and I want to know your attitude. Do you have fears of Indian aggression? I know you don’t agree with their policy necessarily but do you have fears of actual Indian aggression?
President: Aggression in the sense of an all-out war, no I do not have that fear. For a number of reasons India has already been given a bad name with the military conquest of East Pakistan. So they would not like to embark on another spree in a hurry.
Question: What about Kashmir which is obviously a long standing problem?
President: This question reverts back to Mr. Nehru’s time. Take the right of self-determination. This commitment was given by both countries. However, as I’ve said, we have not given the people of Kashmir the right of self-determination. We can’t take it away from them. It’s their own inherent right.
Question: Well, what would you want to see if you could see anything? What could happen that you would like?
President: Basically, it is for the people to decide their future, and by that I don’t mean that they should decide in favour of Pakistan or that is the only decision we would accept. We will accept any decision which is their. They’ll invariably more of their own free will and accord.
Question: Well, how would you be sure that it was voluntary? Would United Nations, supervision be enough to convince you that it was a voluntary decision.
President: This can always be worked out.
Question: Do you feel any bitterness toward Australia for the decision that it took in early recognition of “Bangladesh”?
President: No, we’re not bitter towards the Australian and we’re not bitter toward England but they were not fully informed of the situation. We regret that.
Question: What do you see as Pakistan’s relationship with Australia? How do you see the two nations?
President: Good relations. Merely because of some situation it doesn’t mean that we will pick up and leave Australia. We have our mission there. We’ll keep it there. We’ll try and strengthen it. We’ll try and improve our trade relations.
Question: You’ll try to do this through the cricket.
President: Yes, of course that’s most important. Most of all you need it for developing good relations but in any case we have great regard and respect for the Australian people and we intend to increase our collaboration in all fields.
Question: Do you yourself see any role that you would like to see Australia play and not necessarily in terms of this country’s defence pacts but of mutual relations?
President: Defence pacts, we were in one too many. We were in CENTO and they deserted us military. So we are sensitive to defence pacts, I mean military arrangement, formal sense of treaties, but Australia is a part of Asia. So far this has not been the case. But you see some kind of metamorphosis is taking place in the thinking of your people on this matter.
Question: What is Pakistan’s position as far as SEATO is concerned?
President: As far as we are concerned, it is basically Mr. Mujibur Rahman’s obligation because it is directed against China’s expansionism”. Look at the countries in the region, Australia, Philippines, Thailand etc. these countries recognized Mujib’s Government prematurely so it is for Mr. Mujibur Rahman basically to decide whether there is going to be SEATO or not. Whether he is going to be in SEATO or in the Asian security pact or in both.
Question: What does it mean in practical trms? Are ther no letters written from Pakistan to SEATO?
President: Well, more or less.
Question: What about the Commonwealth? When you took Pakistan out of the Commonwealth, was it out of pique or do you think it was a worth while gesture?
President: No, I think it was a considered decision. I had even written about it in a little book on foreign affairs a few months earlier. The time was fast approaching when Britain would go with Europe and unburden herself of Commonwealth obligations. From our point of view also, I think it was really becoming counter-productive. Just sit there and hear about the disputes of other countries and not being in apposition to do anything about it, with those disputes reflecting on us unnecessarily. There were a number of reasons why we decided to quit the Commonwealth and develop bilateral relations with Britain and other members of the Commonwealth. South Africa at one time was member of the Commonwealth and apartheid and South Africa’s general policy was an irritant to everyone, and to Britain more than anyone else. Today’s South Africa is not in the Commonwealth and her bilateral relations with Britain are excellent, better than ever before.
Question: Do you think the Commonwealth has outlived all of its usefulness or does it still have its use for some countries?
President: it has lost its basic usefulness but I would say that things like scholarships to universities, technological assistance and the like will be there. On a bilateral basis also these things can be maintained.
Question: Pakistan has taken, in view of political changes, a tremendous drop in population and military strength. What will be its implications for Pakistan in world affairs?
President: This part of the country is also important and its political importance cannot be denied. China is a neighbour, so are Iran, Afghanistan, India. Then all the developments that are taking place in this region-fast developments—so I don’t think Pakistan’s importance is diminished very much politically. Psychologically, yes, from 130 million people we are now 60 million.
Question: Psychologically in your own mind or the world’s mind?
President: I think in the world’s mind more but in our minds also.
Question: You don’t have much chance of relaxation, but when you do have a chance, what are the things you like to do?
President: Now I don’t have time for relaxation but even before it was difficult to really relax. There was a so much tension in the air and struggle. But, basically, it has always been reading. If I find the time in winner, shooting.
Question: One of Pakistan’s difficulties in the past has been that people in power have interpreted actions as a threat to security which others might interpret as a threat to personal liberty which leads one to the question of maintaining a balance between the needs of the state and the rights of the individual. Now you recognize that problem. What is your outlook on it?
President: Yes, I recognize it in statistical terms and it is not that I want to compare my position with Mr. Mujibur Rahman’s but in Dacca alone there are 30,000 to 40,000 people in jails. That is a long figure. In spite of all the problems and all the intrigues, internal and external, I think you can count on your gingers the number we have under detention.
Question: you think then we will not be hearing in the future that so and so was imprisoned in Pakistan because he represented a threat to security the type of report that one usually hears?
President: The question is I do agree that in these reports the matter is exaggerated and that Governments use them or overuse them as an instrument of coercion. But our country has been dismembered and a country cannot be dismembered unless there are forces working inside the country against the integrity of the country.
Question: You yourself spent time in jail for your own political beliefs. Did that influence your own outlook in any way and perhaps made you more tolerant of the ideas of others?
President: I was not alarmed by going to jail. They picked me up at two in the morning and took me to another place in Lahore. I think I slept all the way in the car. I don’t think one’s mental outlook is involved.
Question: Did you suffer my mistreatment?
President: That I did.
Question: I just wanted to talk about your attitude towards Sheikh Mujib when you decided that he will not be executed. Do you think you were influenced at all by your own experience?
President: As far as Mr. Mujibur Rahman is concerned, I differed with him violently on political matters and in political views. At the same time, I have respect for him because he is a leader of the people. He has been able to mobilise people, command people’s allegiance, loyalty. People sacrificed for his cause, made great sacrifices. So from that point of view as a leader of the people, anyone who is leader of the people, I respect.
Question: Pakistan has gone through a greater crisis than any nation can possibly do, being split in half and yet at the same time, these differences must have existed for a long time. Do you think there is a possibility of it becoming stronger in a way than it was before.
President: I am quite confident we will come out stronger but we would have come out stronger even if we were together. We have come out stronger now because the people are participating. People were denied this participation. That is why Pakistan became weak but now that we have released their energies as a people I am quite confident Pakistan will make an effective contribution.
A.B.C.: Mr. President, thank you very much.