President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto told a group for educationists that Pakistan will not waver from its commitment to the right of self-determination for the people of Jammu and Kashmir.
In an hour-long exchange which ranged from the forthcoming negotiations with India to the problems of education, the President explicitly stated his position on fundamental questions expected to come up during the Simla summit. He said he would make a bold and sincere search for peace and for an answer to the problems which had bedeviled the relations between the two countries since independence. He spoke of a modus vivendi and of the necessity to find a new equilibrium in the subcontinent.
Principles, he emphasized, were sacred and could, in no circumstances, be compromised. He was hopeful that within that framework, provided there was goodwill and imaginative statesmanship on both sides, it would be possible to bring a durable peace to the South0asian subcontinent.
When asked about Bangladesh, the president said, it is a question which I will not raise or allow to be raised on the soil of India. He said it was a matter between the people and leaders of East and West to decide. He again emphasized that he would take no decisions on his own. I will come back to the people. I will go to the National Assembly because only the people are sovereign. Only their will shall prevail”.
The president, in reply to another question, said that there has been no contacts between the people of this part and those of Eat Bengal. “We have to know their minds. We have to know how they think and feel before we can decide what form our future ties will take, he said.
The President also took the opportunity to discuss with the educationists the problems of campus disorder, falling academic standards, better employment conditions for teachers and modernization of syllabi. The teachers said that the political involvement of the student community had become a matter of deep concern. They also expressed their satisfaction with some aspects of the education policy.
One of the teachers attacked the present system of examinations and pleaded for a more meaningful teacher-pupil relationship. He said, among teachers, one was pained to see cliques and petty intrigues. There appeared to be premium on incompetence. The class room, he added, has become un-interesting and meaningless to the students. The president remarked that it was his impression that the students no longer read much. The teachers agreed with him. Libraries are full of un-drawn books, one of them commented.
Another point made was that the syllabi were not in tune with the times. Changes were made without a reference to teachers. The teachers also spoke of the left-right polarization that was being witnessed among students. The president advised the teachers to handle these problems on their own initiative and as far as possible not involving the administration.
The point was made with great emphasis on the discriminatory treatment being meted out to Government employed teachers in the matter of service conditions. The teachers criticized the concept of a separate cadre for educationists. They insisted upon being included in the national pay scales.
In conclusion, the president assured the teachers of the high priority he attached to the profession of education. He said that he was determined to give the teachers dignity, security and full protection, as should be done in any egalitarian and progressive society. Take your profession as a national mission to bring about the great change that we have struggled for, he told them.