You have bestowed upon me a signal honour, the Presidency of the first ever truly elected representative Assembly of Pakistan. It is an honour that I will always remember and cherish. For, no honour can be greator than the presidency of this house, charged as it is with the task of giving to the people of Pakistan a constitution. I see before me other show may perhaps be more wise or deserving, but you have kindly given me this pride of place. I am grateful to you. Even more, I thank the people of Pakistan who elected you and me and conferred on us this great honour. We are assembled here as a symbol of the victory of the people, the voice of the people has indeed prevailed. And, above all, I am grateful to Almighty Allah who in His infinite mercy and grace has seen fit to have me preside over this august body and the destiny of the nation at this critical juncture. I thank you again for giving me this honour to serve you. I once again, here and now, rededicate myself before this distinguished House, before the people of Pakistan and before Almighty Allah to serve Pakistan and our people to the final limits of my ability.
Honourable members of this distinguished House: we are assembled today at a time which in every respect is the most crucial in the brief and blighted history of our state. Our people, our friends and, most of all, our enemies are keenly watching the proceedings of this House. This is so because our terribly bruised and sundered nation is facing its severest test of survival.
The people who have reposed their confidence in us expect that through our deliberations and joint endeavors we will now replace their worries and anxieties with deliverance and hope. Our friends, who view us with genuine sympathy and concern, pray that we shall overcome our difficulties and realize the true potential of Pakistan. Our enemies, who have already done us grievous injury, are waiting for the chance to bury us. If we keep before ourselves all these grim realities, a full measure of the challenge facing this House becomes self-evident.
In appreciating our grave responsibilities, it would be proper to remember also the signal honour bestowed upon us. Pakistan has had several national assemblies including two that, like this House, were also charged with the framing of a constitution. It is however, for the first time that we celebrates today the true majesty of the people who are the real sovereigns of the state of Pakistan. This assembly, and I cannot emphasis it too much, is the first whose members have been directly elected on the basis of adult franchise.
So our meeting is an historic event. It is also a sad one. Half the seats in this House are empty and those elected representatives who should have been with us here today, are a thousand miles away in another capital. This need not have been so. It would not have been so if our self-appointed masters had heeded our please for a political settlement and allowed the selected representatives to negotiate its terms in freedom.
I am sure we would have found a way out, and why to? After all, we had come together of our own free will and lived together as one nation for 24 years. This came about because of the shared compulsions of history, religion, economic well-being and survival. Then why did we suffer the great tragedy of 1971? Why from the heights of independence in 1947 did we plunge to the depths of defeat, disintegration and despair in 1971? Let us go back and examine why 1947 came about, and why 1971. To do so, we must first examine the seeds of inspiration that fructified into Pakistan.
Many views have been expressed about the genesis of Pakistan: many inter-related factors did indeed inspire the quest for a Muslim homeland. But in essence we separated from India because we rejected its iniquitous system, its exploitation and domination. This struggle against tyranny culminated in our people braving the enormous hazards of Partition to carve out Pakistan, the pure land of promise and fulfillment. Millions of India Muslims made the great pilgrimage to integrate with the Balouch, the Bengali, the Pathan, the Punjabi and the Sindhi to build to largest Muslim State on the foundations of Islamic Justice and brotherhood. Our ambition was to create a country where we could shape every thing according to our beliefs, our traditions and our aspirations.
The exploitation and denomination of the Muslim began long before the middle of the nineteenth century, the date that is commonly accepted-long before 1843 when Sindh was taken over by the British or when a few years later the Punjab was annexed. It really commenced with the eclipse of the Mughal empire in 1707 and became visible fifty years later after the defeat of Siraj-ud-Daula by Clive at Plessey in 1757. it was the support of the powerful Hindu merchants of the area as much as the treachery of Mir Jafar that gave the British their victory,.
Clive's administration looted Bengal so freely that it was denounced as a robber state. It was Muslim Bengal that bore the main brunt of British occupation. The systematic plundering and maladministration brought in their wake a famine in 1770 that destroyed a third of the population. Who were these unfortunate people? Mostly the poor Muslims of Bengal. Although in led to the passage of an Act in the British Parliament to regulate the administration of Bengal, the old British-Bania combination continued in power. Their victims were the Muslims, whether they were land owners, tenants, of weavers. Muslims were not given employment in the army or the civil services. Their educational and religious funds were misapplied and misappropriated, their lands extensively taken over.
Muslim areas in the west of the subcontinent did not suffer this prolonged ruthless exploitation as they did not fall to the British till some 90 years after the Battle of Plassey. But, subsequently, they too did not escape the material effects of British hostility or the Bania's suffocating hold.
It was only natural for the Muslims to react to this dual tyranny of the British and the Hindus. The first manifestation of this discontent occurred with Haji Shariatullah's Faraizi Movement. It began as a religious revival, aimed at the elimination of Hindu customs, but soon became a broader socio-economic movement. Although tormented by Hindu Zamindars and the British planters, the defiant peasant struggled against he imposition of 23 unauthorised taxes and such indignities as the “Beard Tax”. Illiterate Muslim peasants gave large-scale support to Mujahid Colonies, and traveled hundreds of miles to Sitana to take part in the Jihad against the British.
These were the first small stirrings of discontent and revolt. The Muslim of the subcontinent were in the forefront of the war of Liberation in 1857. The failure of that great struggle and the exile of the last Mughal emperor marked the total decline of Muslim influence. At the same time it made way for the Hindu community to monopolise all spheres of activity.
Every crisis throws up new leaders of thought and action. Here, Syed Ahmed Khan came to the forefront. Realising that an important factor in the decline of Muslims was their total neglect of education, he established the Muhammadan Anglo-Oriental College at Aligarh. In his thirty years of devotion to modern education and social reforms, Syed Ahmed also planted the seeds of Muslim nationalism. He gave expression to the separate character of the Muslims. He advised the Muslims to maintain this separate identity by not participating in the Indian National Congress. Some of his observations on the Hindu-Muslim question foreshadowed the statements of the Muslims who later called for and created Pakistan.
Syed Ahmed, however, concentrated his efforts on education. He went so far as to advise Muslims against active politics. But this policy was inherently inadequate and had to be abandoned soon after his death, and this primarily for two reasons. The majority Hindu community through its monopoly of economic enterprise was tightening its stranglehold, reinforcing their position through their newly formed political machine. And so, in December 1906, the All-India Muslim League was formed to represent and project the political interest of the Muslims.
This symbolized the distinctiveness of the two major communities they were clearly moving apart. It was evident that between the grasping Hindu and the deprived Muslim lay a world of difference in needs, beliefs and aspirations. This separateness was given expression in the Lahore Resolution which formulated the demand for Pakistan in 1940.
The Lahore Resolution was the logical culmination of Allama Mohammad Iqbal's call in 1930, when he said that “the formation of a consolidated North West Indian Muslim state appears to me to be the final destiny the All-India Muslim League's conference at Allahbad in 1930. allama Iqbal may not have been the first to put forward the idea of a Muslim state, but he made the first concrete proposal to which Chaudhry Rahmat Ali gave a name which is sacred to us today. Allama Iqbal's proposal found as echo in Bengal where Abdul Rahim and Hussain Shaheed Suhrawardy organised the Bengal Muslim Conference.
The political goal of the Muslim was finally spelt out at Lahore on 23 March, 1940 with the adoption of the Pakistan resolution. Its crucial clause asserted that the only constitutional arrangement acceptable to the Muslims of the subcontinent would be the one that would ensure that geographically contiguous units are demarcated into regions which should be so constituted that the areas in which Muslims are numerically in majority, as in the north western and eastern zones of India, should be grouped to constitute independent states.
At the time of the Lahore resolution and subsequently there was some controversy as to whether one or two sovereign Muslim states were envisaged. However, at the 1946 Convention of Muslim League legislators, a resolution was passed calling for a single sovereign state. It was the demand for one Pakistan for which the Muslims of the whole subcontinent struggled. But there remained a hard core mainly in East Pakistan, who continued to maintain that the Lahore Resolution had envisaged two separate sovereign states. Despite the resolve of this hard core they could never have succeeded in realizing their dream but for the failure of Pakistan's leadership to fulfill the Rehman specifically revived this issue and brought it to the forefront of public attention when he introduced his six-points formula. The story of his success is the story of our failure. But now we must return to the 1940s.
The evolution of Pakistan was a gradual process to which many Muslims contributed. But there can be no doubt that one man alone can truly bear the title of the architect of Pakistan Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.
It is significant that the Quaid had initially not only worked with the Indian National Congress but had been one of its principal leaders. But he came to the inescapable conclusion that the ineradicable differences between the two communities and the intransigence of the Hindu leaders would not allow the Muslims of the subcontinent to find their salvation in anything short of a separate homeland Pakistan.
The Quaid organized and revitalized the Muslims. His demand for Pakistan immediately evoked great enthusiasm amongst the Muslim masses. There was a spontaneous reaction from our down-trodden and subject people. The demand for Pakistan held the enchanting promise of a homeland where economic and social justice would prevail and where all men and women would be equal. Under the Quaid's leadership the movement went from strength to strength, and gained its first significant victory in the formulation of the Cripps proposals of March 1942.
Throughout these years, the Hindu majority bitterly resisted the concept of Pakistan. Its leaders resorted to every device to ensure the defeat of a scheme that would have made the Muslims the masters of their own fate. The reason was the same old one: the desire to continue the economic, political and cultural enslavement of the Muslims.
The Hindu community dominated banks, insurance, trade, industry, land resources, education virtually everything of real significance or consequence. Sind and Punjab grew large quantities of excellent cotton, but for the Hindu owned textile mills of Ahmadabad and Bombay. East Bengal grew the finest jute, but the jute mills were in Calcutta and were owned by Hindus. It was clearly a case of the “haves” wanting to crush the “have-nots” under their heel. It was only the Quaid's single minded determination and the sacrifice of countless millions of Muslims in the subcontinent that defeated the Hindu leaderships threats and machinations and finally forced the British to concede to Pakistan. But imperial Britain, in collusion with the Hindu Congress, gave us cruel parting kicks.
With the announcement of the 3rd June, 1947 plan for the partition of the subcontinent into the states of India and Pakistan, collusion between the Indian National Congress and the British authority in India, as represented by Lord Mountbatten, strengthened and grew space. They had come to the mutual conclusion that if the Muslims persisted in wanting Pakistan, they would let them have their Pakistan, but not as they wished, and certainly not in a manner that would allow the fledgling state a firm start. It was, therefore, decided to rush through the transfer of power.
The haste with which the transfer of power was to be effected was calculated to produce immense difficulties for Pakistan. In the practical working of the Partition Plan, the Indian Union was to become virtually the successor state to British India, and Pakistan was placed in the position of a territory seceding from the parent country. Thus, Pakistan was made to begin life facing innumerable difficulties, without a well-ordered administration, without Armed Forces, and without even rudimentary equipment necessary for Government establishments. Nothing could be more patently designed to handicap the new state of Pakistan from the very beginning, place obstacles in the path of its development and progress, and endanger its very survival.
There is now sufficient historical evidence available to draw the conclusion that the British Governments decision to transfer power, precipitately within such a limited period of time, was the price paid to the Congress for agreeing to stay within the Common wealth. What incalculable loss it would cause Pakistan in terms of human life and suffering as well as material goods, pricked the conscience neither of the last Viceroy nor the congress.
From the very beginning, acceptance of partition by the Indian National Congress was merely a tactical move to cover its real aim of ruling over the entire subcontinent. Mr. Gandhi never tired of alluding to the partition of the subcontinent as a “moral evil”, accepted under the compulsion of circumstances.
The resolution on the partition of the subcontinent passed by the All-India congress committee on 14th June 1947. contained a revealing proviso. “The All-India congress committee earnestly trusts that when the present passions have subsided, India's problems will be viewed in their proper perspective and the false doctrine of two nations in India will be discredited and discarded by all.”
Dr. Shyama Prasad Mukerji also declared soon afterwards: “Our aim must be to re-annex Pakistan to India. I have no doubt this is bound to come, whether by pressure of economic or political or other reasons”. On the eve of Independence, almost every prominent Indian leader of that period openly lamented the Partition of the subcontinent and made no secret of the hope that sooner or later Pakistan would be reintegrated with India by force or fraud.
It was against this background of antagonism in India that the new state of Pakistan came into being. The attitude of the Indian leaders was fully supported by the British authorities, whose callousness was exemplified in the remark of Lord Mountbatten: “Administratively it is the difference between putting up a permanent building, and a nissen hut or a tent. As far as Pakistan is concerned we are putting up a tent. We can do no more”. This was to be Pakistan's lot also in the division of the former employees of the Government of India, in the division of financial assets and responsibilities, and in the division of the Armed Forces and stores which was settled between the 3rd of June and the 14th of August, 1947. Pakistan was very much the victim of the iniquitous apportionment that took place.
The details of the intrigues and squabbles characterizing the entire process of the division of assets are too sordid and time-consuming to bear repeating here. When, in fact, on the 14th of August, 1947, Pakistan entered its first day of existence as an independent and sovereign state, it did so in the tattered tent of Lord Mountbatten's imaginations which was furnished with nothing but the idealism of our people and their determination to survive against all odds.
As Pakistan came into being, the railway trains carrying its administrative personnel and equipment were consistently blown up and destroyed on their journey from India. Millions of refugees were pouring across our borders in a state of appalling destitution and misery. Muslims who were still in certain parts of India preparing to migrate to Pakistan were massacred and their belongings looted.
Although eh Maharaja of Jammu and Kashmir had entered into a standstill agreement with Pakistan on the 15th of August, 1947, a conspiracy was started to bring this predominantly Muslim state into the talons of India. It was this which led to open revolt by the people of Jammu and Kashmir against eh collusion of the Maharaja with India a few weeks later.
With our administrative machinery ineffective, our Armed Forces disrupted, our office equipment and military stores destroyed or misappropriated, our population overwhelmed with the influx of countless refugees in a state of destitution and indescribable suffering, our economy throttled by the machinations of India, our territorial integrity infringed by the invasion of Manavadar, Mongrol and Junagadh and our very existence threatened by India's naked military aggression in jammu and Kashmir, it was in this inauspicious situation of confusion and uncertainty that the history of Pakistan began. It was only the will and the determination of the people of Pakistan, under the inspiration and leadership of Quaid-i-Azam, that enabled the country to survive its first tempestuous year.
Then on 11 September, 1948,the light which had lit our path to freedom disappeared. Quaid-i-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah breathed his last, and the largest Muslim State mourned the loss of its incomparable leader. The annals of mankind will enshrine his name amongst those who leave immortal legacies behind them.
Enormous though our difficulties were during the life-time of the Quaid-i-Azam, the presence of his towering personality at the helm of affairs gave an incalculable sense of security and confidence to the entire nation. But with his death, the stage was set for another scene.
Within less than 30 hours of the Quaid-i-Azam's passing away, the Indian army, invading the state of Hyderabad Deccan, annexed it by an act of naked military aggression. In a way, this set the tone of the era which we in Pakistan entered after the death of the Founder of the state.
Quaid-i-Azam disappearance from the scene occurred at a time when conditions in Pakistan were still in a state of flux politically, administratively, economically and internationally. The mantle of leadership fell on his trusted lieutenant, Quaid-i-Millat Liaquat Ali Khan. He discharged his duties admirably against overwhelming odds, but with his assassination the stream of our history began to flow and flow inexorably faster, in muddy channels. Indeed the channels which were merely muddy in 1951 turned to rivers of blood in 1971.
What happened in this span of time to shatter our dreams and hopes? Why, indeed, should the very people who so bravely faced the ordeals and hardships of 1947 with determination, devotion and dedication of the highest order, fall prey so easily now to confusion of mind and purpose to mistrust, hate and violence and plunged into civil war? Why should some of our best institutions so degenerate as to be scarcely recognizable? Why should all these troubles, humiliations and defeats have fallen on us? Why should the horrors of the year 1971 have been enacted?
We must try to understand the causes of our misfortunes, admitting to ourselves that they were not chance events like the fall of meteorites from the skies or an earthquake over which our human wills have no control. The circumstances in which Pakistan was born were adverse enough but the fact that the state could survive many years points to the conclusion that it could have survived in a better way than it did, growing strong internally and fostering a contented population. We must understand the causes of disintegration whose roots go back in the past. I shall now briefly touch upon some of them.
In the first place, soon after the death of Quaid-i-Azam, the pattern of our economic and social growth began to deviate drastically from the goals which the Father of the Nation had set before us. The Quaid-i-Azam said that Pakistan was being created, to use his works, “not for the capitalists, but for the poor people. P on an earlier occasion he said of the landlords and capitalists that:
“The exploitation of the masses has gone into their blood. They have forgotten the lesson of Islam. Greed and selfishness have made these people subordinate the interests of others in order to fatten themselves. I visited some villages. There are millions and millions of our people who hardly get one meal a day. Is this civilization? Is this the aim of Pakistan? Do you visualise that millions have been exploited and cannot get one meal a day? If that is the idea of Pakistan, I would not have it. If they are wise they will have to adjust themselves to the new modern conditions of life. If they don't, God help them.” (Quaid-i-Azam's presidential address at the All-India Muslim League Session at Delhi in August, 1943).
The support of ordinary men and women, the farmers of the Punjab canal colonies, the indomitable villagers of the North-West Frontier Province, the rugged Baluchis, the toiling peasantry of Sindh, the marginally subsisting share croppers and fishermen of the East Wing had made Pakistan possible. The Quaid recognized that the future of the country depended on them rather than on the handful of administrators and politicians, landlords and industrialists who had thrown in their lot with him.
To the masses Pakistan meant not only freedom from exploitation by Hindus but also a land where oppression of the poor by the rich would cease and where social justice which Islam enjoins would guide their leaders. Pakistan meant a new social and economic order to the masses both in the East and the West wings. This explains the upsurge of national energy in the first years of Pakistan. This hope of a better future also explains the angry disillusionment during the later years when leadership faltered and finally failed.
The class which was to play the most important part in the new nation consisted of the big land-owning families in West Pakistan. They exercised extensive local influence and lived in feudal splendour. Many entered politics and became pillars of the Muslim League. All of them maintained a strong vested interest in an agrarian system which conferred upon them privilege and power at the expense of their tenantry.
Side by side with this traditional power group, Pakistan witnessed the rapid rise of an influential industrial and business oligarchy.
In the 1950s when the Government of Pakistan first started giving serious thought to industrial development, it chose a haphazard path. It was largely influenced by those who wanted to get rich quick in a protected market. It was the golden age for private investors setting up factories with the object of making quick profits in consumer goods. No heed whatsoever was paid to a rational programme of industrialisation, which requires as its basis a capital goods industry. The foreign exchange that had been earned in the Korean war boom was, thus, frittered away. This only increased Pakistan's dependence on loans in the years to come.
Political independence in 1947 did not result in economic independence. In economic terms, Pakistan, for many years, suffered from the after-effects of having been a colony. Moreover, the boom that occurred in Europe in the late 1950s had a detrimental effect upon Pakistan. While the cost of capital goods and equipment which Pakistan required steadily rose, the price of raw materials we exported declined I the world market. And yet no heed was paid to developing any basic industries in Pakistan.
Instead of sound planning, a system of patronage in licence-giving became the order of the day. The banking industry was abused its prime object became the provision of public deposits for investment in industries for which the entrepreneur provided little or no capital. His contribution was mainly the licence he obtained under a patronage a licence which only helped to increase the foreign exchange debt liability of the nation for generations. Some of the results of the excessive concessions, including tax holidays, which our entrepreneurs enjoyed in their protected market can be seen today in the inefficient running of most industries and the total absence of quality control. Nobody cared about the poor consumer, the ultimate victim of Pakistan's economic stagnation. Nobody cared for anything as long as the rich became richer.
With what result? What have we inherited? A narrow-based consumer industry which produces mainly non-essential items. A textile industry which, despite local raw material, produces poor quality goods at prices considerably above the international level. We have virtually no heavy or basic industries either for civilian or military production. Whereas India now makes four types of aircraft and two types of tanks, we in Pakistan do not even produce the components to manufacture a complete bicycle.
Without having enjoyed any real benefits from foreign loans, we have been landed with an immense debt liability. As a of 30th June 1971, Pakistan's actual outstanding debt was U.S. $3.350 million, which is about Rs. 1,600 crores, and the annual debt-serving liability we inherited was US $251 million or Rs. 120 crores. For that matter the Government had borrowed internally to turn of Rs. 747 crores on 30th March, 1971.
Pakistan increasingly became the property of the few. This was as true in politics as in economics and every other filed. The landed aristocracy originally dominated politics. To their select number was soon added the magnates of commerce and industry. Politics became an easy and effective instrument for preserving and enhancing wealth and power. The vicious circle of wealth, power and politics, rotating amongst a limited circle, became the most impregnable vested interest in Pakistan.
Inevitable, the perpetuation of the status quo became a prime objective. It was only thus that the ruling oligarchy could be confirmed in power. To this, all energies were directed. Even the most elementary reforms were denied to the people. The hope for a just and egalitarian Pakistan rapidly began to recede.
In a democratic society the people's will gains expression through their elected representative.
Elections are the corner-store of democracy. But the vested interests, which consolidated their position soon after the creation of Pakistan, feared the limitation that elections would bring on their freedom to expioit the country. The abominable status quo colud best be preserved by denying the people the electoral process. Constitution-making was repeatedly deferred in order to delay general elections. The old guard continued to hold sway. No weeding out process, not even through elections, was allowed. Pakistan has since paid a heavy price for this failure.
In 1954 a compromise on the constitution could have been attained which would have reflected the realities of the situation between the East and West wings. The Basic Principles Committee of the Constituent Assembly prepare a draft constitution which proposed a federal structure for Pakistan. Although it was by no means an ideal arrangement, even this proposal was not accepted. The Governor-General illegally dissolved the Constituent Assembly shortly before the draft was to be approved by the Constituent Assembly.
With the passage of time, mutual suspicions deepened between the two wings and made even more difficult the task of finding a constitutional settlement. The imposition of One Unit in 1955 further increased inter-regional tension accentuated polarization between the two wings, encouraging them to vie with each other virtually as two independent states. In 1956, the second Constituent Assembly, which was not really a representative body, passed a new constitution. But it was short-lived and collapsed in two years. Four years later Ayub Khan gave the country yet another constitution which was in reality early a cover for his personal rule. The struggle for a constitution made by the elected representatives of the people continued. So much for the past melancholy efforts at constitution-making. After 24 years, we, as the genuine representatives of the people, have assembled together on this auspicious day to give a firm and true beginning to the return of democratic constitutional order for the Islamic Republic of Pakistan.
In the absence of a constitution, the bureaucratic machine rapidly enhanced its strength. In the first few years of Pakistan, the civil service established a good record. The small batch of administrators that fell to the share of Pakistan on Partition gave admirable service in the first period of confusion, working under trying conditions in which there was often no office accommodation, not even furniture. It was to their credit that within a brief period, essential services like railways, posts and telegraphs began to function.
The natural corollary to the absence of democratic institutions and responsible governments was that the civil service became dominant. It soon began to formulate policy instead of merely implementing it. The civil service forgot the Quaid's words: you are not rulers. You do not belong to the ruling class. You being to the servants. “They became part of the structure of the old guard politicians and the industrialists. Their aim also centered on the preservation for the status quo. They shared the common ambition of self aggrandizement and enrichment. As early as 1951-52, an official survey carried out by the special police establishment revealed that of the 1,134 persons proceeded against under the Foreign Exchange Regulations Act and the Hoarding and Black marketing Act, 737 were Government. Corruption began to spared its tentacles and soon had a malignant stranglehold on the body politic of our country.
The bureaucracy increasingly strengthened its grip over the affairs of state. The demarcation of duty between the policy makers and the implementing officials began to blur and disappear. Minister gradually became dependent not on public support the public was indeed allowed minimal expression but on officials to consolidate their position. They even encouraged civil servants to become Ministers, Prime Ministers and Governor-Generals.
The bureaucratic and military machine who took over the Government of Pakistan comprised a very small group. It was in no way a representative Government. Not only was the vast majority of West Pakistanis excluded front the governmental and administrative process, but, more detrimental in the long run, was the fact that the ruling elite included virtually no Bengalis. Khawaja Nazimauddin, Hussain Saheheed Suhrawardy and Fazlul Haque were a very limited exception.
Although Bengalis had been in the forefront of the political struggle for Pakistan indeed I may go so far as to say that without the dedication and sacrifices of Muslim Bengal, Pakistan would not have come into existence once the centre of power shifted from the political sphere to the military bureaucratic sphere, Bengalis found that they were excluded and deprived of influence.
East Pakistan was in fact governed by the neo-colonialist capitalists of West Pakistan who exploited the country with callous throughness. Fortunes were made in East Pakistan but not by Bengalis. The same exploitation prevailed throughout Pakistan but its effects were felt more intensely in the East Wing. Hence a deep and lasting hatred was engendered, which finally exploded in violence and blood-shed.
But this need not have been. On the road to 1971 there were halting places where the path could have been turned in less stony and pitted directions. The advent to General Ayub Khan was welcomed in East Pakistan as the beginning of anew era, because the Armed Forces enjoyed the confidence of the people. But the hopes of the Bengalis were cruelly shattered.
Ayub Khan's claim to introduce democracy proved to be no more than a hollow farce. The 1962 constitution converted a population of nearly 70 million into an electoral college of 40,000, which was closely manipulated and directed from Islamabad. far from representing the people, these so-called elected, representatives stood merely for their own aggrandizement and enrichment. They were completely discredited and regarded as tools of the neo-colonialists. The stage was indeed being set for Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.
The people of Pakistan gave Ayub Khan every opportunity and support to put the country on the road to progress. But he was not a man of the people. He built his power structure on three anti-people forces, basic democrats. Bureaucracy and big business. He missed a golden opportunity. The price of his failure was an ever widening rift between the two wings. It is here that militant Bengali nationalism began to show its face.
The Indo-Pakistan war in September 1965 galvanised the people yet again. No sacrifice was too great to maintain the integrity of Pakistan. East Pakistanis in the armed forces and in the civil services gave their all in the service of Pakistan. The people of East Pakistan also stood by their brethren in the West Wing who were under attack. But the enthusiasm of the people was soon dissipated. A nation that stood firmly united in September 1965 began to disintegrate in January 1966 with the Tashkent Declaration. A pall of gloom fell over the people of West Pakistan and a sense of distance and insecurity spread fast in the East Wing.
In the depressing aftermath, in February 1966, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman entered with his Six-Points, may be wrapped in mystery, but there can be no doubt about its impact on Pakistan. At first, Auyb Khan's regime gave wide publicity and coverage to Six-Pints, thinking that this would divide the opposition and divert the attention of the people from his capitulation. But within a few months, fearing that he had created a Frankenstein monster in Six-Points, Ayub Khan clamped down on the Awami League and put Sheikh Mujibur Rahman in jail.
Although General Ayub Khan survived the crisis after Tashkent, conditions in the country continued to deteriorate and the people became increasingly alienated.
On the 1st December, 1967, the Pakistan People's Party was founded at Lahore. In September, 1968, it had won enough strength to lead a great revolt against the dictatorship of Ayub Khan. The masses throughout the length and breadth of the West Wing supported the party's struggle. By the end of November the people of East Pakistan had also joined the revolt and by March, 1969, Ayub Khan was toppled.
With the removal of General Ayub Khan the way was opened for a new approach to the problems of East Pakistan. At the time when Sheikh Mujibur Rahman first proposed his Six-Point programme, I was Foreign Minister and advocated that since East Pakistanis had genuine grievances there should be a political debate to arrive at an equitable settlement. Ayub Khan, however, rejected this proposal and turned from the weapon of language to the language of weapons. I repeated my views when Yahya Khan assumed power, but his regime was as myopic as its predecessor.
In 21 years of Pakistan's life our people had twice seen the proclamation of Martial Law and the abrogation of the constitution. At the same time, out people had experienced a rapid deterioration in their economic conditions. By the time General Yahya Khan assumed power, a general breakdown became apparent.
No regime lacking a political base, dependent entirely on bureaucrats. This was particularly true of a Generals' junta, without roots in the people, without the participation and support of the people.
Yahya Khan tried to tackle the constitutional problems but not in good faith. He put forward a plan and time-table on the 28th November, 1969, for the transfer of power to the elected representatives of the people. At the same time, he took two other important and salutary steps: to break One Unit and to abolish parity between the two wings, thereby introducing the concept of one man one vote which would thereby give the people of the East Wing their majority rights in the legislature.
His plan was to permit a year-long election campaign at the end of which the National Assembly would be convened for the purpose of framing a constitution. On 30th of March, 1970, he promulgated his Legal Framework Order under which elections would be held and the National Assembly summoned to frame a constitution.
The general elections for the National Assembly were held on the 7th of December, 1970, and elections for the Provincial Assemblies on the 17th of December, 1970. the result was an overwhelming victory in East Pakistan for the Awami League led by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, while in West Pakistan the Pakistan People's Party secured a massive mandate. The way appeared open for the convention of the National Assembly to draw up a constitution and subsequently to tackle the long-standing problems confronting both wings. What went wrong? Why are half the seats in this Assembly vacant?
The answer to a great event lies in the tragic history of Pakistan which I have briefly outlined. The mistakes of the politicians, followed by the one man rule of Ayub Khan and intensified by the follies of Yahya Khan, finally exploded in 1971.
Just as Ayub Khan failed to understand the forces behind the demand for autonomy, so also did Yahya Khan. There is a very thin line indeed between maximum autonomy and secession. There is very little to distinguish between a loose federation, confederation and independence. This can be readily seen from the different interpretations given to Six-Points. And to Six-Points we must now turn.
The Pakistan People's Party from its inception maintained that Six-Points did not allow for a genuine federation. This was put forward in the Party's foundation documents and consistently thereafter. During the election campaign, the people's party rejected Six-Point without making it a vituperative question. After the elections, the overwhelming victory of the Awami League made Six-points the critical issue. At the meetings between the Awami League leaders and the people's Party in January 1971, my party explained that it was indeed a unique constitutional proposal which envisaged a federation whose central government exercised power only in the matters of Defence and Foreign Affairs, the latter in any case being limited by the exclusion of foreign trade and aid.
We pointed out that foreign policy in Pakistan, as with most Third World countries, was concerned to a large extent with economic development and international trade and aid. If these were to be excluded from the field of foreign affairs, it would only leave war and confrontation within the competence of the Central Government, resulting in a death-blow to the foundation of Pakistan's foreign policy. Similarly, defence affairs were closely associated with foreign policy. Without proper control over foreign policy, there could be no means of determining and implementing an effective defence policy. Likewise, the provisions concerning currency were tantamount to establishing two regional rates of exchange, particularly in view of the restriction on inter wing trade, which would necessitate payment either in foreign exchange or under a barter arrangement. In a nutshell, the National Assembly of 313 members would be virtually redundant, limited as it would have been to the two subjects of defence and foreign affairs, less foreign trade and aid. We pointed out that such a Central Government, divested of any real authority, would be totally helpless. We went on to explain that we too stood for maximum provincial autonomy, but at the same time desired a viable centre.
The Pakistan Peoples Party at no time challenged the rights of the Awami League majority. We merely south a consensus between the two wings and, after all, that is that the constitution of any country is about. This desire motivated the Pakistan Peoples Party both upto the 1st of March and throughout the month of March 1971.
The peoples party maintained that the rationale of Six-Points, based on the virtual independence of the two wings from each other, was made all the more untenable by the Awami League's demand that they should have complete control of the Central Government, and, as a consequence, the destiny of the West Wing, at least in the field of defence and foreign affairs. The peoples Party maintained that the wami League could rely on their majority only if they accepted the concept of one Pakistan, they could not exclude the West Wing majority in a confederal, or a near confederal, Six-Point arrangement in which, of necessity, the two wings would have to be equal partners, the principle of majority rule was applicable only in a federal arrangement. Under the Awami Leagues proposal the West Wing would remain a permanent minority in a joint defence arrangement, which would allow only for a rudimentary common foreign policy, such a tenuous arrangement could not possibly last. If Awami League desired the exclusion of the majority party of the West Wing from the Central Government they would have to modify their Six-Points and accept a genuine federation for Pakistan.
Even apart from the imposition of such a constitutional arrangement, the Awami League placed a heavy burden on the West Wing, claiming that the West would be responsible for Rs. 3,800 crores of a total external debt liability of Rs. 4,000 crores, and also for the internal debt to the tune of Rs. 3,100 crores. What was more, according to the Awami League calculations, East Pakistan's contribution towards the running costs of the Central Government was to be only 24 percent, notwithstanding the fact that its population was 56 percent of the total. Even this contribution, according to the Awami Leauges claim., would be set off against “Reparations” due from the West Wing for its past exploitation of the East Wing.
We must take note of the fact that neither before issuing the summons for the Assembly on 13th February, 1971, nor when the session was postponed on the 1st of March, nor at any time before 28th June, 1971, did General Yahya Khan disclose that Mujibur Rahman had earlier given him a positive assurance that there would be negotiations to arrive at a settlement outside the Assembly. Only four months later in his broadcast to the nation on the 28th of June did Yahya disclose that Mujibur Rahman had “Clearly indicated that all the major provisions of the constitution would be settled by the political parties in parleys outside the Assembly”. The contradictory position taken by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman after the elections by refusing to arrive at any settlement should have been brought to the attention of the people of Pakistan. It could well have facilitated the preliminary negotiations for which the People's Party repeatedly called in those dark days.
We were only given the possibility of one round of discussions with the Awami League Leaders. That was in Dacca in January 1971. we returned to the West Wing and held meetings with our own party men and other political parties. We pleaded for a little time a few weeks but our request was ignored. On the 13th of February General Yahya Khan announced that the National Assembly would be convened on the 3rd March. Equally abruptly and without consultation, general Yahya Khan on the 1st of March postponed the National Assembly session without fixing a further date.
This suited Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. He did not want to allow the west wing majority party any time for arriving at a negotiated settlement. After the elections, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman became completely rigid in position. He had made up his mind and wanted to push his six-pints through with the brute strength of his majority in the Assembly.
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was indeed encouraged by General Yahya Khan's failure to implement his own Legal Framework Order on the question of autonomy until it was too late. Right from the date the Legal Framework Order was promulgated on the 30th of March. 1970, upto the 6th of March, 1971, Yahya Khan made no pronouncement on Six points, in spite of the fact that the provision of the Six-Point formula were clearly in conflict with his Legal Framework Order. By the 6th of March, Sheikh Mujib's position had become too strong, and it was too late. Six-Points, which had been disregarded in 1966 and given scant attention even in February 1969, had become the creed of the people in East Pakistani. With the active support of big business and the East Pakistani administration, the Awami League's position had strengthened significantly towards the end of 1969, and soared in 1970, reaching an apogee when it was allowed to turn the tragic November cyclone to its advantage.
With the announcement of the National Assembly session for 3rd of March, 1971, the peoples Party faced a dilemma. We believed that the best way to arrive at a settlement was for the two majority parties to reach a broad understanding of the constitutional and political issues involved before the Assembly was convened. If this were not achieved, at least the Assembly itself would remain intact. But if, on the other hand, the crises were to be met within the Assembly, the deadlock would result in the breakdown of the Assembly itself. Thus, closing the final door on democracy.
On the 15th of February, at Peshawar. I said that the Pakistan People's Party would participate in the session if given assurance, even private, that we would be heard and if found reasonable, our proposals would be considered by the Awami League. No such assurance was given. Then on the 28th of February, at Lahore, I put forward two alternative: either the 120-day limitation imposed by the Legal Framework Order should be waived, or a brief postponement allowed.
But the postponement of the Assembly sine die on the 1st of March and the violent reaction of the Awami League in East Pakistan set at naught the efforts of the People's Party to arrive at a preliminary settlement. Therefore, when General Yahya Khan announced on the 6th of March that the Assembly was to be reconvened on the 23rd of March, the People's Party agreed to attend the session. But this session was fated never to be.
From the 21st to the 25th of March discussions were held at Daca at which the Government, the Awami League and the Peoples Party participated. During these talks the People's Party maintained that any settlement should be put to vote of the National Assembly. However, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman was set on his path of secession and nothing could stop him. He insisted that the two committees for the East and West Wings should sit separately ab initio. He refused to have a meeting of the National Assembly. Whereas three weeks earlier the announcement of the postponement had provoked the Awami League to go on a rampage. Sheikh Mujibur Rahman now did not want the Assembly to meet at all. Whereas previously he had insisted that all matters should be settled within the Assembly, on the 7th of march he raised a Four Point demand which, he insisted, should be met outside the Assembly before he would, to use his own words, “consider” attending the Assembly. Whereas he had said that there was o necessity for talks between the majority parties before the Assembly, he now insisted that his entire proposal should be settled by the parties without the Assembly meeting, even briefly.
The story of our endeavours made to arrive at an equitable constitutional settlement is well known and required no repetition now, Sheikh Mujibs rigidity left only two alternatives to General Yahya Khan, capitulation or military action. General Yahya Khan took the second course, he resorted to military action in the face of a movement which, let no one doubt, was secessionist. If any one doubts this then the first words of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman on returning to Dacca in January after ten months of incarceration should dispel doubt. He said that he had realized his dream of a sovereign, independent Bangladesh.
General Yahya Khan decided to clamp down not only in the East Wing but throughout the country. Martial Law was tightened and strict censorship was introduced. Public meetings and political activities were banned. There was to be o check on the Generals Junta, there was to be no limitation to its rule. They were the masters.
The final tragedy of December, 1971, followed the great tragedy of March, 1971, little purpose is served in recounting here the sordid details of the bloody and ignominious chapter in our history.
Limited military action was necessary as a last resort to counter secession, but through its own grave mistake the Generals regime began to lose East Pakistan from the very day it south to save it through military action. The regime pursued a policy of military subjugation of the East Wing. No effort, whatsoever, was made to win the hearts of our Bengali brethren, and in particular progressive forces were singled out for liquidation. As early as the night of 26th March, immediately on my return from Dacca to Karachi, I told the regime that East Pakistan could not be saved unless a solution of a political nature is found. I pointed out that military measures would become meaningless unless they formed a part of an overall political policy. East Pakistan had to be satisfied if it were to be saved – there must be an end to domination and exploitation, both political and economic. Long over-due economic reforms of a basic character had to be implemented without delay. If the correct course was not followed, why should East Pakistan want to stay as part of Pakistan – what stake would they have left in Pakistan with their inherent rights denied to them. I emphasized strongly the need and importance of a political solution to the crisis. But my advice went unheeded. The junta went on their merry way, after all why should they not – they were the rulers.
The regime continued its policy of attrition. It deliberately attempted to create a political vacuum. Realizing that the solution to the problems of East Pakistan would be made more difficult, if not impossible , if the situation was allowed to continue, I called for the transfer of power. This demand I voiced as early as 25th of April, 1971 at Lahore. The political problems of the country could be solved only by political, means and this would not be achieved except by transferring power.
Events were moving fast. On the 28th of June, 1971, General Yahya Khan, departing from his legal framework order, announced a new plan and time table for the restoration of democracy. He had decided to impose a dictated constitution on the people of Pakistan. He tried to get pre-acceptance of all political parties. All the other political parties acquiesced, if not supported, General Yahya Khan's plan of 28th June. But the People's Party resisted. In my first communication with General Yahya Khan, after the announcement of 28th June, I pointed out that he had o mandate to frame the constitution. Against all odds, the Pakistan People's Party pursued its struggle for the restoration of the peoples rights.
After the Indo-Soviet Pact was signed on the 9th August, 1971, the danger to Pakistan's territorial integrity became imminent. To save east Pakistan immediate political and economic measures were imperative more than ever before. But these issues were beyond the comprehension of the Junta.
On the 2nd of September, I told Yahya Khan's regime that if force and not reform is for a retracted period the main instrument of policy, then East Pakistan would be pushed beyond the pale, it was not a matter of year but of months before the limit was over stepped. Then again at the Quaid-i-Azam's mazar, on the 11th of September, I called for an immediate end to the rule of the Generals saying that the country was virtually on the brink of collapse.
In a major policy statement on the 29th on September, 1971, declared:
“It is our considered opinion that if democracy is not restored before the end of the year, it will be too late to salvage and save Pakistan…Let me now put everyone on notice that the present regime cannot cope with the mess”.
“O my people! Let this long night of terror and uncertainty come to an end”.
I also demanded that:
“The rule of the Generals must end and the people of Pakistan must take their destiny in their own hands.”
But no heed was paid to our pleas. For our advice we suffered further victimization. Our appeal for a political settlement resulted in General Yahya Khan's attempts to foist a puppet Government on the people of Pakistan.
General Yahya Khan planned to give a constitution to the people in a manner which, as I said on the 28th of November.
“Casts aspersion on the patriotism of every elected representative and puts the whole nation under a cloud of suspicion. It arrogates to an individual the sole authority and wisdom to determine the loyalty and affection of the whole populace to the motherland…It is clearly repugnant to the people's thinking and militates against the demands of the nation as a whole…..The scheme is neither acceptable nor viable.”
Meantime, the Indians had on the 22nd of November launched an attack on the eastern half of Pakistan. Instead of concentrating on Indian aggression, the junta continued in their efforts to entrench and perpetuate their rule. On the 3rd of December the war spread to the western front. By the 10th of December the first surrender message was conveyed to the United Nations from East Pakistan. On the 14th of December a formal surrender message was conveyed and on the 17th of December cease-fire was accepted in the West Wing. These are recent events still raw in our minds and do not require to be dilated upon.
In spite of all the concerted efforts and last-minute manoeuvring to retain power, General Yahya Khan was finally compelled on the 20th of December, 1971, to transfer power. The rule of the Generals was brought to an end—voice of the people prevailed. But military rule had resulted in the loss of half the country and the remaining half was also near disintegration on the 20th of December, 1971, when I assumed office.
Even on the 29th of September, 1971, I said:
“The call of the people's Party for the transfer of power reflected only the aspirations and wishes of the people who voted for the party, and it was our unshakable conviction that this was the only way to preserve Pakistan. With the Exchequer empty, the economy in chaos, with a directionless foreign policy, with a frustrated and angry population, transfer of power meant only the transfer of onerous responsibility. We know that no bed of roses lay ahead. But we had committed ourselves to the people of Pakistan to effect a grand reconciliation through socialism and democracy. We could not escape from this responsibility.
When I look back today on what we inherited on the 20th of December, the position in September appears rosy in contrast.
The circumstances under which I was called, on the demand of the people, to take over the ship of state on the 20th of December, 1971, are well known and, I hope, by now well understood. Desperate men who were blinded by their lust for power and seemed to have been possessed by a death wish, had first destroyed and then surrendered half the country to an aggressor. The other half was in imminent danger of destruction. The people of West Pakistan were lost and completely demoralized. Every institution worth the name, every field of human endeavour, was in total disarray. The air was thick with intrigue and conspiracy. An appalling defeat and disgrace had been inflicted on our unprepared people. Above all, the enemies of Pakistan were on top of us. Despite these catastrophic circumstance, I was duty-bound to the people to take over responsibility on that fateful day last December.
Let us all be quite clear about the reasons which led me to undertake a seemingly hopeless task. It certainly was not a hunger for power that influenced my decision—I was only inheriting death, destruction and humiliation, a virtual skeleton of a State. At such a time it is the basic obligation of every citizen to do his best by his motherland. But even more so I was compelled to accept this challenge because of my commitment to the people. My party had been given a massive mandate in the elections, and in the hour of supreme crisis it was our bounden national duty to try and save the burning ship of State, even if we perished in the effort.
My first priority, as I said at the time, was to restore the shattered morale of the people. This was absolutely imperative. For, without the collective response, without the active co-operation of the people, no leader and no government can hope to succeed even in normal times, let alone in the time of total crisis that faced us.
Thus, within a matter of hours of my accepting the awesome responsibility, several steps were initiated to come to grips with the situation, physically and psychologically. The Generals who had brought disgrace and destruction to the nation were removed and civilian authority established over the Armed Forces. A Commission of inquiry, headed by the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court, was appointed to inquire into the military debacle. These swift actions and the demonstration of my government's unshakable resolve to preserve Pakistan in honour and dignity dispelled at least some of the gloom and restored a measure of confidence amongst the people. A ray of light penetrated the depths of darkness in which the people had been made to fall.
So we set out on the long march to healing and reconstruction. Every-thing was crying out loud for immediate attention. Without loss of time we started picking up the pieces, moving simultaneously on several fronts, both at home and abroad—for it was, and still is, a race against time. Many of the immense problems that assailed our nation would certainly have over-whelmed us had we failed to move fast.
We had to contend with the consequences of Indian aggression and occupation, and the threat of further violations of our frontiers. Then again, the overwhelming majority of our people, groaning under a tyrannical system, needed immediate assistance and relief. On both these fronts, we have moved ahead notwithstanding the serious limitations imposed by the highly delicate national and international situation. We have proceeded within the framework of policy and basic philosophy which were the electoral platform of the Pakistan People's Party. There has been no deviation. There cannot be any deviation by a leadership which is rooted in the people, which derives its entire political strength from the people. We have in the short span of four months introduced many reforms. They are recent events, I do not wish to take the House's time unnecessarily by mentioning them here. Let history and the people of Pakistan judge our reforms.
The reforms that have been introduced by your government are only a first step, but a vital one, in the process of restoring to the people their inherent rights. When fully implemented, the reforms will bring about a constructive change in the existing structure and complexion of our society and will revitalize the fields of education, health, agriculture, labour and finance. Let me assure you that these measures are not going to join the dust heap of past reforms. They will be implemented, and implemented in full and with speed by your Government.
In the brief period of four months, the people's Government has worked ceaselessly to deal with numerous other problems as well. We have endeavoured to dismantle gradually the well-entrenched apparatus of the rulers, and, step by step, and frequently several steps at a time, tried to replace it with representative institutions and individuals at all levels.
Provincial governments are being established which reflect the majority parties in the Provinces. The Central Government includes representatives of other political parties to strengthen national unity.
While dealing with a multitude of problems in Pakistan and initiating actions to give a sense of purpose and direction to the nation, we had to salvage at the same time our position internationally. The folly and blunders of our predecessors had made us a target of abuse for the world. International public opinion, much of the world press and many powerful governments had turned against us. Even some of the friendly countries were beginning to despair of us.
Foreign relations had reached their lowest ebb in the history of Pakistan, and it was against this background that I undertook several lightning visits abroad to re-establish our position. In the hour of need, one inevitably turns first to friends and neighbours. My first journey abroad was a brief visit to Kabul which shows the importance we attach to our closest neighbour. I am happy to inform the House that I had useful discussions in Kabul.
On the subject of first visits, the first Head of State to visit Pakistan after the crisis was His Majesty the Shahinshah of Iran. We deeply appreciated this gesture of solidarity by the leader of a neighbouring nation. I would be failing in my duty if I did not here mention that, in every crisis, Turkey, the People's Republic of China and Iran have stood by our causes with unstinted and unhesitating support.
My first major visit abroad took me to the Muslim world—to Iran, Turkey, Morocco, Algeria, Tunisia, Libya, Egypt and Syria. The main we were taking a firm hold of our national affairs, to thank them for their past help and to seek their understanding for our grave predicament. Our Muslim brothers showed warm sympathy, understanding and support for our position. It was a mission of renaissance—the rebirth of our relations with the Muslim world.
My second mission outside the country was to the People's Republic of China. The Government and the great people of China have stood by Pakistan through all our trials and tribulations. As in the past, so they did again in 1971. We went to peking to express our gratitude in person. We returned further inspired and strengthened in the knowledge of their friendship and increased support.
Another country which upheld the fundamental principle of international law and morality in our moment of crisis was the United States. At the time of my appearance before the Security Council in December last, I had already visited the United States and conferred with president Nixon. Before December and subsequently, the United States played an honourable and forthright role in the crisis confronting the subcontinent, and we appreciate the support and understanding they have shown us.
Since assuming office, I could not go everywhere abroad myself—but I have sent personal envoys to the United States again and to several countries of Asia, Africa, Europe and the Middle East. They have explained our position and sought support for Pakistan. Two of my Ministers have recently returned from missions covering Japan, Malaysia, Indonesia, the Democratic People's Republic of Korea and the Democratic Republic of North Vietnam.
On the 16th of March, I went to the Soviet Union, our great northern neighbour, to repair our mutual relations. I am happy to inform the House that with out compromising our basic principles, we were able to convince the leaders of the Soviet Union that we desired peace in the subcontinent, and good relations with all States in our propinquity. I am glad that we have been able to normalize our relations with this Great Power and neighbouring State.
As a result of the reactivation of our foreign policy, I can safely say that there is today a much greater understanding of our position throughout the would. We are approached more in the spirit of constructive enquiry rather than as an object of derision and abuse.
The field of our immediate concern was, and continues to be, the consequence of Indian aggression. India has not only vivisected, to borrow a favourite Gandhian phrase, our motherland to create a new State by force: what is more, large tracts of what is left to us are also under Indian occupation. Then there are the 93,000 Pakistan prisoners of war being held by India in patent violation of the Geneva Convention and all norms of international conduct.
Hon'ble Members of the House:
When I assumed the responsibility of Government and viewed the debris, I resolved in my mind that the only sane course to follow was to seek an accommodation with India on the basis of an honourable and just settlement. Similarly, I resolved that though it was perhaps too late to bring what in Dacca they now call “Bangladesh” back to the fold in some form or the other, this had to be done and this required negotiations.
It was in the light of this genuine desire for peace and amity in the South Asian subcontinent that I made several gestures, principally the unconditional release of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. In addition, several approaches were made through third parties both to India and Sheikh Mujib for holding negotiations designed to bring lasting tranquility to our region.
There has been some limited progress but no spectacular breakthrough so far, but it is not for want of genuine efforts on our part. Instead of grasping our hand of friendship, both India and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's Sonar Bengal have been doing many things that can only stoke the fires of hostility and hatred. Non-Bengalis are being massacred in East Bengal in the name of secularism. Our prisoners of war are being ill-treated and provoked by the Indians. There are threats of war crimes trials.
We want to live in peace with India. We want Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to overcome his problems and his difficulties. For, we ardently believe that the people of the whole subcontinent deserve a better future than the constant friction and conflict that has marred their past. Our people, both theirs and ours, are too poor to live in a state of permanent hostility. We want to direct all our energies from wars of destruction to wars on poverty, illiteracy and hunger. We shall go on trying to resolve our differences and shall always remain ready to seize any reasonable opportunity to realise this supreme objective.
But what we do not want, and what no true Pakistani will ever accept is a dictated, imposed peace. Such a settlement, let us make no mistake about this, will mean subjugation and servitude, a living death. I shall never be a party to such an ignominious settlement.
We are prepated to resolve all our bilateral differences. But we cannot bargain State Principles for human flesh. The right of self-determination of the people of Jammu and Kashmir has not been bestowed on them either by India or Pakistan—it is their inherent right which no one can take away from them.
We made many overtures, took many initiatives, and now India has come back with its first positive response. Recently, I received a letter from the Prime Minister of India stating that India was prepared to discuss all outstanding issues unconditionally and that she seeks peaceful co-existence with Pakistan. My answer welcoming this approach has been communicated to her.
It is my earnest hope that the negotiations we are going to start will be conducted in a spirit of fairness. Given that kind of approach, there is no reason why we should not make a good beginning and resolve amicably at least the more pressing issues.
While dealing with our immediate problems with our neighbours, we have also to keep in view our long-term objectives in the changed circumstances. The severance of our eastern limb by force has significantly altered our geographic focus. This will naturally affect our geo-political perspective. The geographical distance between us and the nations of South East Asia has grown. This does not mean that we have lost interest in the welfare of their peoples. Nevertheless, at the moment, as we stand, it is within the ambit of South and Western Asia. It is here that our primary concern must henceforth lie.
There is the whole uninterrupted belt of Muslim nations, beginning with Iran and Afghanistan and culminating on the shores of the Atlantic with Morocco. With the people of all these states we share a cultural heritage, religious beliefs and a good deal of history. There is, thus, a solid community of interest which is further buttressed by the similarity of our aspirations and our hopes. Clearly, we have to make a major effort in building upon the fraternal ties that already bind us to the Muslim world.
However, I want to make it clear that our endeavours to strengthen further our relations with the Muslim States to the west of Pakistan does not mean that we, in any way, seek to reduce our own national identity and separateness.
Our position in Asia also inevitably makes our relations with our two giant northern neighbours, the People's Republic of China and the Soviet Union, of prime importance to us. Our ties with the People's Republic of China have always been close; their support in the recent crisis has forged an even deeper and more enduring friendship between us. As for the Soviet Union, I am glad to report that the discussions we held in Moscow pointed the way to a happier relationship and understanding.
While the Great Powers who are our neighbours are naturally of most immediate concern to us, we must also look to the colossal industrial and military powers whose policies have an intimate effect upon affairs everywhere. The United States of America has helped us generously in the past. With our policy of friendship with China now vindicated, the strain between us has been removed. And in view of the helpful attitude of the United States over he past few months, there is every hope of continued and deepening friendship between our countries. Similarly, we shall try to develop friendly bilateral ties with the major industrial states in Europe.
The question may be asked whether it is possible to have good relations with al l the Great Powers and yet maintain basic national interests? I say yes, as I maintained some years ago when I was foreign Minister. Yes, it is possible, if an ethical foreign policy based on fundamental national principles is pursued without taking a partisan approach to the Great Power differences. It can be achieved by pursuing a bilateral foreign policy of which, I can say with some pride, I wa author when I held office as foreign Minister.
Independence and self-respect must be the basis of our foreign policy. It was for this reason that we decided to leave the commonwealth, though the abandonment of long-held ties is never easy. But we want, nevertheless, to maintain and strengthen bilateral relations with the countries of the common-wealth. The recent visit of the British Foreign Secretary led us to hope for improved relations between our two countries.
When we speak of our foreign policy aims and objective, we have, of course, to remember that if would be a futile exercise unless and until we are a strong, united nation. In the absence of this essential prerequisite, we cannot hope to play a part even remotely commensurate with out reduced size, let alone our ambitions. Therefore, we have to shape our internal plans and policies in such a way that they held the people of Pakistan into a strong, vibrant and lively nation.
If we look objectively at our history and the state of our nation today, we shall have to acknowledge that the primary cause of our trouble and our weaknesses lies in the neglect and betrayal of our people. They have been treated like sub-humans, insulated at every step, deprived not only of their basic rights and needs, but also of hope itself. What crime have our people committed that they should have been so denied and abused? Are they not Muslims who fought and shed their blood for the creation of our sacred homeland? Their deprivations and their humiliations are a blot on our nationhood, and unless we recognize this we cannot even begin to set our house n order. Only through the sweat and sacrifice of countless millions of poor people was Pakistan created and only they can now preserve it.
Ironically enough, we now come full circle. At the outset of Pakistan, the rights of each individual Pakistani had been fully recognized. On the 26th of March, 1948, Quaid-i-Azam said:
“you are only voicing my sentiments and the sentiments of millions of Mussalmans when you say that Pakistan should be based on the sure foundations of social justice and Islamic socialism which emphasizes equality and brotherhood of man. Similarly, you are voicing my thoughts in asking and in aspiring for equal opportunities for all….”
Quaid-i-Azam Millat Liaquat Ali Khan reiterated this theme in August, 1949 by declaring…..
“There are a number of issues being talked about now-a-days. But we are convinced that for us there is only one issue, namely, Islamic socialism which, in a nutshell, means that every person in this land has equal rights to be provided with food, shelter, clothing education and medical facilities.
But it was not for over 20 years that the meaning of Islamic socialism was to be implemented. In the intervening time those who paid lip-service to democracy brazenly exploited the people and reduced them to an unparalleled level of humiliation and drudgery.
Hon'ble Members of the House:
All this has to come to an end now, and a tragic chapter brought to a close. The night of terror has given way to the dawn of a new era. In the ew beginning that we have made, the long suffering people of our land are out central concern and a sacrosanct responsibility. They are our real wealth and our most potent resource. I have made certain specific commitments to them, and, Insha Allah, I shall redeem al the pledges I have made. We are going to lift the burden of our poor people everywhere. We are going to give them a vital stake in our national future and well being. What is more, I am equally determined to remove in the shortest possible time all regional disparities. Certain decisions have already been taken doubling the allocation of development resource to Baluchistan and the Frontier Provinces. Other will follow.
Apart from the obvious requirement of justice and equity between man and man and between regions, there is a fundamental philosophy governing this approach. Our economic muscle and national cohesion can grow only with a just economic and social order. It is only when every peasant and every worker and the entire population of all the regions are convinced in their own mind that each one of them is striving and struggling for the good of all, that the creative energies of the entire nation will be fully harnessed. Otherwise, we shall not overcome our national crisis.
This total national effort is also imperative for another reason. We are exposed to grave external danger. The size and scope of the threat are such that it would be unfair to expect our gallant Armed Forces to meet it alone. Our brave people will have to share the burden with the valiant forces and stand shoulder to shoulder with them in the defence of our motherland.
In our egalitarian society, there is, of course, a place for everyone the worker and the enlightened industrialist and businessman, the peasant and the fair-minded land-owner. All can contribute to the challenging process of national reconstruction and national reconciliation. We must all pull together. I need and seek the constructive co-operation of every male and female citizen. I carry in my hand no magic wand. I alone can achieve no miracles. But with the co-operation of the people, we can move ahead rapidly on an exciting new course to finally create the Pakistan our Quaid-i-Azam set out to build, and for which millions have struggled and sacrificed.
The members of this House have a special responsibility. You, as the elected representatives of the people, must be the highest expression of their needs and aspirations. But as well as reflecting them, you have a duty to set an example and act as an inspiration to those whom you represent. The future well-being of our country lies in the success of this august House.
In the immediate term we have to fulfil the solemn responsibility of bestowing on Pakistan an Interim Constitution. Expectations in the country are high. In the selfish interests of a few, we should not be deprived for nearly a generation of a truly representative government. So often have the people been failed. Let not the people say that, when they are at least at the point of victory, their own representatives finally failed them.
I want to emphasise that our immediate task in these three days is to adopt for our people an Interim Constitution. The making of the permanent constitution will be the responsibility of the House when it reconvenes on the 14th of August, 1972, after a committee of the House prepares and presents a draft constitution on the 1st of August.
There were two main options possible for us as the basis of the Interim Constitution the Government of India Act, 1935, with consequential amendments, or the 1961 constitution with consequential amendments.
In these dark an difficult days it was decided to go back to the creation of Pakistan to recapture the idealism and fervour of the Father of the Nation. So we are adopting the constitutions with which they began the task of building Pakistan. We have consequently settled for an Interim constitution based on the Government of India Act, 1935, read in conjunction with the Indian Independence Act, 1947, with consequential amendments.
In adopting the Interim constitution the House does not abandon any position it may take in making the permanent constitution for the country neither in the precise form of government nor in the exact measure of autonomy for the provinces. These require detailed discussion and debate and this the House will fully enjoy when it reconvenes on the 14th of august,. The draft of the interim constitution, which is before you, provides for a parliamentary form of government. It also provide for the measure of autonomy which the provinces enjoyed prior to the imposition of one unit in the west wing. Similar autonomy is enjoyed by the states of India. The House may, in the exercise of its year long constitution making powers, commencing from the 14th August, decide to supplement this measure of autonomy or make any other provision. We have deliberately not made any major departure from the original enactments this is in order to allow the house a free hand in making the permanent constitution. The draft of the Interim Constitution provided for its own amendment, during the same period, prior to the finalizing of the permanent constitution. The Minister for Law and parliamentary Affairs in moving the Bill for the Interim Constitution will explain its salient features in more detail.
For several good reasons it was decided to have a short session with limited debate. The purpose is to allow, for an early return of constitutional government based on the Interim Constitution and consequently delay the return to constitutional rule.
Hon'ble members of the distinguished House:
This great day, in fact this very minute, I have a most decisive announcement to make. In my hand now I have the commitment and pledge of over one hundred Members of this august Assembly to vote for the approval of continuation of Martial Law till 14th of August, 1972. I am thankful to these Honourable Members. I am particularly grateful to those who, although belonging to other political parties, have reposed their confidence in my leadership and my judgment. They know full well that I will not retain martial Law one day longer than in absolutely necessary. This way my commitment to the people of Pakistan. It was my commitment to those over 100 members comprising more than 70% of the present strength of this House. It is in deference to them and not to those who played with the safety and security of the State that when and only if this House adopts, on the 17th of April, 1972, the Interim Constitution now before it, Martial Law will stand lifted on the 21st of April, 1972. in that event the commencing day of the interim constitution shall be the 21st of April, 1972 and not 14th August, 1972. despite the internet risks in the situation, I have decided that for the confidence reposed by over 100 members amongst you for the sake of the people of Pakistan who joined me in my struggle against Martial Law, we should accept these risks and the challenge that goes with them. This demonstrates my commitment to democracy and my infinite faith in the people. With all the pwer to the people, we are determined to build democracy to establish socialism under the guidance of Islam to make this Islamic Republic of Pakistan a haven of happiness for the people and a pillar of strength in the comity of nations. We are the harbingers of a new order pulsating with pragmatic idealism and in tune with the symphony of the Third World.
This is the message of the new Pakistan, destined to vindicate her honour, I salute our people, I pay homage to their sacrifices, I bw ni tribute to their resolve to recreate a new path trailed with glory.
This is the cry of the people. I hear it clearly. As a Muslim I swear by Almighty Allah that we shall cross the broken bridge to reach the mountain peaks even if my blood is shed in the process. And how can a man die better than facing fearful odds.
History beckosn us, and our people are ready to march forward. Do we, the Members of this distinguished Assembly, have the courage and wisdom to lead our people towards their cherished goal, Democracy? As the Qauid said: “Democracy is in our blood. It is in our marrow.” When the fruit of democracy s within our reach, shall we now fail to grasp it?
Let us indeed remember the Quaid-i-Azam's words: “Failure is a word unknown to me.” Such resolve and determination brought Pakistan into being. The people of Pakistan have been failed too long, they have too long been denied their rights. We have failed to honour the Quaid's pledge of Islamic Socialism. We have failed even to safeguard the integrity of our country. We cannot afford more failures.
Let us together resolve to banish the word failure from the vocabulary of Pakistan. Let us build our own success, and Insha Allah we shall realize the dream of Pakistan.
I thank you. Pakistan Zindabad.
On the conclusion of his address, while replying to a motion of thanks by a member who also demanded trial of Gen. Yahya Khan and his advisers for their alleged role in the dismemberment of Pakistan, the president said: “The question s that this matter is sub Judice in a way, because the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court alongwith the Chief Justices of the High Courts are holding secret enquiry, and as soon as the findings for the court of enquiry are known, certainly we will take concrete measures, but until the enquiry is completed it would not be appropriate for us to make any bold or positive statement which will unnecessarily influence the court of enquiry.