Tomorrow I am leaving for discussion with the Prime Minister of India. I want tot take this opportunity for talking to you, fellow citizens, my brothers and sisters. I want to share with you the problems which confront us. I want to share with you our hopes for the future.
We are going ro India in circumstances which are but a part of the tragic legacy we inherited. The war we have lost was not of my making. I had warned against it. But my warnings fell on the deaf ears of a power drunk Junta, they recklessly plunged our people into war and they involved us in an intolerable surrender which lost us half our country. The Junta did not know how to make peace nor did they know how to make war. Four divisions, fully equipped, were surrendered into enemy hands within fourteen days of the conflict. Over 90,000 of our people are now in enemy hands.
A first-class fighting machine had become dispirited and degenerated through continued involvement in domestic politics. Degeneration and a lack of national purpose had seriously affected all our institutions and all lack of national purpose had seriously affected all our institutions and all our attitudes. The country was on the edge of a political, economic and moral collapse.
This is the tragic situation with which we have had to deal. We have come a long way from those dark December days. Our people have been revitalized. Our Armed Forces are, under new leadership, recapturing the motivation which made them the finest in Asia, our economy is on the road to recovery.
Some disgruntled men of yesterday have the temerity to question why we are going to India. Were they asleep last December? Do they think that we should not seek the return of our prisoners of war? Do they suggest that we should allow Indians to continue their occupation of two tehsils in Sind and one in the Punjab? Do they think that we can remedy the situation by going to the Moon? We must go to India to talk about these matters just as the Indians earlier came to Pakistan.
The past 25 years has been as era of confrontation and war in the subcontinent. With what result to the peoples of the region? They remain among the poorest most under-fed, illiterate, ill-housed and disease-ridden in the world. It has been a heavy price and the heaviest has been paid by the poorest in the Last.
The people of Pakistan sacrificed everything, including political and economic progress, in order to build the defences for confrontation. Those who gave their blood and tears for Pakistan had to wait a generation for the advent of democracy. We had lost our hopes for the future. We have lost the largest part of our country. The history of the last 25 years makes pitiable reading.
All this must change. We must concentrate our efforts on serving the people, on introducing an era of economic growth. This does not mean that we will reduce the strength of our Armed Forces. The defence of our motherland will continue to be of supreme concern to us, but we will have to reorientate our outlook to build a new, strong and vibrant Pakistan.
The people of Pakistan must see some prosperity and progress—they have endured much hardship and sacrifice, they have suffered too long. They have a right to the chance to realize the dream which inspired the creation of Pakistan. To provide such a chance we are going to India in search of a durable peace in the subcontinent. We hope that the Indian leaders share the same sincerity of purpose.
I believe that we should give peace a chance. For nearly three decades we have quarreled while the rest of the world watched us with cynical amusement. In order to find a modus vivendi, to live as good neighbours, we must have a dialogue. That is the civilized method. The Americans are meeting the Chinese at the level of Chief Executives. At the height of the Vietnam war, peace negotiations continue. And the U.S.Soviet summit took place in Moscow at a time when war clouds were thickening.
We believe in listening to the other point of view, in making and demanding adjustments where adjustments can be made without compromising fundamental position. One reason we have failed over the years is because of the basic unwillingness to discuss issues with each other. Let us exercise this option now in our search for peace with honour.
Peace certainly cannot be imposed and yet remain durable. It must be equitable and acceptable to both India and Pakistan. It is an inherent contradiction to think that a one-sided settlement can only lead to durable peace. It can never be lasting. It can only lead to continued instability and war. This is the lesson of history.
The Treaty of Versailles which ended the First World War in Europe attempted to impose a humiliating peace on the German nation. In 15 years it was overturned and a few years later the world was submerged in a massive and bloody conflict without parallel. If we do not learn from history, we will never learn.
To achieve durable peace in the subcontinent, the existing obstacles must be removed. The consequences of the last war must be eliminated. Our prisoners of war and civilian internees must be returned, and withdrawals of the Armed Forces must be arranged forthwith. As far as the authorities in Dacca are concerned, there must be an end to the talk of war trials: and a responsible attitude must be shown towards the non-Bengalis, and the Bengali federalists, allowing them to live as honourable citizens, free from persecution.
The issue of the prisoners of war is of the most immediate concern to our people. Tens of thousands of families have been deprived of their fathers and husbands, sons and brothers. Your government has taken every measure to alleviate the hardship this has caused, but no amount of moral and material support can provide a substitute for the absent ones. Our people have shown fortitude in the face of their affliction, and, if necessary, will bear with continued separation. But India has no justification, moral or legal, for continuing to detain our men. She has flagrantly violated the Geneva conventions by holding our people prisoner for 6 months. If by doing this, the Indians think they can force us to accept humiliating terms of peace, they are mistaken. As I have repeatedly said: “We will not barter principles of state for human flesh.”
In total violation of the resolution passed by 104 member States of General Assembly of the United Nations on 7th December, 1971 and by the Security Council on the 21st December, the Indians have refused to comply with the demand for withdrawals. How can peace be achieved unless the fruits of aggression are first relinquished? Nearly one million of our people have been rendered homeless by the continued illegal occupation of our territory. This is not the way to establish durable peace. The Indians must without further delay arrange for withdrawals of the Armed Forces.
By a curious exercise of logic, they say that they cannot return our Military personnel, nor can they withdraw from our territory, without first arriving at a permanent peace settlement. Surely, this is putting the cart before the horse. It is only by the return of our people and the withdrawal of Forces that we can hope to pave the way for a permanent peace.
The Indians would also have us abandon the right of self-determination for the people of Jammu and Kashmir. But how can we, it is not our right that is in question. It is right—the birthright of the people of Jammu and Kashmir. The principle of self-determination is universally accepted. This right of the people of Jammu and Kashmir has been enshrined in numerous resolutions of the United Nations and acknowledged by Prime Minister Jawaharlal Nehru, the father of the present Prime Minister.
It is for the people of Jammu and Kashmir to assert or abandon their right of self-determination. It is for us to adhere to principles. We will not forsake our principles, whatever the consequences.
The Indians also seek a readjustment of the international frontier between our two countries to remove “irrationalities,” as they term it, but in effect to acquire more territory. Are they not satisfied with the seizure of Hyderabad, Junagadh and Manavadar, with their occupation of Kashmir, with the dismemberment of our country? By peace do they mean further expansion? There can be no peace at the expense of our sovereignty.
Peace in the subcontinent depends on justice and goodwill. The people of Muslim Bengla have truly been through a terrible ordeal. Perhaps more than anyone else, they require a period free from strife in the Land and build it anew. This they can do by putting behind them events of the recent past. I do not believe that talk of war trials and the ill-treatment of non-bangalis and Bangali federalists can in any way contribute to peace in the future. Instead of moving forward, such measures lead back into they past, a past which has been only of a negative and destructive nature.
The people of Muslim Bengal are our brothers. Together we fought for our independence. Today we are estranged, but need this estrangement be permanent? This is something we have to settle with the leaders of Muslim Bengal. It concerns our two peoples. India has no locus stand in the matter. This I have repeatedly stated. It cannot be settle on the soil of India.
I hope to meet Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and then put the outcome of our discussion to the people through the elected representative in the National Assembly. In fact, there is no question of by-passing the National Assembly in any matter of fundamental national importance.
The task which lies ahead in our discussion with India is not an enviable one. But we cannot escaps from it. The people of Pakistan have reposed their confidence in me and I must fulfil the duty I owe them. The unanimous vote of confidence in me passed by the National Assembly confirmed and reinforced my mandate from the people.
The crisis from end to end is not of our making. You and I warned against it. But now it is there in its fullest force for you and me to confront. I ask you to put yourself in my place. For a moment think that you are me. For I am indeed yours, in war and in peace, in distress and in joy.
Fellow citizens, ask yourself what you would do if you were in my place—further destroy Pakistan, or endeavour to make it? How would you negotiate if you were seeking to reconstruct Pakistan.
If we are determined to make Pakistan, and vindicate national honour, you will have to exercise wisdom and patience. Slogans are wonderful but in their own place. There is a time for slogans and there is a time for reflection. There is a moment for chauvinism and another for restraint.
While the people have always seen fit to place their trust in me, I too have always reposed my confidence in them and sought their guidance and inspiration. It is for this reason that before undertaking the present mission to India, I have consulted a wide cross-section of people to explain the situation and seek their views.
Some individuals have said that there was no necessity for my holding these meetings as I am armed with the mandate of the people. But I remain firmly convinced that a dialogue with the people is a continuing process. Too long they have been denied this dialogue, and we only have to look back to December to see the results.
In the last two weeks I have talked to leaders in every field, to elected representatives, politicians of every shade of opinion, Ulema, intellectuals, editors and journalists, lawyers, teachers, students and labourers. I have also met the commanders of our Armed Forces. For the first time in the history of Pakistan, representatives of all sections have been involved in matters of vital national concern at the highest level.
I have undoubtedly gained from these exchanges as I hope have those who participated in them. The consensus that has emerged will guide me during our discussions in India.
It is heartening to know that as I go to India I carry with me the prayers and support of our people. You may rest assured that I will never let you down. I have never failed you. I shall never fail you. I hold as a sacred trust the faith and confidence you have reposed in me.
Apart from the people of our country, I have also consulted our friends and neighbours abroad. As part of this process, I have also visited peking and Moscow, and recently sent a Special Envoy to these two capitals.
As you all know, my last Mission took me to 14 countries in the Middle East and Africa. This was in continuation of my earlier visit to eight Muslim countries in January.
The support that has been shown both at home and abroad will immeasurably strengthen my hands in negotiating terms of peace. Let no one doubt that these terms are still to be negotiated.
A final settlement cannot take place in the forthcoming negotiations with India. A decision on fundamental issues can only be taken by the people through their chosen representatives. I am going to hear what the Indian leaders have to say. I shall put our views to them. I hope we shall find some common ground for a lasting peace. I hope we can set the tone and the pace for a lasting modus vivendi.
Whatever proposals are made, they will remain dependent upon the will of our people. Whatever the outcome of the Simla meeting, its acceptance or rejection will not be for me alone to decide but for the whole nation, by you who are listening to me tonight.
The history of relations between India and Pakistan is indeed melancholy. It is one of missed opportunities and distrust. It has cost the people of the subcontinent. If the Indians reciprocate with sincerity, I believe, we can make a new beginning.
The search for peace is long and arduous. We cannot in one stroke wipe our past bitterness and suspicion. We cannot clear the heap of history in one heave. We have to move forward step by step. And at each step sincerity on both sides will be put to test.
We are prepared to discuss, now and later, abut all issues within the framework of principles. There have been negotiations in the past with India right from 1947. there can be negotiations in the future. Discussions in the past may have failed to resolve the issues. But so has the alternative—war. And the failure of talks, you will agree, is less costly than that of war.
It is better to talk directly than through intermediaries. With this in view, we are prepared to resume diplomatic relations with India. After all we did not break diplomatic relations in the 1965 war, and our Ambassadors continued at their posts till the conclusion of the last war.
For that matter it will be of mutual benefit if we reopen communications, letters and telegrams can be exchanged, over flights can start again. And it would no doubt be of benefit to the people of the region if a measure of trade were resumed in good time after due deliberations.
But this is anticipating. We have made many gestures to India, we have offered a hand of peace and, in token, the unconditional release of the Indian prisoners of war in our custody. Surely, it is now upto India to demonstrate her desire for peace in deeds rather than words. But so far India has not made a single constructive gesture to herald a new era in our relations.
We desire peace but not at any price. We desire peace but not at the expense of our principles and honour. Let no one doubt this axiomatic proposition. I repeat we seek a just and honourable peace, a peace at the service of our people.
We have a difficult task ahead, a task made all the more difficult by certain forces at work in Pakistan. It is not coincidence that just before my departure, labour and language troubles should erupt in Sindh. And what has made those individuals who were calling in January for the immediate recognition of ‘Bangladesh’ say in June that in no event should recognition be accorded? Who is trying to create dissension in the reborn unity of the nation?
They are not patriots. They are not friends of Pakistan. They are not friends of our people. They merely pose as patriots and friends of the poor. In truth, they are enemies of the people. They have plans afoot to make trouble during my absence and after my return. But you and your Government will not allow these anti-people elements to successd in their nefarious aims. We will crush them with the power of the people. We will not permit anyone or anything to play with our Pakistan, Insha Allah. Nothing can stop us from together building a new and vigorous Pakistan. Nothing can stop us from keeping our appointment with destiny.
The challenge is there both for you and for me. Shall we grasp this moment or shall we let it pass? I declare to this new generation of Pakistan that with your trust and confidence in my judgement, we shall cross the broken bridges and reach the mountain tops.
I beseech you in the name of Allah and in the name of Pakistan, to give me your prayers and your good wishes. With your support I cannot fail.