Speaking at a civic reception given in his honour by the people of Peshawar at the Services Ground, President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto declared that no decision about Bangladesh would be imposed on the people who would have to decide the issue themselves, but at the same time warned those threatening to launch movements that the elected Government was fully capable of dealing with them with the help of the masses.
The President appealed for a cool, rational approach to the Bangladesh recognition issue, keeping in mind that the host of thorny issues between the separated parts of Pakistan could only be decided after a dialogue made possible by establishment of some kind of contact with Dacca.
A number of major issues hinged on the Bangladesh question, he said, so the people should not take a hasty decision. They should carefully consider every aspect and then give their verdict, which should be realistic and just. There had to be some sort of contact with Dacca, so that a dialogue could be started for settlement of outstanding issues. The nature of problems also called for an early decision. Unnecessary delay, he said, would be harmful.
The President said: this is a democratic era. Those having different points of view on Bangladesh should sit together and discuss the matter. In this way one could prevail upon the other through mutual discussion. This was also the proper and democratic way.
The President said: because no decision would be taken against the will of the people, there was no need to launch any movement. He would go to every nook and corner of the country to talk to the people because he did not believe in closed-door politics. But now a movement was being threatened by some antiquated elements which had opposed the creation of Pakistan and now wanted to weaken it.
“So let them start the movement”, he said.
“We know how to deal with such movements.” Ayub Khan had all the police at this command but he still could not stop the people. “We have not only the police but the people of Pakistan with us. But there will be no need to make use of the police. The people alone will deal with such threats.”
He said that the drawing-room politicians who were threatening to launch movements against the democratically elected Government because it was not doing what they wanted, should not forget that it is a difficult task. Not all movements can succeed. Their success depends on the cause, aim and timing and the caliber of elements behind them.
The President said these drawing-room critics talk big but do not offer an alternative. How could Pakistan hold talks with the Dacca regime without taking basic decisions, he asked.
The President referred to the changing pattern of world politics, with old antagonists and separated peoples coming closer, such as China and United States, the two Germanies, the two Koreas, without compromising on principles. In Pakistan's case, too, there would be no sacrifice of principles. But then merely propagating principles does not solve problems which are aggravated by wrong decisions at the wrong time.
The President declared that he would make every effort to guide the people in the right direction, notwithstanding the critics. This was what he was doing now in N.W.F.P. He recalled that once it had been a fashion to denigrate socialism but he had made the people understand that socialism posed no threat to religion. Now the detractors of socialism cut a sorry figure. Today also he was going to the people to tell them what was in the interest of the country and what was against it.
Turning to a recent statement by the Indian Foreign Minister, Sardar Swaran Singh, the President said that Pakistan is fully prepared to meet any eventuality. He declared amidst cheers that Pakistan could not be cowed down by threats from any quarter. “If India wants to live in peace with us, we are ready, but we are also prepared to meet the threats.”
The President said once an agreement had been reached it should be honoured by the parties concerned. But if somebody changed his mind and wanted to go back, on it, it could not be helped.
The President expressed his determination to make Pakistan self-sufficient in defence requirements. It would undoubtedly take time, but without it the nation could never taste real freedom. Self-sufficiency in arms and armaments, he pointed out, was necessary to withstand foreign pressures. Once the people of Pakistan were prepared to make sacrifices. Pakistan could manufacture even tanks. But this should not frighten anyone. There can be no aggressive motive behind the desire for self-sufficiency in weapons.
Referring to the all-parties constitutional accord the President said he would not like to comment a great deal on it because a political party is presently holding meetings to discuss it. He said the agreement has already been signed by all parliamentary parties, but every party is entitled to take decisions of its liking “and we cannot stop them. “ However, if they take some other stand, we are prepared for it also, he said.
The President stressed that in the matter of constitution there was no question of personal likes and dislikes. It is the interest of the nation as a whole that counts. He did not want to impose a constitution like Ayub Khan. This was the job of parliamentary parties. He said although one party having a majority in the National Assembly could legitimately claim the right to frame a constitution, it did not want to do so because “we do not want differences on the constitution.”
The President said if certain people opposed this method of framing the constitution and vetoed it, the responsibility for the consequences would be squarely on their shoulders.
Turning to other domestic issues, the President underlined the need to concentrate on basic industries. The country did not need Coca Cola and Fanta factories, he said. The people can live quite well on simple water and ‘sherbat.'
He earnestly appealed to the working class to extend the fullest co-operation to his Government. “If the people give me more time,” he said, “ I would transform the condition of the people of Pakistan.”
The President said that his Government was endeavouring to achieve self-sufficiency in food, because without this, the country cannot be really free. Presently, he said, that there was a gap of ten lakh tons of food-grains. “If we work for increasing production to fill this gap there is no reason why we should not achieve self-sufficiency in food,” he said.
On the subject of landlord-tenant disputes in Hashtnagar, President Bhutto emphasized the need to solve this painful problem through negotiations. Both parties can be called for discussions at which a just decision could be reached. “We have to do a great deal to improve the lot of the peasants who are the country's main foreign exchange earners,” he said.
The President also appealed to students to devote themselves to studies, maintain discipline and avoid unnecessary digressions. He did not favour restrictions on them, but these would only come if there was a genuine reason.
Referring to the backwardness of the Frontier Province, he said he was fully conversant with problems facing the people here particularly in remote areas. All of us should join hands in fighting poverty, he said, but if we continue to take wrong decisions only the people would suffer the consequences.