President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto addressed a meeting at the District Council Hall of some 2,000 office-bearers of 140 labour unions affiliated to the Sarhad Labour Federation. He told the trade union leaders that the plank of his party’s politics was based on economic progress of the country so that the masses can a better life, free of poverty, economic exploitation and ignorance. His party did not believe in what he called “political politics” but in “economic politics.”
The President expressed his distaste for dirty politics which had been the order of the day in the dismal past. “We have come to serve you, “he said. He appealed to the working people to extend their fullest co-operation and corruption to the Government in facilitating its task. Past regimes ruled by exploitation and corruption but the present Government has set the pace for politics of the people’s weal. Politics in the past was ruined by a slide to self-interest in which national interests were set aside leading to separation of one part of the country. There were several factors behind this, but he would not go into the background of this tragedy at this moment. He would only say that if the past governments had roots in the people, no one could have dismembered the country.
Referring to the question of recognition of Bangladesh, the President said that the people would decide about matters of a fundamental nature, but they should take a correct decision. There is no need for haste, but we should also be prepared to suffer the consequences of a needless delay. Unless an appropriate decision is taken, India would continue to hold our prisoners of war, he said.
The nation, he said, should take one decision. As for “those young men who think their opinion is correct, they should talk to us and convince us or be convinced.”
The President said: his Government was not afraid of threats hurled by drawing-room politicians. “We know the nature of their threats and what they can do,” he said.
The President referred to increase in prices of sugar, wheat and some other commodities and said it was the result of the last war. However, the Government on its part had spent foreign exchange worth Rs. 60 crore to import sugar so that there was no scarcity of this commodity in the country. In a lighter vein, he advised the people, nonetheless, to consume less sugar because it carried the threat of diabetes.
The President urged workers to display cool-headedness in seeking solution of their problems and to increase production. The Government was not afraid of the slogan of unity of labour, because it had gained its strength from the unity of workers. The Government was equally keen that political consciousness of labour should be enhanced because “it would strengthen us.”
Only the governments which are against labour are afraid of their unity, he said. Those who do not want the poor to prosper are lackeys of exploiting forces and vested interest.
The President referred to reforms introduced by his Government during the past ten months and said in the circumstances this was all he could do. Workers can help in economic recovery and progress by increasing production.
The President said his Government was not afraid of slogans of revolution, because his party had ushered in a kind of revolution too. However, there is a time for genuine revolution and it comes only when there is need for it. In China, revolution came 20 years ago. Coups by Ayub and Yahya cannot be termed revolution. They were a fraud because change of government by illegal means cannot be described as revolution.
He said that his Government must be a revolutionary government otherwise Khan Qayyum Khan, Arbab Sikander and Hayat Sherpao would not be sitting in one place.
APP adds: Turning to the question of provincial autonomy, the President said it was a “legal and political necessity” for Pakistan.
He pointed out that provincial autonomy was also enjoyed in China, the Soviet Union and India. But, he said, so far as the question of national development was concerned, there could be no provincialism. A people’s government could not discriminate in this matter and it would spend the money wherever it was needed.
The President recalled that he started his movement against Ayub Khan’s regime from Dera Ismail Khan in the N.W.F.P. as he did not entertain any discrimination. He pointed out that the whole nation was united on ending dictatorship and he could start his movement from any place. If it had not been so, support of any one district or province would not have achieved success.
He said that the N.W.F.P. was the province of not only those living in it but of the whole country.
The President, again stressing the necessity of well considered decisions by labour, said the microphone was a “very dangerous thing” as those standing before it and its listeners could be carried away to create a “storm.” But he added that when a storm is created, “a wall has also to be erected to stop it.”
He said that sometimes labour could be happy with the Government and at times angry. However, he assured the labour that even if they are angry at any time, “ we shall not be disillusioned with you.”
Referring to the assurance of labour support of the Government given in the4 address of welcome presented earlier, the President asked the workers to “support us until we are with you. When we don’t serve you and we don’t have that spirit, you don’t support us.”
He said that he had not established kingship or dictatorship in the country. “We have laid foundations for democracy.”
The President said that he would not agree that labour was being misled because similar charges had been leveled against him during his movement against dictatorship when sacrifices were needed. But he asked the workers to take decisions after considering the merits and demerits in all matters.
The President asked the workers not to support him at every stage and every time but if he does anything against their interest they had the right to disagree.