President Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto said the Opposition had no justification in demanding fresh elections after the permanent Constitution was framed and introduced.
In a broadcast over the radio and TV he said his party had been elected for five years and had every right to have this much time to implement its manifesto.
The President said that in a parliamentary system it was always left to the judgment of the Government of the day to decide as to when fresh elections should take place during its tenure.
He said the Opposition was demanding fresh elections because they were defeated by the people in the last elections. It was shouting for elections so that it could go to the people and allege that the People’s Party had not fully implemented the pledges made to the people, and thus try to misguide the people and manipulate the polls.
The President said Pakistan People’s Party would implement its manifesto during its tenure and was not afraid of going to the polls. He said there was only one election in the country during the last 25 years. But the Opposition was demanding fresh polls only after two years. “They do not have patience to wait for five years although they waited for 25 years.”
The President said the Opposition wanted to go to the polls prematurely because they did not want to give time to the People’s Party to fulfil its pledges to the people and bring out socio-economic development in the country. He said the People’s Party had, during the last one and half years, implemented its manifesto and introduced reforms in every field rapidly.
The President, however said: “If I feel there is genuine public opinion favour of fresh elections, I would agree to it.”
The President said he had to play a role in the service of Pakistan, whether as the President or in the Opposition or as and ordinary citizen. He said the People’s Party had been given the responsibility to rule this country by the people who had reposed confidence in it. “We shall not be crowed down by any threat which will be crushed with the support of the people. We shall not surrender to any junta or coterie.”
The President also referred to the demand of the Opposition for forming a caretaker Government and said: “They want this because they can never be elected and put in office by the vote of the people.” He said the people of Pakistan can safeguard their democratic rights. He trusted the people and appreciated their power.
President Bhutto said it was an insult to the people to demand formation of caretaker Government. “It is unique and absurd suggestion”, he added.
“How can an executive leave the office and give it to a Judge of the Supreme Court?” The President said the judiciary, executive and armed forces had their own responsibilities to discharge. “I cannot take over the day to day work of the judiciary and armed forces,” and the others cannot perform duties of the executive, he added.
The President said the Opposition wanted that the whole establishment should relinquish its responsibilities to the judge. “Is this not a coup d’etat against democracy?” he asked. The world shall laugh at us, he said.
President Bhutto said it was in the tenure of its office that the party in Government should hold elections at a time of its discretion.
In 25 years the country had one election on universal adult franchise. In two years, they wanted another election.
Referring to the example of fresh elections in Bangladesh cited by the Opposition, the President pointed out that this case was entirely different. Mr. Mujibur Rahman had created a separate country after secession from Pakistan.
He said his Government was confronted with a multitude of internal and external problems since its induction in December, 1971. “It has been a mammoth fatiguing session from the day we took over the office.”
He said his party was not afraid of elections and that he was sensitive to public opinion, a point also acknowledged by the Opposition. If he felt the public opinion wanted elections then, despite all the internal and external problems, he would submit to it.
The President ridiculed the “unique” Opposition demand for constitutional provision for a caretaker Government for holding elections and asked where in the democratic world such a practice existed. He said if there was any country following the path of madness, he would not like Pakistan to do so. Why should Pakistan be made freak of all experiments, he asked.
He said the Opposition was demanding a caretaker Government with the intention of getting into Government to manipulate the elections in their favour. Any party enjoying people’s support would not like a caretaker Government.
Guarantee of free elections was in the hands of the people and adult franchise was, therefore, the best safeguard, he added.
The President said in direct elections the whole nation goes to polls and he failed to understand how the Opposition could say that the entire people could not safeguard democracy. This meant they did not trust the people and had no confidence in them. If the people could not ensure free elections, then no contrivance could do that. “It is an insult to the people to demand such contrivances.”
He said if one could get into the Government without getting elected, then what was the use of winning the elections. It would be better to lose the elections.
Mr. Bhutto found no justification in the suggestion for giving the responsibility of caretaker Government to judiciary and asked if this principle were to be accepted, then why not a military General take this responsibility.
He described this as a juvenile and undemocratic approach reflecting sheer desperation of those making the demand. “Why should we make monkeys out of ourselves because we want to be in the Government?”
He pointed out that the taking over of gubernatorial responsibility by a High Court Chief Justice in the absence of a Provincial Governor related to one individual and not the whole executive.