My dear countrymen:
I am addressing you tonight on the anniversary of a day when a broken and baffled Pakistan resolved to make a new beginning, to renew its purpose and resume its national vocation. I realize that there is nothing sacrosanct about anniversaries. You will recall that neither last year nor in 1973 did I find it necessary to address you on this day. Life is continuity, the problems of one day flow into another and perspectives emerge only over a course of time. Even so, I believe that this is as good an occasion as any to share my thoughts with you and take stock of our national situation.
We cannot assess the state of our Republic in isolation from our international environment. My countrymen, you will know that the world is passing through a tumultuous phase, unique in contemporary history. In this time of flux and peril, we have firmly anchored ourselves on a foreign policy which is based on principle yet in accord with realities. It is a policy born out of a considered appraisal of our own experience and our geo-political situation. It takes into account the interplay of global forces as they impinge upon us and upon the region in which we are placed. Broadly, this policy has helped us to maintain and consolidate cordial relations with countries whose friendship with us has stood many tests and brought us strength in days of trial. This policy has also enabled us to enter into a dialogue with other countries with whom our relations were subjected to much strain. Pakistan today enjoys friendly relations with all Great Powers. Our country wishes to avoid involvement in the rivalries or antagonisms of these Powers. The balance and sanity of our external policy, its motivation and the scope of contacts have won the appreciation of our people.
Pakistan’s new place and role in world affairs
The foreign policy of Pakistan demonstrates a new recognition of Pakistan’s place and role in the world. The convening of the Islamic Summit Conference in Lahore, the lifting of the ten-year old arms embargo by the United States, the election of Pakistan to the Security Council in a straight contest with our larger neighbor, the new relations of amity with Bangladesh with no involvement in its internal affairs—all these testify to the rapid strides we have made since the time when a dismembered and discredited Pakistan stood isolated in the world. Join with these the release of 93,000 prisoners of war from Indian captivity without the threatened trial of even one of them by Bangladesh and the vacation of 5,000 square miles of our territory, without any compromise of principle or abandonment of a rightful position.
We acquired new sources of aid and the increased cordiality of our ties with the Great Powers and the fraternal countries of Iran, Saudi Arabia, Turkey and other Muslim States. We must also bear in mind our broadening contacts with Europe and the diplomatic relations we established with several countries in recognition of the emerging realities. In the light of these and other achievements it is fair to say, that there is no major objective of our foreign policy which we did not accomplish during the last four years.
Promotion of inter-state relations
But it would be totally unrealistic to suppose that this releases us from all anxieties. Until there is a genuine normalization of interstate relations in South Asia and until an equilibrium is achieved by the Great Powers in their mutual relationships, there will be stresses on the situation in our region.
It was with a sincere desire to promote the normalization of inter-state relations in South Asia that we recognized the bitter reality that the eastern wing had separated from us. We cannot forget that the people of Bangladesh and Pakistan had a common history. We struggled for Pakistan together. We made sacrifices to achieve a common homeland. It was only natural and normal, therefore, that we were the first to recognize the new Government in Dacca last August. We did not need anybody’s approval nor do we owe an explanation to anyone for our fraternal policy towards the people of Bangladesh.
Let us not forget that, in both South Asia and the Middle East, effective steps are yet to be taken to consolidate peace. Let us not also forget a still existing quest for hegemony in cur region. Also, how can we ignore the piling up of armaments in our region? We have made it clear that we desire to pursue the path of peace outlined at Simla. We have also made an offer to Afghanistan to have talks with her on the basis of non-interference in each other’s internal affairs. Until these efforts bear fruit, we cannot lower our guard. Apart from maintaining a credible defence posture, we have to strengthen our national unity.
The maintenance of a credible defence posture and the strengthening of our national unity have greatly helped us to achieve our main foreign policy objectives. Our foreign policy is based on principles cherished and supported by our people. Our foreign policy has stood the test of time and it has helped in the renaissance and revival of our State.
National unity for survival
Your Government is under an obligation not to allow any agitation or subversion which is calculated to bring aid and comfort to those who do not wish Pakistan well. Nor will it allow any one to divide and weaken the country. National unity, a grasp of current realities and their ramifications, perseverance in the efforts we have made, the refusal to be diverted from our objectives—these are the inescapable conditions of our survival in these times of peril and promise. As far as it lies in your Government’s power, I pledge to you that these conditions will, Inshallah, be fulfilled.
My dear compatriots:
I have said earlier that the last four years have been years of challenge for Pakistan. Nothing in these years has caused us greater anxiety, a more continuing concern, than the economic situation. Prices are high. The honest citizen who earns his bread through his toil is hard hit by the high cost of living.
There has occurred an unprecedented global recession combined with inflation from which Pakistan could not possibly insulate herself. Just when we were planning a leap forward, there took place an upheaval in the world economy which has shaken countries far richer than ours. This is a plain fact which no one can deny or should ignore.
While, however, this flood of world-wide inflationary pressure has been there for all to witness, it is not commonly realized that this disastrous economic crisis was superimposed, in our case, on a situation of declining investment in our economy since the late sixties. What we have experienced during the recent past was the combined result of both these factors. When we took over, there was a neglect of infra-structure. There was very little increase in productive capacity. There were critical shortages in power, water and transport systems. Agriculture and industry were starved of new investments.
Let us not dismiss from our minds the picture that presented itself during those dark and dismal days of 1971. I need hardly remind you of the dire prognostications of economic collapse which were made immediately after the separation of East Pakistan.
In rupee terms, Pakistan’s trade with present day Bangladesh was roughly as much as its trade with the rest of the world. This trade was no longer possible. Exports had to be diverted to foreign markets and production to be changed to different specifications. Raw materials were scarce. Stocks of essential commodities were exhausted. Foreign exchange reserves were depleted. The country was regarded hardly credit-worthy after the moratorium on debt servicing in May 1971. Demoralization was writ large on the entire economic scene.
Revival of economy
The measures taken in the first few months of 1972 set a new framework for the revival of the economy. The diversion of trade from East Pakistan to international markets was completed within a short period. During the last financial year, our exports exceeded one billion dollars, showing a 60 per cent increase over the combined exports of East and West Pakistan before separation. This happened at a time when growing difficulties were experienced in international trade due to the world economic situation.
Revival of production was a more difficult task. There had been a decline in both agricultural and industrial production in 1971-72. This disastrous trend was arrested during the first year of our office. Despite the fact that the last financial year was particularly bad because of the combined impact of world recession and shortage of water, it registered a revival of production. During the three years between 1972 and 1975, the national income of Pakistan increased by 15 per cent and industrial production by as much as 20 per cent.
In spite of the impressive strides made by us in the economic sphere, we still have an acute balance of payments problem because of a steep rise in import prices. We cannot solve that problem without higher productivity and effective import-substitution. We must achieve much larger increases in production, through higher per capita output and optimum use of machinery. But no judgment of the current situation can be valid if it ignores the dismal situation which was inherited by your Government. Nor can any such judgment be sound if it dismisses the facts about the other developing countries which face the same problems as Pakistan. The growth rate in these countries is less than 3 per cent a year, while our growth rate is higher. But we should not be complacent on that score. We have taken important steps to increase investment in the economy. The period up to now has only witnessed our efforts to create new productive assets and bring about new capacity. We have yet to reap the benefits of this new investment.
In 1971 when we assumed office the economic base, as I said before, was eroded by years of decline in investment. The private sector was making no new commitments and public sector resources were not enough to make progress on any single project. We brought about a basic change in this situation. The public sector investment has gone up from Rs. 2,600 million in 1971-72 to Rs. 13,700 million for the current fiscal year. Private investment is beginning to shake off its sluggishness. It is estimated at over Rs. 6,000 million in the current year against Rs. 3,550 million in 1971-72. Considering higher prices, this is not a very substantial increase in quantitative terms. But it represents the investment of a much larger number of investors in small and medium business and not the investment of a few in big industries.
Even the big investors are also seeking permission to set up new industries. As the world economy recovers, there will be a revival of demand for Pakistan’s exports and a gain of momentum in investment.
It would, therefore, be altogether untrue to say that we have no cause for satisfaction and no ground for hope. We have come out of the world economic crisis, not unaffected, but relatively unscathed. This is borne out by several facts. We have maintained and somewhat even improved consumption levels for the majority of our people. Today per capita consumption of food-grains, clothing and vegetable ghee is better than it was in 1970 and 1971.
We have increased defence expenditure from Rs. 3,720 million in 1971-72 to Rs. 7,030 million in the current year. At the same time, we have increased the level of investment, private and public, in the economy from less than Rs. 7,000 million in 1971-72 to more than Rs. 17,000 million in 1974-75. The results of this investment will be available in the coming years.
Increase in production
Thus, my compatriots, while we cannot make light of our current difficulties, it would be the worst kind of pessimism to suppose that they cannot be overcome. In the next fiscal year, production will start in our first new major fertilizer factory at Multan. This will be followed closely by the new fertilizer factories at Mirpur Mathelo, Sadiqabad and Hazara, making Pakistan surplus in nitrogenous fertilizers.
With the increased use of fertilizer and completion of Tarbela repairs, food-grain production will sizably increase. The Karachi Steel Mill is expected to start production by 1978-79, providing a sound industrial base for our economy. The country has already acquired capacity to produce sugar and cement plants. For the next five years, we will be setting up two sugar mills every year based on domestically manufactured machinery.
I know that there are people who will cynically dismiss these prospects. Such cynicism is lethal for a people’s morale. By itself, it can undermine the confidence on which alone a nation’s economic progress ultimately depends. At the same time I know that the overwhelming majority of our people will combat this poison us negativity in both word and deed. There are no magic wands with which we can conjure instant prosperity. It is bound to be a long haul. Now that we have overcome the extremely severe problems which we inherited from the past, we can move to plan for the future and attack the problems faced by the people in a more comprehensive manner.
Our people too have an important contribution to make through reasonable consumption of commodities which erode our balance of payments position. Some increase in our imports is unavoidable for an increase in our productivity. But take the case of tea alone: We consume tea worth Rs. 800 million every year! Surely, we can abstain from such lavish consumption. I mentioned Rs. 800 million as our annual expenditure on imported tea only to illustrate how high our consumption of a not-so-essential commodity is. With this amount we can build a hydro-electric station, an irrigation dam or even a large university.
My fellow citizens:
While your Government is keeping the overall economic situation under constant review, it misses no opportunity to bring about whatever sectoral changes are necessary to remove historic iniquities and bring about a new economic order.
Tax exemption for small landholders
In my address on 10 November to the toiling tillers of our land, I announced the remission of land revenue in the case of small landowners. We thus took a measure which successive governments through many previous decades had proclaimed as their objective but failed to accomplish. Let us for a moment survey the scope of this profound reform.
In colonial days, exemption from the payment of land revenue was granted as a special favour to Jagirdars or the privileged feudal aristocracy. By exempting the small landowner from this imposition, we swept aside this colonial heritage and banished for ever the myths that were spawned by it. Unlike all previous governments, we squarely faced the fact that the imposition of land revenue on those who could least afford to pay it was an intolerable and unethical burden. By abolishing it in the case of small landowners, we granted relief to 7.4 million people out of the total farming population of 8.9 million in the country. Thus 83 per cent of the agrarian populace has benefited from this measure. The total farm area in Pakistan is 58.3 million acres. Of this acreage, the owners of 24.5 million acres, or 42 per cent, are now no longer subject to land revenue.
The monetary index of this reform does not reflect its value in social and psychological terms. By undertaking it, the State has identified itself with the interest of the small landowner who is the under-privileged. Hitherto, revenue payments made by illiterate farmers were on many occasions misappropriated, with the result that they were declared as defaulters and subjected to hardship and indignity. Then again, the small landowners were over-assessed by patwaris and overcharged by lumbardars. This measure, along with those that we introduced in 1972, is another major step in our programme for a radical reformation of our rural sector.
The administrative reforms introduced by the Government in 1973 were in fulfillment of the pledge given by the Pakistan People’s Party in its election manifesto that the legacy of colonial rule would be wiped out and the governmental machinery streamlined to respond to public needs.
We cannot ignore the important role which members of the administrative services play in the implementation of the decisions and the reforms introduced by this Government. It is with their assistance that we seek to translate our philosophy of reform into reality. The administrative reforms which the present Government introduced were in keeping with the advances made in the developed countries of the world. Our policy is not based on narrow and fleeting considerations. It is our sincere desire to reward talent and promote stability in the administrative services.
System of speedy justice
My fellow citizens:
The urgent need to provide for a system of quick and speedy justice has been the concern of this Government for the past four years. We have been considering the Hamoodur Rahman Law Reforms Commission’s Report as well as the Report of a High-powered Law Reform Committee. We have been mindful of the crying need to bring the legal system and the dispensation of justice in conformity with the socio-economic imperatives of a post-colonial, developing country. No Government that calls itself progressive can afford to be oblivious of the abysmal physical condition of the lower courts in Pakistan and the hardship of a day in court faced by lawyers and the public alike. The crippling burden of litigation is indeed becoming unbearable. The law’s delay has come to constitute a scandal of grave proportions. This must be removed and it can only be removed if legal procedures are simplified and substantive changes effected in criminal law.
I can cite examples galore of the proverbial law’s delay. There are many reasons for these delays. It is pointless to mention each one of them. However, much of the evil is caused by the acute shortage of facilities and the lack of competent magistrates to man our law courts. Even more delay, however, is caused by the tiresome legal procedure laid down seventy-seven years ago under the Code of Criminal Procedure. This Code requires, for instance, the adherence by Magistrates to a time-consuming procedure for the trial of what are called “warrant cases”. Then again, in a murder trial, the case goes first to a Magistrate who institutes what are called “commitment proceedings”, records all the evidence relevant to the charge, comes to a preliminary finding and then refers the case to a Court of Sessions where, many months later, the evidence is recorded all over again, putting the accused through what are in effect two separate trials for him. People are aware also of the much-too-oft-resorted to adjournments in ordinary trials by Magistrates, the frequent transfer applications made with a view to delaying the trial and resulting often in a complete stay of proceedings. These are only some of the procedural delays that occur in our courts of law. I mention them because we have decided to remove from the statute books these constraints on the speedy disposal of criminal justice.
Modification of code of criminal procedure
The Code of Criminal Procedure is being modified. Section 526(8) of the Code requires a Court to adjourn a case if any interested party informs the Court that he intends to make a transfer application. Experience has shown that this provision is usually abused by parties in order simply to delay proceedings. We are, therefore, providing that proceedings should not be stayed on an application for transfer being made, though the final decision should not be announced till the disposal of the transfer application. We are also doing away with the unnecessary requirement of calling experts to come and physically confirm in Court on oath that they actually wrote the reports which they did. Henceforth, reports of ballistic, fingerprint and other experts will be admissible in evidence without calling the authors of the reports as witnesses, though the Court will retain its power to summon them to testify if the judge so considers necessary in the interest of justice.
We have decided to do away with commitment proceedings. Henceforth all cases exclusively triable by the Court of Sessions will he disposed of according to the procedure for trial of warrant cases with certain modifications. Thus, while on the one hand, the lengthy preliminary magisterial inquiry preceding trial by a Sessions Court will be dispensed with altogether, the trial procedure in the Sessions Court itself will also be simplified. In addition, the procedure prescribed for the trial by a lower court of warrants cases will be completely abandoned. Instead, these Courts will be required to follow the more expeditious procedure prescribed for summons cases with certain modifications.
Powers of the courts
The legislation which we contemplate will empower Sessions Judges to transfer cases from one Court to another. They will also be given the same powers of revision as are conferred on the High Court by Section 439 of the Criminal Procedure Code. Courts are being empowered to take cognizance of certain offences like perjury and contempt of Court and to try such offences summarily. In such cases the High Court and the Court of Sessions are being empowered to sentence the accused for up to 5 years’ imprisonment, while First Class Magistrates, Civil Judges and Collectors are being enabled for the first time to award sentences of up to 3 months’ imprisonment or a fine of up to Rs. 1,000 or both, for these offences. This provision is being made to simplify legal proceedings in such cases and also to invest law courts with the authority- to uphold their dignity.
The powers of the Magisterial Courts are also being enhanced. A First Class Magistrate’s power to award a sentence of imprisonment will be increased from Rs. 1,000 to Rs. 5,000. A Second Class Magistrate’s sentencing power will be increased from six months to one year and his power to fine from Rs. 200 to Rs. 1,000. All these measures are designed to make the judicial system more effective.
Release on bail of the convicted
The protection accorded under the law to an accused person is in conformity with the cherished principle that a man is innocent until proved guilty. Nor is he conclusively proven guilty until his right of appeal has been exhausted. It often happens, however, that a person found guilty by a subordinate court and appealing to a higher court remains confined as a convict pending a much-delayed decision on his appeal. This state of affairs is plainly oppressive and defeats justice. We have, therefore, decided to empower the Appellate Courts to order the release of a convicted person on bail if his appeal is not decided within a specified period after his conviction. Through this provision we are deliberately putting a high premium on speedy decision of appeals. We will thus oblige the judicial machinery to act quickly. If it fails to do so the delay will benefit the prisoner. The accused person is also being made a competent witness for his own defence. He may now give evidence on oath in disproof of the charges against him, but he will not be required to be called as a witness except on his own request and his failure to give evidence will not raise any presumption of guilt against him.
While we are proposing changes in the law, we are also taking administrative steps for the better dispensation of justice. The Government is deeply conscious of the fact that many of the grievances against administration of justice result from the shortage of judicial officers, courts and facilities. The Provincial Governments have, therefore, been asked, for a start, to earmark a number of magistrates, say forty per cent of the total magisterial strength at their disposal, for whole-time judicial work. Dispensation of justice is being decentralized. Mobile courts will be set up in the larger cities to dispose of offences relating to traffic and municipal laws. We will also earmark funds for undertaking urgent repairs of existing court buildings and construction of new court rooms in a phased programme.
While these reforms will, given public cooperation, go a long way in providing cheap and ready justice to the public, they will not with one stroke completely revolutionize the system. We do not shrink from more radical judicial and police reforms, but we cannot undertake them in haste. We want a smooth transition. Law is after all the basis of all organised society. It is too fundamental to be tampered with without due and mature consideration. The reforms I have outlined tonight are only the first phase of what the Government proposes to do in this field—a first cautious step because we do not want any dislocation in the country’s judicial system. An Ordinance to give legal form to these reforms will be promulgated tomorrow.
Amendments in civil procedure code
A beginning will be made in the near future in introducing amendments also in the Civil Procedure Code as a part of our legal reforms.
I am not entirely satisfied with the results shown by the law enforcing agencies. This cannot be for lack of trying. I know that large majority of their members are hard-working and dedicated, and that the tasks before them are formidable. But this is not an excuse. The Government is ever conscious of the law and order problems and devising ways and means for ensuring better security for all segments of society, in particular for the common man. My directive to the law enforcing agencies is that they must serve the common man; they must satisfy him and remove from his mind all feeling of insecurity. Government is always conscious of the needs of the law enforcing forces. It has given their members encouragement and support in several forms—rations and other amenities. We shall continue to give close attention to all their genuine needs.
Functions of federal security force
The Government has also created the Federal Security Force to supplement the police force in extraordinary situations. This is the function of F.S.F. It is not an army or a parallel army, as some Opposition elements viciously assert for promotion of their warped ambitions. The F.S.F. is a microscopic force. The equivalent of such a force exists in most countries. Its charter is clear and its duties have been unambiguously defined.
Priority to problems of armed forces
Our armed forces have received the closest attention of the Government during the past four years. And this is as it should have been, for the defence of this sacred land of ours is our paramount responsibility. In four years more structural and institutional changes have taken place in the armed forces than in the entire history of Pakistan. I cannot speak about them in detail. But I can say this: Our efforts in the sphere of defence are for defence and security of Pakistan; they are not for aggression. I can also announce that we are promoting the concept of an integrated system of defence. In the near future we shall have a Chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. For the first time in our country’s history, your government has established the vital Ministry of Defence Production. Recently, a Secretary-General has been appointed to coordinate the functions of the two departments—Defence and Defence Production.
The main core—the Armed Forces are now supported by Janbaz Force, the Mujahid Force, the Women’s Guard and the National Cadet Corps. These supporting units, all part of the National Guard, have been created or strengthened as a result of the structural and institutional changes and additions I mentioned earlier. I am aware of the problems of the Armed Forces—of such problems as are caused by shortage of residential accommodation. I am giving all their problems the highest priority with a view to solving them. Some relief has been given in the past and as our resources permit more will be on its way in the future.
A just society
Our aim is the construction of a just society through such means as will maintain steady progress and prevent upheavals. Nothing is more vital to this concern than education and no section of our society can play a greater role in the building of the future Pakistan than that of students and teachers. Discontent is the prerogative of youth. There is no substitute for learning, no short-cuts to the acquisition of knowledge and the skills which will make the students of today the leaders of tomorrow. Pakistan is a struggling country. Its struggle for an honorable existence will be foredoomed if our students dissipate their energies and turn away from the tasks of construction.
Increased expenditure on education
In the last three years, our investment in education has increased in proportion with the importance we attach to this sector of supreme national importance. The overall expenditure on education has increased from Rs. 710 million in 1971 to Rs. 2,489 million this year. Provision of free schooling up to the tenth class, nationalization of nearly 3,400 privately managed educational institutions including 145 colleges and the transformation of about 25,000 teachers in the private service of indifferent, and often commercially motivated, individuals, into full-fledged Government servants—all these are important measures but they were expensive. But they have been implemented in full not only to give relief to students and parents but also to confer on the teaching profession the status and the dignity which are its rightful due. A vast network of scholarships has been interwoven into the education system. The aim is to ensure that no boy or girl of merit throughout the country is deprived of educational opportunities merely for want of financial means. The annual expenditure on scholarships alone is over Rs. so million now. This is further supplemented by liberal interest-free loans to outstanding but economically constrained students for studying in the professional fields of education.
New schools and universities
During this period of four years, 6,500 new primary schools, 900 middle schools, 407 high schools, 51 Intermediate Colleges and 21 Degree Colleges have been opened with special emphasis on the areas which were hitherto denied of these facilities. This is besides the four new Universities which have been established at Multan, Bahawalpur, Dera Ismail Khan and Khairpur. The People’s Open University is another innovative venture which has started functioning from Islamabad.
Books on subsidized rates
A few years back, Pakistan was a virtual desert as far as books in general and foreign text-books in particular were concerned. They were not only scarce but highly expensive. This situation has been changed by importing and locally reprinting hundreds of thousands of copies of essential books and making them available to students at heavily subsidized rates. To cater to the requirements of poorer students, Book Banks have been set up in most institutions and over 400,000 copies of text-books have already been supplied to them.
These are just a few of the measures that have been implemented not only to improve facilities but also to modernize the content of education by revising the syllabi and curricula and strengthening the agro-technical bias in the warp and woof of our education system.
In the years to come, these innovations and facilities will not only be continued and consolidated but will be progressively advanced to meet the targets of the new Education Policy. However, I am in a position to announce some modest measures which will be immediately taken in hand.
New facilities for students
To begin with, 7,000 hostel seats are going to be added to the existing accommodation in the near future. I am not unaware of the difficulties and deficiencies faced by college students in many of the existing hostels. Directions have, therefore, been issued that fans, water-coolers and pay-telephones must be provided in each and every hostel in as short a time as physically possible.
Then there is the chronic difficulty of student transport. The problem is vast and the physical means to solve it are essentially limited. However, we are determined to solve it in a phased programme on a priority basis. I am confident that, in a short span of time, the colleges and institutions facing transport difficulties will be provided with their own buses. Otherwise, suitable arrangements will be worked out with the local transport agencies to ensure that the required transport facilities are reserved and placed at the disposal of the institutions concerned at the opening and closing hours of each working day.
I am conscious, my young friends, that these are not spectacular measures. But your country is not so opulent as to make radical breakthroughs where financial means are required. I am announcing these measures tonight along with others, because I wish to assure the students that their affairs are never outside my attention. Students are our most priceless asset. They are a part of the community dearest to my heart.
A fair deal to labour
My toiling fellow citizens:
You know that the Pakistan People’s Party has pledged itself steadily to ensure justice for the worker. We have based our policy in this field not on any obsession but on the unquestioned truth that a system which fails to assure labour a fair deal is inherently unproductive. If we wish to increase production, as we must in order to fight poverty, we have to give the worker a sense of participation in the national enterprise.
I am proud of the Pakistani worker. I am proud of his learning capacity, his love of the machine, his skill and precision and his diligence. But an exploitative system leaves him listless. Only an equitable one can bring the best out of him. Without a harmonious tripartite relationship between the worker, the employer and the Government, there can be no progressive economy and no sound social structure. That is why we have frequently held large-scale conferences at which the views of all the three sections have been fully represented.
Labour reforms praised by ILO
It should be a source of satisfaction that, through our efforts, we have changed Pakistan’s status in the field of labour from one of the world’s most backward societies to one that has begun to set examples for other developing countries. The fourth Asian Labour Ministers’ Conference held in Tokyo in October 1973 noted with satisfaction the creation in Pakistan of an effective machinery for improving the conditions of labour. The International Labour Organization Seminar on Industrial Relations held about the same time in Karachi paid tributes to our comprehensive labour reforms. A senior official of that organization stated that the reforms introduced by us for labour welfare in our first 18 months in office exceeded in scope and magnitude all those which had been taken in the country during the previous 18 years. My Government’s policy is to fully implement ILO’s thirty conventions which have been ratified by Pakistan. Previous governments allowed a wide gap between ratification and implementation. We are determined to eliminate this gap. Twenty-nine out of these thirty conventions have been implemented and the provisions of the remaining one are being translated into legislation which will be laid before Parliament.
Labour welfare measures
I do not wish to list each and every one of the steps taken by us for labour welfare in the organized sector of our economy. I have deep respect for the awareness and memory of our people. But the new decisions I shall mention tonight can be seen in a perspective only in the context of measures introduced earlier. When we assumed office an employer could throw a worker out of his job without assigning any reason. Such insecurity for the worker would never permit a healthy relationship between him and the employer. In 1972, we imposed some reasonable conditions on the dismissal of a worker. In 1973, we instituted Labour Courts for the speedy redress of workers’ grievances. We also introduced a scheme for workers’ participation in management. This scheme provided for 20 per cent participation by workers in management committees set up at factory level. We also doubled the workers’ share in the profits of factories and other undertakings. Before we assumed office, there was no provision for group insurance. It now covers all establishments employing so or more workers. The gratuity that was available to workers at the rate of 15 days’ pay per year of service was increased to 20 days’ pay per year. Prior to 1972, there was no statutory provision for the payment of any bonus to workers. There is a law now making the grant of a minimum bonus compulsory under certain conditions. We abolished the workers’ contribution to the Social Security Fund; instead, the employers were made to increase their contribution from 4 to 6 per cent. We enhanced compensation rates under the Workmen’s Compensation Act. We imposed a cess on all employers for the education of workers’ children. Our Education Policy provides for the remission of fees and the grant of a number of scholarships for higher education to the children of low-paid employees. Despite current financial stringencies, we gave workers cost-of-living allowances: Rs. 35 in 1973, Rs. 50 in 1974 and Rs. 25 this year.
We thus did the best we could to cushion the worker from the shock of higher prices.
We keep the situation under continuous review and we do not wish to rest on our laurels. We contemplate progressive reforms. The only condition we impose on them is that they satisfy the demands of human justice and higher production alike. We have recently taken full stock of the present position and I am happy to announce that we have found it feasible to make some substantial increases in the amenities due to workers. Let me set out the reforms which are soon going to be embodied in appropriate legislation.
Old age benefits
The Labour Policy announced in 1972 provided for some old age benefits for workers through group insurance, increased rates of compensation and higher rates of gratuity. We have now come to the conclusion that this is not enough. We are, therefore, introducing a scheme of old age benefits which will provide the payment of Rs. 75 a month to workers after retirement at the age of 55 for men and 50 for women, on condition that the worker has completed a minimum of 15 years’ insurable employment. This will apply to all factories and establishments employing 10 or more workers drawing monthly wages up to Rs. 1,000. Workers who become invalid after 5 years of insurable employment will also be entitled to benefits under this scheme. Those who are too old to complete is years of insurable employment on the inception of this scheme will benefit from it if they have completed 7 years.
It is the practice in other countries where similar schemes operate that workers generally contribute along with the employers towards their old age benefits. In view of our conditions, however, we do not wish the financial burden of this scheme to fall even partly on the worker. It has been decided that the scheme be founded through a contribution from employers to the extent of 5 per cent of the wage bill.
Another measure which we have decided to institute is to increase the workers’ participation in management. At present the workers’ share in management committees is to the extent of 20 per cent. This will now be enlarged to 50 per cent. The area of operation of the management committees will he extended to the regulation of daily working hours and breaks, the preparation of leave schedules and matters relating to order and conduct of employees. It has further been decided to set up Joint Management Boards at enterprise level in which workers will have at least one-third representation. These Boards will look after improvement in production and efficiency, fixing of job and piece rates, planned regrouping or transfer of employees, formulating the principles of remuneration and facilities for contracted labour. In order to make these Boards really effective, it will be obligatory for employers to nominate either Directors or senior executives as the representatives on them. The Boards will have the right to call for such basic and legitimate information about the enterprise as will make the workers’ participation in management fruitful.
Houses for workers
The third area of labour welfare of which the Government is acutely conscious is the provision of housing for workers. If we had the means, we would not rest content until we provided a built-up house or a set of rooms to each worker and his family. But the country’s resources, as you know, are severely limited. The best we can do under existing circumstances is to develop and make available plots to workers. It has been decided to provide at least 20,000 developed plots to workers within a year. In addition, the Provincial Governments have been advised to reserve for workers 5 to 20 per cent of plots in new schemes for low cost housing, depending on the extent of the industrial component in a given city.
Education of workers’ children
The fourth area where Government aid for labour welfare is urgently necessary is that of the education of workers’ children. With this in mind, we have issued orders that collections under Education Cess be used solely to finance and promote the education of workers’ children. Specifically, the fund will be devoted to the supply of text-books, the payment of examination fees and other school charges for educating one child of a worker up to matriculation.
Social security cover
We are conscious of the demand of workers to extend the coverage of social security. To meet this demand, we have decided to raise the wage ceiling prescribed for coverage under the Social Security Scheme from Rs. 500 to 1,000. Side by side, instructions have been issued to devise all measures necessary for improving the working of the existing scheme.
Promotion of healthy trade unionism
The fact is recognised that the Pakistan People’s Party Government seeks to promote healthy trade unionism in the country. Without wishing to abridge the workers’ rights in this behalf, we cannot be oblivious of the concern expressed by workers about the damage caused to the trade union movement by the undue proliferation of unions. To check a mushroom growth which brings discredit to them, we have decided to take certain measures for the registration of new trade unions and also to strengthen the position of the collective bargaining agents. These will include the mandatory requirement that, in any establishment where there are two or more unions, an additional union should have at least 20 per cent of the workers as its members. Moreover, workers will in future be entitled to membership of only one trade union at a time. Representation on their behalf to the Labour Court or the employer can in future be made only by the workers themselves or the collective bargaining agent.
This is a set of measures which, I am confident, will inaugurate an era of industrial peace based on a mutual recognition by workers and employers of each other’s rights and obligations. We must start this era by ending bitterness and banishing past strife. We shall, therefore, permit the withdrawal of cases from Labour Courts with the approval of these Courts. In addition, we will provide that the total period for which a worker can remain suspended shall in future not exceed four weeks unless the matter is pending with the Conciliator or a Labour Court. Furthermore, workers will not in future be charged with misconduct without the due service of a charge sheet within one month of the date the misconduct comes to the employer’s knowledge. Another step towards creating a harmonious atmosphere that we have decided to take is to advise Provincial Governments immediately to withdraw a large number of cases against the workers.
An Ordinance giving effect to these labour reforms will be issued on 23rd December, 1975.
With such assurances of equity, the workers can now join with employers in a national drive to increase production. Such methods will be devised to measure productivity as will be acceptable to both workers and employers. Given an enhancement of productivity, a corresponding increase in the worker’s share in profits will logically follow. We wish production to thrive in the country. Only with steadily rising production can the prices be brought down and the blight of poverty be removed. Only then will the worker turn the promise of today into the reality of tomorrow.
Beneficent role of government
My brothers and sisters:
Your Government maintains a critical watch on the situation close to the country’s borders. In this review I have also mentioned how the Government works steadily to enhance Pakistan’s standing in the international community. At home the Government devotes its energy to improve our economy, to undertake reforms in whatever sector of our society these are feasible, to end exploitation, to curb social evils, and to maintain the preparedness of the nation for its defence and security. It is incredible that while the Government is thus engaged there should still exist elements that would like to plunge Pakistan into despair.
Enemies of Pakistan want chaos
Patriots hoist the national flag on important days; they never raise black flags. Black flags are a symbol of mourning. Are they appropriate for this vital, buoyant, resilient country which has braved many challenges and overcome many dangers? I put this to the people. Their answer cannot but be an emphatic “No”. But I can understand why attempts are made to observe black days. Every day that we maintain domestic peace is a black day for those who would want Pakistan to be ripped apart by discord and violence. Every day that we frustrate the designs against our integrity is a black day for the secessionists. There is not one but a number of black days in store for the exploiter, the smuggler, the architect of violence, the merchant of hate. They raise black flags because they would like the people to foreswear their self-respect, to abandon hope and become pawns in a chess-game in which they want to checkmate Pakistan.
Subversion will not succeed
Let them realize that they will not succeed in deluding the people of Pakistan. It avails them little to pretend that they wish them well and that they wish the country no ill, that they subscribe to the Constitution, that they wish to employ only lawful means for their agitation and that their object is only to remove the country’s Prime Minister. What is the Chief Executive of Federation of Pakistan except the person who has been mandated by the people to exercise executive authority? To seek to remove him by any means except those provided in the Constitution is to subvert the Government and throw the country into a cauldron of chaos and to destroy the Constitution. Let no one entertain even a dimmer of hope that anything save the people’s verdict will bring about a change of government in Pakistan. It has firmly and finally rejected government by intrigue. It has left behind forever the era of coteries. The sooner these adventurers understand Pakistan’s historical advance, the better it will be for their own political future.
Proper role of opposition
This is a time for reflection by all of us. It is time for the Opposition to realize that they cannot preach violence in one breath and of a new vote by the people in the next. They must become more responsible and be accepted as such by the people. The Opposition must become national in character, spirit and action. In this way they will be serving the cause of democracy. As far as my party and Government are concerned we are always ready for a dialogue. But the agenda must be worthy of a discussion at the national level. Petty and personal grievances must be set aside. Larger issues concern the people of Pakistan whose service must be the first and foremost concern.
This brings me to the situation in the country since I addressed you on 31 October. I then spoke to you in the context of the verdict given by the highest judicial tribunal in the land which fully confirmed my Government’s view of the aims and activities of a party which claimed to be the Opposition. That party was found guilty of seeking to undermine the very basis of the nation’s political life. I said then that this called for a sober assessment of our national politics and an understanding of the proper roles of Government and Opposition in a democratic society. I was happy to observe that, by and large, the more responsible political elements in the country did show signs of reflection. But there are others who are so moved by spite, so morbid in their hate of the Government that they persisted in refusing to face the truth. These included those who had not only acquiesced in the activities of NAP but unabashedly vouchsafed certificates of patriotism to it. The judicial seal which had been put on the Government’s own finding on NAP offered these people a chance of atonement. That was the time for these people to retrace their position, to absolve themselves of their past errors, and to contribute to the nation’s political progress. But they failed to avail themselves of this opportunity. The result is that they are still lost in a labyrinth of their own making.
Rules of political dialogue
Need those be lost for ever who are basically patriotic but might have been misguided? I return a firm ‘no’ as the answer to the question. Given a clear understanding of the rules of political dialogue and activity in a democratic society, there is no reason why the more responsible elements cannot redeem themselves and deserve not only the Government’s tolerance but also its respect. We ask for nothing more than an observance of the rules especially applicable to Pakistan. I would suggest that reasonable rules would be:
1. A group or party must owe wholehearted loyalty to Pakistan’s sovereignty, territorial integrity and national unity;
2. It must aim at the change of government and government’s policies through only constitutional means;
3. It must not try to incite one province against another and thus cause disruption of the fabric of our unity;
4. It must refrain from actions which are likely to create a sense of insecurity in the people and subvert the Constitution.
These rules are more or less axiomatic. No patriot should have any difficulty in accepting them. No one should belittle the people’s intelligence and under-rate their judgment. They can judge everyone’s calibre. They can assess everyone’s capacity for service. They cannot be manipulated.
Glorious future ahead
My countrymen, I am emphasizing this point tonight because there is need on the part of all concerned to take a sober view of the shape of the nation’s political affairs. I do not wish any patriotic element in the country to succumb to depression or despair of their role in Pakistan’s onward march. General elections are no more than one and a half years away. We have firmly chosen the democratic path and we know how to pursue it. I see a glorious future for our country. I see reconciliation ahead and not division, adjustment not conflict, dialogue not venom, cooperation not futile confrontation, responsible Opposition not incitements to violence.
If the nation remains united, which Insha Allah it will, and perseveres towards its goal, I am confident that Pakistan will be steadfast, free, tranquil and progressive in this age of turbulence and tension. It is for such a Pakistan that the Government is working. It is for such a Pakistan that I have struggled and will continue to struggle till my last breath. This goal we have set before ourselves I am confident that by the grace of Almighty Allah, we shall achieve it.