President: Is this your first visit to Pakistan?
Interviewer: Yes. It is for the first, time that I am visiting Pakistan and, I must say, I am very much impressed with your work of picking up the pieces you inherited on assumption of office.
President: Well, I am trying to do my best.
Interviewer: Yes, stating from scratch…
President: We began from scratch in 1947 also; that is, physically speaking. Now, psychologically also we are beginning from scratch. The people have been deeply affected by the events of these last two years. Many feel or have felt a lack of confidence, which has to be restored. They fell that they had failed or that their leaders had failed. To restore a normal balance between the people and their leaders is a big task. There is a lot of critical questioning; anything the leaders do now, the people examine it cynically. A new equilibrium has to be established between them.
Interviewer: After ten months what is the impact of the separation of the eastern part of country?
President: The impact on the minds of the people remains quite significant and this is natural because we were one country, we had struggled together, in a common cause, to become one. Of course, there was geographical separation, which made it look odd. But, that seemed more odd to outsiders than to those who had been together in the struggle and who had managed to keep together for 25 years although we were separated by a thousand miles. So the separation has been painful, both politically and psychologically. It has also naturally affected the pride of the nation, the pride of the people, their feelings. These factors are all present, and in some respects the problems have been aggravated more by the negative attitude of the people on the other side. Here our difficulties need to be appreciated. With a little more understanding on the other side we could have made much more progress in trying to improve conditions, make them as normal as they can be in the circumstances. But, today, the people here are touchy and sensitive on this matter. I don’t think that the gap of ten months has affected their memory to the extent of making them less sensitive.
Interviewer: For ten months you have been, to quote you, picking up the pieces and to start again. Are you satisfied with your progress?
President: Fairly satisfied. I would like to be more satisfied. But there have been difficulties. It has not only been the physical distance between two parts of the country, but with physical severance we have also had to cope with changed systems, both political and economic; political, because from military dictatorship we have returned to democracy, to parliamentary democracy, to be more precise. We are also trying to effect many changes in the economic structure so that it is more in conformity with our requirements and with the requirements of social justice, changes which will enable me to deal with our colossal problem of poverty and distorted distribution of wealth. So what has happened is that while we are trying to pick up the pieces, and the pieces are many-small pieces in the constitutional fabric, in the political fabric, in the economic and social fabric and putting them together we are also introducing fundamental and real economic reforms. This has upset the business community, and its reaction is understandable to some extent. But I don’t see why, even after ten months, the business community has not settled down and started making its contribution to the economy.
Repeatedly, we have made it clear that for the time being that is, for a period of five years, we do not intend to do more than what we have done. That should give them sufficient assurance because I think only about 20 per cent or 18 per cent of the enterprises have been affected by our nationalization and 80 per cent are still in the private sector; what with this 80 per cent, with so many industries, so many enterprises, their owners should not feel impoverished; they should not feel that they will be on the streets. But they are not making the necessary contribution. In the political field also, we have planted a very small and delicate plant of democracy. It will have to take root; it will have to grow.
But suddenly, now, after fifteen years of sealed lips, when lips have been unsealed, people once again have gone on a verbal rampage without any regards for each others rights and feelings. They justify this as freedom of expression. They want to disregard all laws, from treason to perjury, and call it freedom of the press. The point is that when we pick up the political pieces, then these elements make atrocious charges, unbecoming changes, unbecoming of them and of a free nation. But you see this is also a part of the earlier story; the people’s moral, ethical and psychological balance has to be restored since it has been very badly upset by the events of last two years, especially of the last year. The people have become suspicious. I give you the example of Simla Agreement. This is an agreement pre-eminently good for Pakistan and good for peace in the subcontinent. In tangible terms Pakistan has to get back five thousand square miles of territory enabling a million refugees, affected by the occupation, to return to their homes. And yet there are individuals, some of them quite intelligent, some of them have held high office before, who have been ruthlessly critical of the Simla Agreement, attributing all kinds of motives. When they could not find any motive and nothing wrong with the Agreement, they then started saying that there must be some secret clauses in it.
The point is; why should a democratically elected president, who has to go back to the people, have secret clauses in such an agreement. After all, no secret remains secret forever especially in an international agreement. They made this charge when they could find no defect with the Agreement. If there was nothing on the surface, they seemed to argue, there must be something beneath it, inside. There is nothing inside. But all this obstructs the picking up of the political pieces. We are still picking them up and building up the country.
I am confident that if we did not have so much of lack of co-operation from the business community; if there was a little more restraint – and I do not ask for more-in the political process; and if there is a little more realization among the proletariat that hard work and only hard work can build countries, the task of reconstruction would b e easier. The system might be right but that system cannot work if the people are not prepared to work and sweat. In Europe, you could not remain what you are without hard work. Europe was not made on the battlefields. Europe was made by the hard work of its people. Not by the dictators who won wars by the peasants who tilled the land and raised its yield. That is true also of China, of Asia, of the Soviet Union. So our people must also realize that although we can give them the right system it is they who will have to increase production. They will have to work from morning till evening and with that make their contribution to the growth of the country. We are trying to inculcate that spirit among our people, by example and by education.
Interviewer: Would you now regard Bangladesh as a sovereign state?
President: They are making efforts to get into the United Nations. Let us see what decision is taken there because sovereign states are admitted to the United Nations. Sovereignty is not just an expression. It is also a state of mind. Sovereignty does not only have a legal connotation, of course, people are sovereign everywhere. They fundamental matter is that there should be an agreement between us. Once there is an agreement between us we will resolve all these questions, legal and technical, and those of pride and those of prejudice. All those questions can be resolved.
Interviewer: Do you think the East can stand on its own feet in future?
President: I wish them well, because although they have been separated from us they have been with us and we have been in a common struggle, we have a common history. It is still Muslim Bengal. But on the basis of a humanitarian approach to problems, we will not want anyone to suffer even if they live on the North or South Pole. This is our duty as human beings. We owe this to ourselves; we owe this to society; we owe this to modern civilization. From that point of view, of course, I wish them well. I wish them well whole-heartedly because we have been one nation and we pray for their success.
But their problems are really formidable and they will have to find very big men to tackle them. Some of them are very depressing problems. It is a small area, a very small area, and its density of population, I think, is the heaviest in the world. I suppose the United States will have to build a second floor there, because the ground floor is too crowded and there has to be one more story.
The problem of food, which goes with that of population, has always been there but now, unfortunately, it is becoming more acute along with the problem of essential commodities because of smuggling across the border. Smuggling has become a professional art, and the trouble is that the economies of West Bengal and East Pakistan are such that the drain on East Pakistan has been accelerated. Jute is grown in East Pakistan where since Independence we together built jute mills. But the older, established jute mills are in India in West Bengal. So, there is a drain on the jute, there is a drain on the foodstuffs, on poultry, on fish because all that also is needed in Calcutta, and of course rice is also needed in Calcutta and in other places in West Bengal. Then the business entrepreneurs in West Bengal are more experienced and they have more worldwide contacts, both in jute and other wise. The new entrepreneur who is coming up in East Pakistan is too green to complete with the entrepreneur of West Bengal. So they are facing many problems.
Interviewer: Could they stand on their own feet, in you view?
President: We wish them to. To my mind, there is no state, which cannot be made viable. From this point of view even the mini states have some element of viability. If your question is in this context then my answer is yes, viability can come with economic assistance from abroad, with charity, with grants, with aid. If you call that viability, then they can be viable. But, if you want to be viable in the sense of a self-sufficient nation, then it will take them a longer time to reach that viability than it will take us to do that.
Of course, they say that they are not going to keep an army and this is going to be a big factor. We have a big army here. It is true that we are spending a great deal on defense and they don’t have to spend that much. But I don’t think that any established government in East Pakistan, or whatever they want to call themselves, will be able to do without an army altogether and gradually this army will expand and become larger. They have got boundary problems; they have got a boundary with Burma; they have got boundary with India; they are close to Nepal and to Bhutan and Sikkim. In this situation, I don’t think they can become completely like Costa Rica and that for long. I know what we are spending today on the army. In the foreseeable future I can’t wee any cut in this expenditure. But, one day, I hope when better sense prevails between India and Pakistan and we resolve our disputes amicably and justly, then we may not have to spend so much on defense.
Interviewer: Are you not afraid that the Simla Agreement has the same weaknesses as the Tashkent Agreement.
President: There are differences between Simla and Tashkent. At Tashkent, the objective conditions were different. Pakistan had not been dismembered; it had not been divided by armed aggression, as it was in 1971. In 1965, if we did not win the war we did not lose it either. In 1965, there was much less territory in hostile occupation of India and in 1965 we had more Indian prisoners of war than the Indians had ours. Today, India has 93,000 of our soldiers and civilians as prisoners of war, while we have 700 Indians. We went to Tashkent in great exaltation, with the confidence of our people who felt we had emerged victorious because a bigger nation-a much bigger nation-had been kept at bay. That was one very big difference in the two situations.
The second point is that in spite of this big qualitative and quantitative difference, we have made the Simla Agreement both a framework and a starting point. At Tashkent, Ayub Khan had most of the cards in his hand. And in spite of this he came to a settlement, which the people rejected spontaneously. There were reasons for it: we were in a more favorable position to get a better settlement. Another reason was that Ayub Khan did it all in one go, but I refused to do it like that. At Simla, I made it quite clear to the Indians that I cannot do it in one go; I don’t have any authority to do so; I am too humble a person to go and settle all the problems of the last thousand years in one go when others have not succeeded. So we made a modest beginning at Simla. At Tashkent, Ayub Khan wanted to cover the whole canvass and the whole canvass could not be covered. It was too much. Historical passions and prejudices are involved in the situation. So you have to proceed step by step, from one favorable situation to another favorable situation. These were two big differences. At Simla we had no cards in our hand. The only card in our hand was that having seen so many upheavals our people had hardene3d in the face of adversity and had the capacity to face the situation.
Interviewer: Would it not have been wise of you, Pakistan being weaker, to ask for the assistance of the UN in resolving your problems?
President: Well, we have found that the weaker state, to use your word, has generally not been favored by the UN because there is power politics in the UN also. The Charter of the United Nations is not a legal document. It is a political document.
Interviewer: Have you any examples of such situation?
President: Many. And from the beginning of the United Nations. You might be thinking of your own country’s problems where President Soekarano managed to get an agreement against the Netherlands when you were more powerful. But, you see, the point is that there you had to contend both with the genius and the courage of Soekarano who used to believe in brinkmanship and he practiced brinkmanship so well that he had frightened the United States and, you know, the negotiations that United States had with Luns who was then your Foreign Minister. He was very disappointed. He was very disillusioned. So don’t let me go into details.
Interviewer: Are you not afraid that China and USSR will have more and more influence in this part of the world? Did you not seek assistance from China and USSR?
President: It will depend on our own attitude also. Our destiny is not entirely in the hands of others. If we choose to place our destiny is not entirely in the hands of others. If we choose to place our destiny in the hands of others we are equally responsible for the consequences. I do not see any contradiction although this is the favorite question of our Western friends. I do not see any contradiction in India having good relations with the Soviet Union and in our having good relations with China.
Why I don’t see any contradiction is because, first, as I have already said, ultimately the destiny of a nation rests in its own hands. Secondly, we don’t mind if India has good relations with the Soviet Union because we also wanted to have good relations with the Soviet Union. There is no dispute between Pakistan and the Soviet Union. So why should we not have wanted good relations with the Soviet Union? As far as China is concerned, there is a Sino-Indian dispute. We have no dispute with China, and if India does not want the subcontinent to be exposed to foreign interventions, India has to resolve her boundary dispute with the Chinese.
If the whole world is improving their relations with the Chinese, including the Japanese and the Americans, why should India be the odd man out? And that again shows how difficult it is to have negotiations with India. We are not only country which has found it difficult. If we were the only country to have found it difficult to have some negotiated settlement with India, then, you can say, well, it must be the fault of Pakistan, because India has such good relations with every one else. But the position is the other way round. Our relations with China are very good; our relations with the Soviet Union are good, our relations with Afghanistan are quite normal and friendly; our relations with Nepal are very good; our relations with Bhutan are very good; also with Sikkim and Burma. I mention them because I am talking of one Pakistan – and with Ceylon and Indonesia – they are almost our neighbors. And our relations are good with Iran, with Turkey, with Iraq. India, on the other hand, unfortunately has had strained relations with China, with Pakistan, with Ceylon and with Burma. I do not say that these strains should continue but it is for the Indians to consider the future of the whole region and that of their own people.
We are prepared to live in the same world; we have to live in the same world; we have no choice. Since we have no choice why don’t we choose to live as good neighbors? So I don’t see any complications in our having good relations with the Soviet Union and China. It is understandable because they are both our neighbors and one must at least have good relations with one’s neighbors because the effect of this is more important than any other relationship. Our frontier is very close to that of the Soviet Union; it is just about seven or eight miles away and from a very sensitive part of our country. With China we have over 370 to 400 miles of common border. We had historical relations with China before the advent of imperialism. Imperialism broke those ties and with the departure of imperialism we see it perfectly understandable and normal for those ties to be restored.
Interviewer: May I have some information on labor unrest and the language trouble in Sind?
President: One of the reasons for the language problem was that former Governments did not want to face these critical emotional issues and give a decision. They kept procrastinating and with procrastination the feelings grew stronger and stronger. You can’t sweep such things under the carpet if you want to build your society, because these are fundamental matters. In our part of the world, and for us in Pakistan, religion is the most fundamental matter because we are an Islamic state. But, I think, generally speaking in other countries, language evokes more emotions than, I suppose, anything else, and here also, after religion, I would say one’s mother tongues, one’s language, is an issue over which people can get emotionally roused.
So it was a controversial, excitable, combustible question, which was not being tackled on merit, as it should have been. When a decision is taken on merit there may be some trouble but it cannot be permanent. A dishonest judgment or decision cannot solve a problem. Now, let us look at this language issue in Sind in this context.
Well, we took a decision based on merit and in the historical background. We have leant lessons from the past, we know what can happen when due recognition is not given to the legitimate feelings of the people. We know what has happened in our country, and also in other countries, when the legitimate aspirations are not recognized. One of the biggest simplifications, and oversimplification that has cause the splintering of many countries is the tendency to think that uniformity brings unity. Very often diversity brings unity and plurality brings unity. We have suffered from this uniformity concept of some our very educated politicians.
From 1947 till almost 1965-66, there were slogans that since there is one God and one Quran, so there must be one language, and that there must be one people. Of course, there is one god, and there is one Quran, but there will be one God and one Quran even if there are a hundred states believing in them. This obsession with uniformity has resulted in making ourselves two, and if we do not free ourselves from that obsession we will make ourselves three or four or God knows how many other pieces. It is difficult to deal with abnormal problems because you have to be tolerant and accommodating, and you have to have vision. But intolerant people, and those who don’t have a vision, they will think that unless there is uniformity the nation’s unity is being threatened. As I said, uniformity does not mean unity. If America had taken that position at the founding of the United States, when 13 colonies got together, the United States would not have been one country today, and I can give you many other examples, of course, I am giving you democratic examples. But even under dictatorships there is not all that coercion in these matters. I do not also deny that there is always some element of duress in bringing about unity. But it depends on what movement of history that duress is applied. You cannot have Pax Romania now to bring about cohesion. Those were Roman times.
These people in Sindh don’t understand some of these problems and they became excited. But, the language problem is now over. On the language problem, I do not want to go into details. But there have been foreign fingers. I said that to an Indian journalist the other day. Mr. Karanjia of Blitz came to see me recently and he told me that these things had been said. I said, yes, this had been done during the last 25 years but may be after Simla you have stopped. I do not know, but I do not think so. Because old habits die-hard. Intelligence people get secret funds, and they get used. But as I said I do not want to go into details nor do I want to make any accusations because we want to have good relations with our neighbors. We want to remain vigilant. If we are vigilant their money will be wasted but if we are not then, or course, they can do us damage.
But in these problems, the language issue and labor unrest, there were foreign fingers. Some labor leaders came to see me and asked me to name, which among then as was guilty of having received financial support and political support from abroad. They said they had acted because the prices were going up and wages were not, and that this was for good cause.
I told them that a Government does not give names like this but it does so at the appropriate time. But I told them that intelligence in the modern world is not so unintelligent. An agent does not come up and say here are some chocolates, now go and do some sabotage work. Intelligence agent’s today work through devious means; they may come up and say you need to organize your union, you need new offices, new literature, a newspaper, and we are prepared to help this is the time to fight, because this is a new Government, and when things settle down you may not be able to get your rights, that rights have always come through a struggle, that if you are afraid to put up a struggle, you won’t get your rights. So there are many subtle and concealed methods of espionage and of intelligence.
Interviewer: Do you think situation has settled down now?
President: Relatively. We are in a happier position although I am getting reports that efforts are being made to organize another strike. As a matter of fact we have got some prior information about the Karachi strike. We were forewarned when I was abroad. When I heard about the strike plan I made a phone call to the Governor of Sind from Sudan but I could not contact him. When I came to Turkey, I phoned him and said I have some information that there is going to be big labor trouble. The Governor replied that it was taking place that very day. I am receiving information again about plans for further unrest because the general labor situation is settling down. But banks do not come in the category of industries. Banks are commercial concerns. They don’t have any proletariat and are not covered by general trade union rules regarding strikes. If all the banks strike, and the financial houses come to a standstill, the economy would be badly affected, especially an economy like ours, which is in the process of revival. Our economy is still ailing. We all know it. If we are hit with bank strikes then the repercussions will be far reaching. But we have information on these plans. Apart from banks they are also looking at some of the heavy industries, industries taken over by the Government. Here, some business interests have a stake. They want to show that the public sector is not as good as the private sector, and that we made a mistake in taking over heavy industries. The industries, which we call heavy are peanuts for you. However, they are heavy for us. Well, some business interests don’t like what we have done. They want to prove us wrong. So they are trying to incite the labor to go on strike. I think that is really a dog in the manger attitude. But that is the way it is. But we are vigilant, we are watching their moves and we are taking counter steps.
Interviewer; You have done a lot for the farmers here?
President: And for the laborers too, and w must do more for them. When we have more we can do more. You see, the base is very limited. We have a marginal economy and within this marginal economy I have really gone to the brink, and I can’t take even a single step further because it may, at the present stage, mean complete collapse. But with greater production and hard work when the base expands our policy will always be tilted in favor of the proletariat.
Interviewer: What are the main causes of concern now for you?
President: Peace, political unity, political balance and economic revival.
Interviewer: How would you like to see your nation after ten years?
President: This country has great potential, very great potential, and I say this, not because I am the President of this country. As a matter of fact, I really never regard myself as President of Pakistan. I always feel like one of our people. But we have potential and this is not an empty boast. We are rich in minerals and yet it is a misfortune that we have not yet been able to even scratch the surface for them. They lie in the mountains in Gilgit and Hunza in the north and in Balochistan, vast tracts that are rich in minerals. People have gone to these areas and seen marble. We have ruby mines, emerald mines, natural gas, oil, some copper as well, and also iron ore. Some oil we have tapped but we are sure there is more. The search is going on. Geological surveys and explorations take time, and political turmoil sets us back. Not even a tenth of our mineral resources have been touched. In Dera Ghazi Khan we have found uranium. Apart from that we are self-sufficient in food to the extent that we can export rice. We used to send it to East Pakistan. Now we have found markets elsewhere. We had reached self-sufficiency in sugar and in wheal but again political crisis and turmoil have set us back. But self-sufficiency in wheat and sugar is within our grasp. Wheat was selling here for 17 and ½ rupees a mound. Now we have raised the price to 20 rupees. And still we are subsidizing it, and giving it to the ration-shops at previous prices. But in Afghanistan costs about 35 to 38 rupees a mound. So we are all right on the food front with this little incentive to the framer. If I had increased the wheat price to 23 rupees, the subsidy would have become a heavier burden on the exchequer. We have good lands; we have got our mineral resources. We have our agricultural production, we have got very hard-working manpower, when it is motivated, and we are trying to bring about that motivation. We have got people who can handle machines well and with ease, people who are enterprising but they need motivation. We have got a textile industry, which is doing fairly well in the world. Our exports are going up and our good are getting more competitive. We have set up quite a few fertilizer factories but intend to set up more. We also have factories for manufacturing machine tools and also a shipyard for building sea-going vessels. We have an infrastructure for future industrialization. Our communications are fairly good but we are going to have a very good road building program as well, a massive road-building program. We are going to have big scheme for low cost housing. We are also going to have a huge public works program in the rural areas, clearing out the slums and building modern villages. That will give employment to the unemployed and the underemployed. If we get reasonable assistance from the world outside, I think we can bring about a real change, an appreciable difference in Pakistan within five to ten years.
Interviewer: Do you have your steel mill?
President: We are going to have one now in Karachi with Soviet assistance and the Chinese are also going to assist us in building up a small steel mill.
Interviewer: Any other development?
President: We have also introduced reform in the education system. Education is now being made free gradually. This is a big thing. We have done this despite our heavy expenditure on defense. If we could reduce our defense budget by half or by one-third, we could have also given more facilities to the students. But we can’t do it. So the people have to make sacrifices. They have borne them for 25 years and, I think, they will have to bear them till we come to a settlement wit India. But this expenditure on defense is not only bleeding us white, it is bleeding India white. India is big at the top but hollow at the bottom because her people are very poor and the strength of a nation is not judged by the number of tanks it has but by the per capita income of her people.
Interviewer: Thank you sir.