President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto said that he has been able to keep Pakistan together and make it survive as a nation. He listed this as one of biggest achievements.
The President said, when he took over, the major part of the country had been taken away by aggression and the circumstances in which the fall of Dacca took place had its consequences on the whole country. Cease-fire had taken place but a large part of the territory of West Pakistan was in Indian occupation. A great deal of activity was also taking place on the Western border; and more than that, there was a great deal of subversion and subversive activities. People were depressed and demoralized and without any sense of direction. The military Government had collapsed with the defeat suffered at Dacca and there was a political vacuum. The economic conditions were not happy as a result of the war and the policies pursued b, the former Governments. It was in this state of utter confusion and turmoil that he had to find ways and means to stabilize the situation.
The President said, “We have restored democracy after a long period of military Governments. My Government is seeking to frame a constitution based on the wishes and aspirations of the people.”
He said, “Our main concern now is improvement of the economic social and cultural levels of the people. For a number of reasons, both historical and otherwise, but basically on account of the ravages of colonialist under which the subcontinent suffered for so long, we have had difficult times and a late start.” He hoped that from the experience of friendly countries and with their collaboration and, above all, with the efforts of the people themselves, they will make Pakistan march progressively forward on a enlightened road.
Asked about the main objectives of his Government in economic and social fields, President Bhutto said, “The first question I had to address myself to was to lift the morale of the people. The second task before us was to give political directions, both internal and external.”
The President recalled the number of visits he undertook to countries with whom Pakistan had special interest and relationship and said that in a way those visits contributed to the reshaping of Pakistan’s foreign policy on new lines. As a result of those visits, an overwhelming majority of the countries had not yet recognised the part of Pakistan that had been dismembered by force, although one year had passed. The fact that Pakistan was able, with the assistance of its friend and neighbor, the People’s Republic of China, to prevent entry of that secessionist part of Pakistan without the fulfillment of UN resolutions and return of POWs and withdrawals from occupied territories, was also a matter of satisfaction to Pakistan. The withdrawals have now been completed. The Simla Agreement with India provided the future framework of mutual relations.
The President told the journalists that the achievements on the external front had helped rebuild the morale of the people.
He referred to the all-party agreement on the fundamentals of the constitution, convening of National and the Provincial Assemblies and formation of Provincial Governments on democratic principles.
The President then outlined the measures taken by his Government to restore the country’s economy and the reforms in various fields of national life. He said, “We have introduced educational reforms, making education free from primary to matriculation standard. We have also nationalized all the private educational institutions. There are a few left which, too, will be nationalized in a year or so.”
In the field of labour, he said, within a period of one year, the Government had increased by 40 % the industrial wages in cash and kind, although correspondingly production had fallen by 40 %. That was only the first step in that direction; and once production gets increasing; his Government will do much more for the labour.
The President said, “We have also nationalized what we regarded as basic industries. On the fiscal side, we have made a massive devaluation of the rupee which no Government in the past was prepared to do. The national budget has been oriented towards the socialistic side and the common welfare of the people. We have also introduced land reforms giving land to the peasants without any cost and with no compensation to the landowners. In Punjab and Sindh, the two major provinces, 600,000 acres of land, if not more, will be distributed among the peasants.”
“Health reforms have also been introduced. We have done away with the brand names of medicines and are now operating generic names to make medicines cheaper for the common man.” the President told the visiting journalists.
“Let me tell you quite frankly,” the President emphasised “if we had not found ourselves dismembered and had not inherited a completely chaotic situataion, we would have been able to do more; now that normal conditions are restored, we will be able to make the economy move forward. We also intend to establish cooperative farms.”
Asked about prospects of cooperation between Romania and Pakistan, President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto said, “Economic collaboration can be increased between our two countries. There is a big scope for cooperation in the field of oil prospecting.” He said that when the President of Romania comes here they shall discuss this aspect of collaboration. “We have found natural gas in large quantities and there are signs and positive data that oil is available. We are making a search but, I think, Romania’s vast experience and knowledge can be of use to Pakistan,” the President hoped.
The President said, “There was also big scope of expansion of trade between our two countries. We can have tractors and bull-dozers from Romania for the development of agriculture and we can also have road-building equipment for building our roads and other means of communications. Machinery can be evolved whereby Ministers can meet periodically and discuss specific fields of collaboration.”
In the political field also the President said, “We can cooperate in the UN in so many matters. The world is the entire time facing one test after another and every time there is opportunity to respond to the challenge collectively in the interest of peace.”
“We have paid a heavy price for adhering to our principles,” the President said when he elaborated the main directions of Pakistan’s foreign policy in reply to a question by the Romanian journalists. He said, “In 1965 when there was war between India and Pakistan, one great power wanted to ‘punish’ Pakistan. And in 1971, another great power wanted to punish us for following our foreign policy.” He said whether it was a punishment or not, that history would tell, but Pakistan had paid a heavy price.
The President said: “If you look at the broader picture of the foreign policy of your own country and the foreign policy of my country you will not fail to sec many common features. For instance, Pakistan’s foreign policy, at one time, was regarded to be expedient, pragmatist or opportunistic. These were labels given by countries which are unfair to principles.” He said, Pakistan was also, at one time, greatly misunderstood by certain countries for having established very cordial relations with China. It was said, how it could be possible that Pakistan, on the one hand, was trying to have good relations with the Soviet Union and on the other with China and also with the United States. These were considered as ‘conflicting dichotomy’. But, the President said. “We did not see any conflict in them. Our foreign policy stands for principles of sovereignty of states, equality of sovereign states good neighborly relations, non-interference in each other’s internal affairs and no imposition of one’s point of view or ideology on another. The Soviet Union is our neighbor. China is a neighbor of Pakistan and has been a friendly country. We want to have good relations with the Soviet Union because of our neighborly association and because it is a great power. United States is also a great power and has world-wide interests. So, we do not see any conflict in our policy of maintaining friendly relations with them.” He told the Correspondents that their country also, to some extent, had gone through the same process.
Asked to elaborate the policy of bilateralism, the President said, “We have many important countries surrounding us. On the one side, we have the Soviet Union. We have also 400 miles of border with the People’s Republic of China. Afghanistan is also our neighbor which has its own requirements and needs. Then we have India which has its own ambitions. We have as much as possible, direct relations with each of them separately on bilateral basis. Iran also is our neighbor but with Iran we have no problems. He pointed out that each of these states has different conflicting requirements. It was not like Western Europe where the Western European countries have conic to some Common understanding on basic matters. Here there are many built-in rivalries, conflicts and disputes. So the much safer and much better course is to proceed on bilateral basis. But in this 20th century one could not be completely bilateral. The world has become too small to be entirely bilateral.”
In the end, the President acceded to the request by the Romanian TV Correspondents for a message for the Romanian people. The President said “I wish your people happiness and prosperity and success and happiness to their children. I have seen the brave efforts that the people under their enlightened leadership have made to bring about progress of their country. My last visit to Romania, which incidentally was my only visit, has left a deep impression on my mind. I made the visit in 1965 when I was the Foreign Minister. I know your Foreign Minister well and we are looking forward to his visit with the Romanian President.”