Deadlock on the Constitution
The Punjab University New Campus, Lahore,
February 22: 1971

It is after a long time that I am addressing you. When I was a Minister I used to make speeches in various universities. In 1960 I addressed the stu­dents in the Senate Hall of this university. I have been trying to speak to you ever since I was removed from Ministership for having refused to put my thumb impression on the Tashkent Declaration, but I was not allowed to set my foot in the University premises.

It is, therefore, a very happy day for me that I find myself here. I want to remind you that I am to address a public meeting in this city of Lahore tomor­row. I hope you will also come there. Since I will speak in Urdu at tomorrow's meeting, let today's address be in English.

The students are our pillars. Progress and knowledge are impossible to have in the country without imparting correct education to them and without looking after their interests. A country cannot develop without education.

The People's Party has never interfered in students' politics. In fact, there is no student organisation in our party. We have not even set up a student wing in our party. We are opposed to mixing the Country's politics with that of the students. And we will never do that. We are, however, certainly interested in student politics. It is our duty. But we would not mix it with national politics.

The country is passing through a grave crisis. Every government in the past has been saying that. This was said even before the country's first constitution was framed. But please do believe me that the present time -is really the most critical time for the -country. If we take a wrong decision the consequent crisis may prove fatal for the country. What is involved is the integrity and solidarity of the country as well as the sovereignty of the people.

At the moment, I shall not touch on the current constitutional crisis because I plan to make a detailed speech on this subject tomorrow. I would, however, not like you to raise slogans of Six Points Zindabad or Six Points Murdabad. I have often said in my speeches, ever since the Six Points were presented at the Lahore national conference of opposition parties in 196-5 that these Points should be debated: but even at the National Confer­ence itself leaders from West Pakistan did not debate them. They rejected any political dialogue on the Six Points. On my part I had even advised Ayub Khan's Government to consider all points; twenty-two, eleven or six, and to hold political talks.' I had told them that any delay in considering these questions will further complicate the problem. I threw a challenge to Mujib for a public debate. After I left the Government, I addressed the students of the Dacca Engineering Institute. I analyzed and criticized the Six Points. I said that we were ready to talk on these Points, But since the press was controlled by the Government—and it still is—it twisted and blew up my statement saying that I was taking a contradictory stand. When I came back from East Pakistan and addressed a public meeting in Sialkot, the people asked me what I had said in Dacca. I told them and I reaffirm that a time is coming when we will have to hold talks on the Six Points. The Six Points are the result of the exploitation of the people of East Pakistan. It would have been better if these Points had been debated when they were first raised.

In politics, time and circumstances must always be kept in view. Politics should be viewed in the context of external influences rather than internal considerations. The People's Party believes in evaluating. Politics in the light of external factors. The country is passing through a critical and dangerous crisis. There are people here who hold a monopoly on politics. It is they who have been opposing the Six Points. Some time ago the Six. Points were confined only to an individual, and it would have been better to have talks with him in those days. Now the Awami League says that. The Six Points have become the property of the people. It argues that its members-have been elected on the basis of these Points.

When I went to East Pakistan, I told Sheikh Mujib that it was his Awami League that had been elected on Six Points, not the People's Party. I told him that we had been elected on the basis of our stand on revolution­ary changes in the economic system and on evolving an independent foreign policy, that we would try our utmost to co-operate with him and come as close to the Awami League as possible. However, there was a limit. If we went too far it would lead the country to disaster. It was no time for slogans. The need of the hour was to find a solution which should satisfy both our Bengali brothers and the people of West Pakistan. If all of us join hands there is no reason why we should not be able to find this solution.

Pakistan was not created for us to remain perpetually involved in a constitutional crisis. It is a pity that we have not been able to frame a consti­tution in 23 years. We cannot claim to have resolved our basic problems during this period. We have neither framed a constitution nor ended exploita­tion. Those who want to end exploitation are dubbed as infidels. Economy is a fundamental problem. You will remember that at the time of elections, I did emphasise the need for a constitution because without a constitution a country's stability is always in danger. A constitution shall be framed, but will it by itself solve the basic problems? The most important and immediate problem of the country is to end poverty. We wish to-serve this country. We will end poverty and will never ignore Islam. Islam does not oppose the betterment of the lot of village folk, urban people, peasants and workers.

How can you make your country strong with corruption, nepotism, and lawlessness? The country will prosper only when the poor prosper.

The People's Party, therefore, presented a manifesto. Although it was presented during the elections, we had, at the time of the founding of the People's Party in this great city of Lahore, mentioned in our fundamental documents that poverty was Asia's biggest problem and that Pakistan was the poorest country of Asia. We had stressed that serious attention be given, to the eradication of poverty. I was, however, pained to see certain elements trying to create disruption by issuing fatwas. They wanted to create doubts among the Muslims. They were trying to create the impression that we had no interest in Islam. So edicts were issued against us. But we made it absolutely clear that we would shirk no sacrifice for our religion.

I assure you—and this is no political gimmick—that I have instructed my colleagues not to interfere in student politics. You will recall that on my return from Tashkent I had said that we will welcome any elected President of your Union, regardless of his political views. We have always upheld fairplay in politics. The People's Party owes its victory in the recent elections to this principle. It is said that the People's Party's victory will endanger Islam. Two months have passed since the success of the People's Party. Can you tell me whether any danger to Islam has developed? Has any mosque been closed down? It was all false propaganda. You will see all sorts of obstacles put in the way of a popular government. But if we slick to our principles, then God willing, a popular government shall be formed. You need not be disappo­inted. I assure you that the People's Party does not want to pollute the political atmosphere of the country. We have never done that. We want to prove our case through argument and logic. I will tell you tomorrow why we decided not to go to Dacca.

I know some people are demanding that we should explain our stand in the National Assembly in accordance with established democratic principles. True, a constitution is framed after debate and discussion in the Assembly, but we are faced with a peculiar situation. It would have been a different mailer were a Constituent Assembly already in existence. Since the Awami League calls the Six Points the basis of the constitution, no room is left for any compromise whatsoever on that stand. On top of it, a time limit of 120 days has been fixed for constitution-making. It would not be helpful if a deadlock was created in the Assembly on account of these two factors. Is it not better not to hold the National Assembly session until these problems are resolved outside the Assembly?

Sheikh Mujib quotes me as saying that if need be I would again go to Dacca for talks. Well, I am prepared for two, three or even ten rounds of talks. I am prepared to go to Dacca, to Chittagong. Or anywhere Sheikh Sahib wants me to go. There is still time for a rapprochement. Had there been a clean slate, a clean paper, an unwritten document before us, we would certainly have participated in the Assembly. But now, as things stand today, if we attend the Assembly and there is a deadlock, what explanation will we have for the people of West Pakistan? You yourselves will criticize us for attending the Assembly in the absence of an understanding on Six Points. If the majority party frames a constitution, to the exclusion of our views, you will accuse us of betrayal.

The People's Party is on record as having recognized the fact that the people of East Pakistan have been exploited. It is enshrined in our manifesto. The poor are incapable of exploiting others. Both East and West Pakistan have been the victims of exploitation. If we have the same destiny, then why this rigidity in our stands? The interests of East Pakistan are ours also, be­cause East Pakistan is the majority province of our country. A great majority of Pakistanis live there. If they say "Joi Bangla" we also say "Joi Bangla," for that is a part of Pakistan. We have great respect for the people of East Pakistan just as we have for the people of the Punjab, NWFP, Baluchistan' and Sind. Their interests are our interests. But it is painful that slogans based on provincial prejudices are raised. Why do they not raise slogans for the whole of Pakistan?

We want a constitution, not a deadlock. We would have participated in the framing of the constitution had it not been already written on the basis of Six Points and had there been no limit of 120 days. It would have been another matter if this one were the first Constituent Assembly. But the mutual mistrust of the past 23 years coupled with the atmosphere in which the year­long electioneering was conducted has generated extremism. It has led to the Playing up of the Six Points. We won the elections on the basis of a new eco­nomic system and an independent foreign policy. They had the Six Points as their prime problem while economic deterioration and independent foreign Policy were the issues we raised. If we are to serve our country, our nation and our religion, we will have to strike off the shackles of exploitation. The success of the People's Party here and the Awami League there has been made possible by the people. Had we opposed the Six Points at the time of elec­tions, there would have been a confrontation and the country would have gone to pieces.

In both parts of the country only the people have emerged victorious. That is why we avoided a confrontation. In fact, we kept retreating. It is necessary for one of the two sides to do so in order to avoid a confrontation. We did not play up our differences. We went to East Pakistan to explain our stand. I met all political leaders in Lahore, Peshawar and Utmanzai.

I held conferences with my colleagues in Lahore, Multan and Karachi. We retreated so much that people began to ask what had happened to Bhutto. But it is regrettable that Sheikh Mujib remained rigid. Those politicians who had lost even their securities in the elections made a beeline for Dacca. The Sheikh then thought that he had succeeded in his mission. The President of Pakistan went to Dacca and announced that Mujib would be the Prime Minis­ter of the country. Both said they had had satisfactory talks, so it was presumed that the constitution had virtually been framed. But we have a duty to those millions who elected us. Their views on the constitution have to be heard and taken into account before it is finalised. We shall try our best to live up to the expectations of the people. We have regard and respect for all. Let the newspapermen take note of it. If any of them misreports, please remember others have heard me and can bear witness.

 

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