The Crisis : Two Alternatives
Public Meeting, Lahore,
February 28, 1971

I propose two alternatives to resolve the present crisis—postponement of the National Assembly session or removal of the 120 day time limit for the Assembly to frame a constitution.

If either of these alternatives is accepted, I shall go to Dacca tomorrow to meet Sheikh Mujibur Rahman to resolve the pre-session deadlock.

If the session of the Assembly is held on March 3, as scheduled without PPP's participation, I shall launch a popular agitation from one end of West Pakistan to the other. If the elections to women's seats take place on March 2 there will be a general strike from Peshawar to Karachi. I have never opposed the Six Points, although the programme was not acceptable to me personally. However, we narrowed down our disagreement to foreign trade. and foreign aid which cannot be entrusted to the provincial governments.

Both the subjects are concomitants of foreign affairs and should be in the charge of the Federal Government if the Centre is to be effective. Agreement can be arrived at on inter-wing currency arrangements and on taxation power but we cannot give in on foreign trade and aid.

I refute the allegation leveled by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman that I have been conspiring to create impediments in the transfer of power. This allega­tion is a lie. It is unimaginable that I could be in league with bureaucrats or the capitalists or the regime, or any foreign power, because all of them have shown consistent hostility to the People's Party.

I have always established liaison with the people in every emergency that has arisen. I have done it in the past and have always taken decisions after consulting the people. This public meeting is of the same nature.

Since the country is facing a grave crisis I have chosen the same venue where the Quaid-i-Azam had made the demand for Pakistan 30 years go. It is for the preservation of that Pakistan that I have been struggling. I would offer any sacrifice for it.

Since January last year when political activity was revived my party and I never criticised or condemned Six Points. I did not make it a personal issue and have attributed no motives to the leader of the Awami League as other politicians from West Pakistan have done.

The Six Points were made known by Sheikh Mujib at the then opposition parties' national convention in Lahore in 1966 for the first time. The leaders who participated in that convention had rejected them outright.

As Foreign Minister I had advised President Ayub Khan to tackle Six Points on the political level as they contained the seeds for serious differ­ences between the two wings of the country. I had urged him to find a solution acceptable to East Pakistan. But, he ignored my advice and, instead of using political language, threatened to use the "language of weapons."

I tried to enter into a political dialogue with the Awami League while agreeing with it that elimination of exploitation was a common objective.

The People's Party is the only party which accepted that East Pakistan had been exploited. But the exploitation has not been confined to East Pakistan alone. The people of West Pakistan have suffered equally on that account. They are equally poor and down-trodden, and the workers, peasants and intellectuals of West Pakistan have suffered at the hands of exploiters who are common to both wings.

I have toured East Pakistan and the poverty I saw in Chittagong, Khulna and Noakhali was the same acute poverty I had seen in D.I. Khan, D.G. Khan and in Lahore. It is unfair to say that the people of West Pakistan have exploited the people of East Pakistan. The exploitation has been the result of the capitalist system and unless that is demolished, the people of both wings will continue to be exploited. This is the reason the PPP has Struggled to change the economic system of the country and replace it by Islamic socialism. No constitution by itself can end exploitation.

The solidarity and the sovereignty of the country should be preserved to end exploitation. If the country disintegrates there will be nothing left to save from exploitation. The country was created by Quaid-i-Azam and three million Muslims of the subcontinent had made tremendous sacrifices. It is not easy to break up the country and I would not let anyone do it.

People today are talking of the interests of Bengal, Punjab. Sind, Frontier and Baluchistan. But nobody talks of Pakistan which has to be made an Islamic Socialist Republic. In case the country is divided into five separate states, how viable would they be, and would they constitute the Pakistan for which the people of all these areas fought under Quaid-i-Azam? A clear cut answer is called for.

East Pakistani leaders wanted a federal constitution for the country and the PPP agreed to it. But in that case the federal constitution must be endorsed by each federating unit.

It is being suggested that the PPP should accept the normal democratic procedure and debate the constitution on the floor of the House. But it should not be forgotten that an extraordinary situation has arisen because the Awami League has already drafted a Six Point constitution and wants the Assembly to rubber-stamp it. And at the same time a 120 day limit has been imposed for the framing of the constitution. I have never rejected Six Points because I wanted to discuss them with the Awami League. I have refrained from indulging in personal attacks as other leaders in West Pakistan have not done. It is unfortunate that the leaders of East Pakistan have leveled allegations against me. I had suggested a political dialogue on the Six Points as I wanted to avoid a deadlock in the National Assembly because if it occurred the country would face an extremely grave crisis.

I have never talked of a "strong Centre" as I believe that it was because of a strong Centre that East Pakistan suffered'exploitation. We want an effective Centre although with the minimum number of subjects. This is in the interest of the country. It is being suggested that the Centre should only be responsible for defence and foreign affairs, and that foreign trade and foreign aid should be under the provinces. I wonder how the defence of the country can be managed and an independent foreign policy pursued without the Centre having control over foreign trade and aid. Without trade and aid being federal subjects Pakistan would not be able to survive as one country.

I am sure that some arrangement is possible in respect of currency and federal taxation, but I cannot reconcile myself to a position in which the provinces would independently control foreign trade and foreign aid. If that is allowed and all five provinces are to have their own policies in respect of foreign trade and aid, the country would be a hot-bed of intrigues by foreign powers.

The Awami League is in favour of having a federal system in Pakistan but there is no country in the world where a federal system can operate without a bicameral legislature.

I am prepared to accept a federation in which all the federating units can enjoy equal autonomy. What is not acceptable to me is that one province should have more autonomy than others. If East Pakistan is to have autonomy a similar quantum of autonomy should be provided for the Punjab. Sind, Frontier and Baluchistan.

It has been pleaded that the two wings of the country have two separate economies. It has been subsequently maintained that their politics is different too. And, finally, it has been suggested that they should have two separate constitutions. If Pakistan is one country it must have one integrated consti­tution. One document containing two different constitutions for East and West Wings would be an oddity, which would not be acceptable to the people.

It is unfortunate that an assurance was given in Dacca to members from Bahawalpur that they would have a separate province. Bahawalpur is an integral part of the Punjab and would continue to be so.

Similarly, I have heard that members from tribal areas are toying with the idea of having a separate tribal province. The new settlers in Sind might demand a Muhajir province in Nawabshah. If the intention is 10 disintegrate Pakistan, all these moves should be encouraged. But I shall oppose all efforts at the dismemberment of the country.

These are the matters on which I wanted to have a dialogue with the East Pakistan leaders and I was sure I would convince them that an effective Centre with control on foreign trade and foreign aid is in the best interest of the country.

It is unfortunate that the leaders of East Pakistan have leveled serious allegations against me. One of the allegations is that I am conspiring with vested interests to obstruct the transfer of power. It is unimaginable that a political party which has the support of the working classes would ever be in league with vested interests. One vested interest could be bureaucrats and it is a known fact that bureaucrats have been extremely hostile to the PPP from the very beginning. They are the enemies of the people. How can the People's Party be in league with them? The bureaucrats supported the political party in East Pakistan but the situation in West Pakistan so far as the PPP was concerned was different.

It is equally-unimaginable that the PPP could have conspired with the capitalists to obstruct the transfer of power. Since the PPP won the elections the capitalists have been passing sleepless nights. In fact, they are all rushing to Dacca for protection.

It is also being alleged that the People's Party is conspiring with foreign powers. Nothing can be more ridiculous than that as it is the PPP which launched a campaign against imperialism and neo-colonialism. The eyes of the foreign powers are set elsewhere.

Yet another allegation is that I have been conspiring to impede the transfer of power with the help of the regime, the same regime which has shown hostility to my party during the elections. It was this regime which jailed some of my prominent party leaders. I had declared at a public meeting at Nasser Bagh that Nawabzada Sher Ali Khan, Nawab Muzaffar Ali Qizilbash and Mr. Mahmood Haroon were openly working against my party. Had the regime not been hostile I would have won at least 120 seats.

I have also been accused of hurling insults at East Pakistan. Exception has been taken to my statement that the PPP members would be "double hostages" in East Pakistan and that the National Assembly would be a "slaughter house" for them. I cannot afford to be away from West Pakistan for 120 days when Indian troops are massed on the West Pakistan borders. My duty is to be with my people when their security is being threatened. I had described the Assembly as a "slaughter house" in the context of amendments and what the brute majority by the Awami League would do to them.

I cannot even dream of insulting East Pakistan where the majority of the population of the country lives. In fact, the people of West Pakistan felt insulted when the Prime Minister-to-be of the country refused to visit their half of the land.

My insistence on an understanding between the major parties on the basic constitutional issues was and is well-intentioned. I have kept the door open for negotiations and am prepared to go to Dacca if the necessary assurance is given to me that my point of view along with reasonable suggestions would be considered dispassionately. This assurance, if given by the Awami League, would be considered by the Central Committee of my party and if it agrees we shall participate in the session. But in the present circumstances how can PPP members attend the National Assembly session? If they go there and abstain what good will that do? If they rubber stamp the Awami League's draft constitution they will have no leg to stand upon on their return to their respective constituencies here. Voting for the Awami League draft constitution will be like breaking the backbone of our national integrity. It will not be allowed. If the National Assembly meets on 3rd March my party will launch a campaign of protest.

First, the President can dissolve the National Assembly. This would not be acceptable to me at any cost as it would mean the continuance of Martial Law indefinitely which is not desirable. That situation would create a very dangerous crisis for the nation.

The other alternative is the postponement of the Assembly session scheduled to be held on 3rd March. If that is accepted it would give me time to discuss the constitutional issues with the Awami League. In that case, I would not lose a minute to go to East Pakistan to have a dialogue with my elder brother.

Yet another alternative is that the time limit of 120 days imposed on the National Assembly for the framing of the constitution should be removed. That would give ample opportunity to my party to debate fully the constitu­tional issues which have caused the present deadlock. If the time-limit is removed I would rush to Dacca tomorrow.

Former Constituent Assemblies took years to frame constitutions. The 1956 Constitution was prepared after the Assembly had debated it for seven years. The 1962 Constitution was the result of a three-year debate. It is surprising that in the case of the present Assembly a 120 day time limit has been imposed.

If the two alternatives—postponement of the session arid the removal of the time limit—are not accepted, the present deadlock would continue. That would mean the end of democracy in the country.


Words of Shaheed
My insistence on an understanding between the major parties on the basic constitutional issues was and is well-intentioned. I have kept the door open for negotiations and am prepared to go to Dacca if the necessary assurance is given to me that my point of view along with reasonable suggestions would be considered dispassionately. This assurance, if given by the Awami League, would be considered by the Central Committee of my party and if it agrees we shall participate in the session. But in the present circumstances how can PPP members attend the National Assembly session? If they go there and abstain what good will that do? If they rubber stamp the Awami League's draft constitution they will have no leg to stand upon on their return to their respective constituencies here. Voting for the Awami League draft constitution will be like breaking the backbone of our national integrity. It will not be allowed. If the National Assembly meets on 3rd March my party will launch a campaign of protest.

 

 

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