End This Long Night of Terror
Press Statement at Karachi,
September 29, 1971

Nearly ten months ago the first ever general elections were held in Pakistan. In the West Wing the people gave their overwhelming verdict in favour of the Pakistan People's party. This victory at the polls was the culmination of my party's struggle against the dictatorship of Ayub Khan. The people gave their verdict in our favour because, in overthrowing Ayub Khan, we had fought for the people's rights and for the restoration of the sovereignty of the people, for a new order. In less than two years, the People's Party mobilised a despondent people, charged them with confidence to defy and defeat both on the streets and at the polls the combined efforts of all the forces of reaction. The People's Party thus demonstrated its strength both in the revolutionary and democratic methods. This achievement is without parallel.

In the months of February and March, following the general elections, Pakistan went through a traumatic experience. The agony of this tragedy has not yet ended. A part of this story is narrated in my book, "The Great Tragedy," which appears today. It will show why the Pakistan People's Party wanted a grand coalition of the majority parties of the two Wings, how before the postponement of the National Assembly session announced by President Yahya Khan on the 1st of March we made every effort to meet the essential demands of East Pakistan, and how after that date we maintained that any proposal to resolve the deadlock should be put to the newly elected representatives in the National Assembly, empowered to frame a constitution.

With the divergent and conflicting needs of the two Wings accentuated by an iniquitous economic system and the cumulative mistakes of the past, it was virtually impossible to arrive at a constitutional settlement with the Awami League within the short span of two months. In the national interest I pressed President Yahya Khan, on the 11th of February in Rawalpindi, to permit us about six weeks' time to make an earnest endeavour to arrive at such a settlement, but instead the Assembly was summoned to meet on the 3rd of March. The validity of our position has now been belatedly confirmed by President Yahya Khan in his broadcast to the nation on the 28th of June 1971 when he disclosed that Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had "clearly indicated" to him that "all the major provisions of the Constitution would be settled by the political parties in parleys outside the Assembly."

Many calculatedly false and insidious accusations have been levelled against my party for its role after the elections. But we are confident that when the storm of the great tragedy of 1971 passes—when in the West Wing the politicians get over the humiliation of their defeat by us, and in the East Wing the hatred which the Awami League directed against us after the elections gradually disappears—the role of the Pakistan People's Party, in attempting to avert this crisis, will stand vindicated. It will be seen how consistently we tried to arrive at a just settlement of the grave problems facing Pakistan, but how the sinister conspiracy of vested interests thwarted us at every turn.

One great tragedy has very nearly brought about the end of Pakistan. We must now do all in our power to stop the final tragedy which will bring doom in its wake. But, instead of appreciating the gravity of the situation. instead of extending co-operation to the victorious party, the schemers and intriguers continue to impede our attempts to find a solution to save Pakistan. Let it be known that we cannot, and will not, allow the forces of reaction to destroy Pakistan.

On the 28th of June, 1971, President Yahya Khan, departing from his Legal Framework Order, put forward a new plan for the restoration of democracy. All the other political leaders immediately acclaimed the an­nouncement. On account of its serious implications, the scheme required reflection in depth. I, therefore, informed our people that I would make my party's position known not in a hurry but after a period of about two months. After our negotiations with the regime had reached a certain point, on the 27th of August, I was able to promise the people of Pakistan that I would put forward my party's position on the negotiations, whatever the outcome, before the end of September. Today, I am fulfilling that promise. I propose to place before the people of Pakistan what has transpired since the 28th of June and the efforts made by my party to assert the sovereignty of the people. Events have shown that, although some doubts and misgivings may have arisen over our long silence, national interest has been served by remaining silent during the negotiations with the regime on the grave constitutional issues.

On the 6th of July, 1 left for Teheran for a few days on the invitation of the Government of Iran. Taking advantage of my brief absence from the "country, the enemies of the people indulged in a fresh wave of petty intrigues. On my return to Pakistan, we held a meeting of the Central Committee at Islamabad on the 15th of July. After careful scrutiny of the 28th June plan, we came to the conclusion that it was contrary to the people's expectations and not in conformity with the requirements of the situation. When I met the President on the 16th and 17th of July in Rawalpindi, I informed him that the solution to the country's problems fundamentally lay in honouring the rights of the people, and that the crisis the nation was witnessing could not be overcome without the participation of the people, without the people controlling their national destiny, without the people's government. I remin­ded the President of his categorical assurances that he would not allow a handful of trouble-makers to destroy the country and that the misdeeds of a few could not nullify the general elections. I pointed out that the elected representatives had a mandate to frame the constitution within the concept of one Pakistan. The history of Pakistan had shown that without the sanction of the people no constitution could be durable. Only the will of the people could give permanence to the constitution. I informed President Yahya Khan that as I had refused to put my thumb impression on Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's dictated constitution in the Assembly, I could not betray the people by rubber-stamping a constitution dictated by the President outside the Assembly. To be fair to President Yahya Khan I must state that he appreciated this position and agreed to continue the talks at the end of July in Karachi.

On the 29th of July, President Yahya Khan, along with his aides, met me and my advisers in Karachi, and we discussed in greater detail the charac­ter of the Assembly. I emphasised that the People's Party did not seek a con­frontation with the regime as this would lead the country to disaster. If there was trouble in the West Wing also, the world would think that there must indeed be something basically wrong with Pakistan, and this would be most unfair and damaging to our people. However, I made it clear that if the people were to be deceived by putting our opponents into power through machinations, we would be duty bound to resist such a trumped up government to the bitter end. We could not countenance such a fraud being practiced on the people. I also pointed out that it was a calumny to propa­gate the charge that the People's Party was hungry for power. The call of the People's Party for the transfer of power reflected only the aspirations and wishes of the people who voted for the party, and it was our unshakable conviction that this was the only way to preserve Pakistan. With the exche­quer empty, the economy in chaos, with a directionless foreign policy, with a frustrated and angry population, transfer of power meant only the transfer of onerous responsibility. We knew that no bed of roses lay ahead. But we had committed ourselves to the people of Pakistan to effect a grand reconciliation through socialism and democracy. We could not escape from this responsibility.

In the Karachi meeting at the end of July, we proposed a formula which we believed would reconcile the President's announcement of 28th June, and our commitment to the people. As a result, the President assured us that he had no desire to impose a constitution and therefore agreed to our formula in principle. It was settled that our advisers would meet to evolve the details. The next round of meetings took place in Rawalpindi. I met the President on the 25th of August and our respective advisers met separately on the 25th, 26th and 27th of August. At the meeting between our respective advisers, the attitude adopted by Mr. Cornelius, the President's Legal Ad­viser, was, to say the least, baffling. However, on my instructions our advisers pressed that the character of the National Assembly as a constituent body should be recognised. At these meetings we also gave our position on the necessity for a bicameral legislature essential for a federal structure, on the directive principles of state policy, on the principle of electorate, on the permanent amendment procedure for the constitution and, most important, on our understanding of fundamental rights. We reiterated that the People's Party was resolved to struggle for people's sovereignty, so that poverty, illiteracy, and all forms of exploitation of man by man, and of region by region, be banished, and that the right of man to employment, and fair payment for labour, the right to education, and the right to maintenance in old age, sickness and disability be established and guaranteed in our country as a constitutional obligation.

Since the regime had agreed in principle to the fundamental issue which we raised as early as July, we failed to understand why the regime protracted the negotiations. The urgency of the issue required early if not immediate decision. It appeared to us as if the talks were being spun out to accommodate the reactionary forces opposed to the transfer of power. In this way, precious time was being lost to the peril of the country. In the circumstances I was constrained to speak on behalf of the people and their aspirations at Hyderabad on the 7th of September, and at the Mazar of the Quaid-i-Azam on the 11th of September while observing the Quaid's death anniversary. In the shadow of this tension I met President Yahya Khan on the 13th of September at Karachi before his departure for Teheran. We discussed the critical situation facing the country. In this connection my last meeting with President Yahya Khan was in Karachi on the 18th of September. In both these meetings the President pointed out that all the other political parties and leaders had agreed to his plan as announced on the 28th of June. However, noting the wishes of my party, which represented the wishes of the majority of the people at this time, he had evolved a method which he believed would reconcile the exigencies and urgencies of the crisis, with the expression of the peoples will. He informed me that in the circumstances, with the country nearly at war with India he could not go further to meet that demand. On the night of the 18th September, the President's statement to this effect was broadcast to the nation.

Taking everything into account, the announcement of the 18th of September is a step forward in the right direction. Whereas under the previous announcement of June 28th, the National Assembly was to act only as a legislative body under a constitution to be given by the President, the new plan announced on the 18th of September clearly recognised the constituent character of the Assembly. Firstly, what is now being prepared by the President's Committee of Officials, is a provisional constitution, to be given final shape after full consideration by the National Assembly; and secondly, the very fact that amendments to the provisional constitution are to be passed by a simple majority upholds the sovereignty of the Assembly as a constituent body. It is also a step forward in that whereas under the Legal Framework Order the President could reject the entire constitution passed by the Assembly without assigning any reason, under the plan an­nounced on the 18th of September, the President has pledged that he would accept any change provided it did not adversely affect the territorial integrity and solidarity of our nation or the ideology on which Pakistan is based. In pursuance of this statement, the Chief Election Commissioner announced on the 19th of September a time-schedule for the by-elections in East Pakistan to be completed by the 19th of December. A few days later, revising the time-table, the Chief Election Commissioner provided for the by-elec­tions to be completed by the-23rd of December.

I must make it clear that if the President's pledge is to take tangible form, four essential matters are required to be fulfilled:

In the first place, the amended Legal Framework Order must be promulgated incorporating the announcement of the 18th of September and clarifying certain points arising therefrom. For example, it should stipulate the form of consensus that would not vitiate the principle of simple majority. It should also provide for further by-elections in East Pakistan if some of the. 88 members who have retained their seats do not attend the Assembly. In addition, it must state whether the 90-day period includes the time it would take for the President to consider the amendments and the Assembly to reconsider them, should the President return the amendments. If the Legal Framework Order can be amended with alacrity to allow the nominated Ministers in East Pakistan to contest the by-elections, it is imperative that amendments of national purport should not be delayed.

In the second place, the terms of the draft constitution should not act as a dyke to prevent the programme of reform. As I have stated, we have given our position to the President on certain matters pertaining to the constitution. We also have firm views on the question of autonomy and have said that we cannot countenance the imposition again of One Unit in any form. However, as we have not participated in the drafting of the constitution, nor have we seen the terms of the draft, we can but await its early publication to solicit public opinion.

Thirdly, constitutional governments should be formed both at the centre and in the provinces immediately after the National Assembly meets to consider the constitution. My party's position is that the announcement of 18th September should not be made an excuse to delay the process of democratisation by three months. It must not be forgotten that the main justification for the President's presenting a provisional constitution has been that the people's government should start functioning without loss of time.

We believe the main task before us today is to save the country. Even constitution-making must of necessity take a secondary role. No further time can be lost. Already too much time has elapsed before the transfer of power. The lack of urgency that one feels pervading Islamabad is indeed striking. In a situation where hours and days should matter, months have been allowed to pass. We know what the people want and have faithfully reflected their aspirations. We have been consistent in our attitude. As the majority party of this Wing, we believe that we have the right to be, at the very least, informed of the Government's major decisions, but unfortunately we are kept in the dark. In most countries the people are taken into the Government's confidence before major decisions are made, but here, although my party speaks for the people, we are considered interlopers and trespassers when we merely ask to be informed of important decisions. The latest and most conspicuous example of this has been the sudden announcement of the general amnesty for those struggling for Bangla Desh. I must make it clear that we do not want to be associated with the decisions of the Government, we merely seek information so as to understand the decisions and to prepare for the future. Even this much liaison is resented. We fail to comprehend why such an attitude is adopted by a regime seeking to transfer power to the elected representatives of the people.

The internal situation is in a state of disarray. Under these chaotic conditions I do not have the temerity to speak with authority on our external relations but it seems that in this field the chaos is complete. We would urge the regime not to take any fundamental decisions in the field of foreign affairs in these two months. We are deeply concerned over the rumours about a Four-Power intervention in Indo-Pakistan affairs to the exclusion of the People's Republic of China. We would not like to see any intervention by outside powers; and in any case, whatever the efforts on the diplomatic level these should await the emergence of a responsible government. Only a responsible government will be able to speak on behalf of the people of Pakistan to the external world. We are opposed to an interim government taking decisions of a permanent nature in domestic affairs, and we are all the more averse to such decisions being taken on foreign affairs. An internal mistake can be rectified more easily than an external blunder. Whether we are capable or not to cope with it, one is within our control, the other is outside our control and as such more damaging in its repercussions.

It is our considered opinion that if democracy is not restored before the end of the year, it will be too late to salvage and save Pakistan. This is clear from the pathetic situation prevailing in the country and from the prognosis of the world outside. Why should God repeatedly and continuously come to Pakistan's rescue? For God helps those who help themselves. Let me now put everyone on notice that the present regime cannot cope with the mess. Any new Government which assumes responsibility in Pakistan in the near future will require the next six months before it can even hope to turn the tide. It is essential that the next year's budget be prepared by a progressive govern­ment enjoying popular support. Retrenchment of labour and eviction of peasants have to be stopped, relief must be given to the peasantry and many more urgent and immediate steps have to be undertaken. As it is this is a Her­culean undertaking. It is made more complicated with the passage of time.

Let me tell you, my countrymen, that as each day passes I get more convinced that the only way out of the dreadful political and economic crisis facing Pakistan is to give power to the people. President Yahya Khan has repeatedly pledged that he will restore power to the people of Pakistan, to whom it rightly belongs. But the vested interests and the bureaucracy are engaged in a conspiracy to oppose the President's wish to restore democracy. They will devise means to advise President Yahya Khan not to yield to the will and the verdict of the people. Such men will never tolerate the common and united rule of the people. Their concept of the solidarity of Pakistan is to be found in totally exploiting the country, humiliating the people, and keeping the people half-naked and half-starved. We want to assure President Yahya Khan that he will have our support to crush this evil cons­piracy against democracy, so that the will of the people prevails.

The enemies of the people are advising the regime to take refuge in the threat of war with India. No doubt there is a threat of war, but this threat will always be there unless the outstanding issues are settled between the two countries. The threat cannot be met, nor the issues settled, without the firm resolve of a united people. It cannot be met by a suffering country whose wounds are unsuccessfully bandaged by Martial Law. Nobody wants war, but if there is war it will be total war, which must mean the total parti­cipation of the people. How can the people respond when even public meetings are not permitted? How can the masses be galvanised into action without a popular government, without the strength of democracy, without their chosen leaders taking charge of the situation?

At this critical juncture when the existence of the state is in danger, we naturally would not like to come into conflict with the Generals' regime. But I ask you, my friends, how long can we go on testing the intentions of the regime? Elections took place ten months ago. On one pretext or another, with one contradiction after another, the abominable status quo is being maintained. It is our solemn duty to expose the mischief and machinations of the bureaucrats and vested interests, the lackeys and the agent provoca­teurs. The people should not be caught unprepared and unguarded—they should be ready to react, to hit back at those who, by force or fraud, seek to strike them. Such subterfuges as the appointment of civilian Governors and additional Advisers for an interim period are unacceptable and cannot hope to work. This exercise in futility is ostensibly being carried out for only a transitory period. But let us not forget that for the past two-and-a-half years the Martial Law regime has chosen to describe itself as an interim Government. In the process, the people feel that Pakistan is itself becoming interim. Let us it an end to this uncertain state of affairs. The answer lies not in appointing more Advisers but in summoning the Assembly to perform its sovereign functions and in restoring constitutional government. This the regime should do before the year 1971 is out or declare unambiguously that it will not relinquish power to the people. Any sham arrangement to perpetuate the existing order will be read by the people as a denial of demo­cracy.

East Pakistan is in flames; the whole country is in near ruin. How will Pakistan be rescued if new fires are to erupt in other parts of the country? And erupt they will if the people's rights are not recognised. These rights cannot be denied by force for they are legitimate, inherent and indestruc­tible. It must be noted that our demands on behalf of the people are for the solidarity of the country and the well-being of the people as a whole, and totally different from those of the Awami League whose leadership sought to wreck Pakistan. We simply cannot be tarred with the same brush. It would be a monstrous injustice to the people of Pakistan to equate the two. Patriots and traitors cannot be equated. To reduce a complex problem to its essentials without getting involved in the debate over autonomy and secession, the PPP is not in league with India, Pakistan's mortal enemy, to destroy our nationhood.

The Government has granted a general amnesty in East Pakistan in the midst of the crisis. The terms of the general amnesty are riddled with contradictions, appearing to cater for a dual purpose. As a political party we are fully equipped to deal with every situation as it arises. We have not shirked any responsibility in the past and we will not recoil from it in the future. But I think we have a right to say that if goondas, arsonists, murderers and rapists are to be suddenly released in East Pakistan along with political dissidents, we fail to understand why the progressive forces in East Pakistan are still being singled out for victimisation. If fascists, secessio­nists and those who have been described by President Yahya Khan as enemies of Pakistan are to be pardoned, we see no reason why peasants and labourers here are detained for seeking their rights or why students, poets and professors should be arbitrarily arrested and lashed. And, above all, it is important to point out that a general amnesty is always granted after a civil war is over. By this single action, the Government has admitted the crisis has ended, and therefore nothing now remains in the way of the forces of democracy being put into full motion without further delay.

We simply cannot be shaken in the belief that it is our moral duty, indeed a point of honour, to fulfil the people's mandate. There is no other way out of the crisis. Let me make it clear that no gimmick or subterfuge can succeed any longer. "Surfeiting, the appetite may sicken, and so die" to quote Shakespeare. Hated and rejected politicians are unfit to grapple with the grave issues of war and peace. Surely, the time has come for a change, and this even the regime cannot deny. This change cannot be brought by desperate and last minute efforts of the regime's bureaucrats to achieve the barren union of the three Leagues and other moribund parties. What is needed is a wind of change, a breath of fresh air, a new style invigora­ting in its actions and inspiring in its leadership. The change must be brought about by the newly elected forces, by a reconciliation through the introduc­tion of Islamic Socialism and democracy as enunciated by the Founder of Pakistan and resurrected as our credo by the Pakistan Peoples Party.

There is no justification left for continuing the ban on political activi­ties. The dialogue between the people and their leaders must be restored forth­with. Without this communication we cannot steer the country in the right direction. By-elections should be held not later than the revised schedule announced by the Chief Election Commissioner on the 21st of September, so that the National Assembly can meet without further delay. Immediately after that, the Assembly should be called into session to have the final say on the constitution, and simultaneously popular governments should be installed at the centre and in the provinces to contribute collectively to save Pakistan from being wrecked.

0h my people! Let this long night of terror and uncertainty come to an end. I want your voice to prevail. Flood or rain, drought or famine, the whole process of democratisation should be completed before the twilight of this year. If the democratic process is not thus put into motion, God is my witness, that all constitutional means will have been exhausted. Then there will only be two alternatives: either to pack up and sit at home, leave politics to the caprices of the Generals, and bid fare farewell to Pakistan; or to continue the struggle of Jinnah and Iqbal to seek demo­cracy and social justice come what may. Time and again I have declared that my struggle on behalf of the people is. both inside and outside the Assembly. Let not things come to such a pass that if the Assembly is not called into ses­sion in either the capital in the East or West Wing, then the people call their own assemblies to session in the barren hills of Baluchistan, in the paddy fields of Bengal, in the mountains of Sarhad, in the plains of the Punjab and in the deserts of Sind. I apologise to the people if they are fatigued by our lugubrious documentation but our experience of the past and dealings in the present leave us with no alternative. I owe this record to the people of my ravaged country and I owe it to history.

I am not giving any ultimatum or threat. I am too small a person to extend threats. I am only putting forth the reality and melody of politics. To conclude with Lenin's words:

"Man's dearest possession is life, and since it is given to him to live but once, he must so live as not to be seared with the shame of a cowar­dly and trivial past, so live as not to be tortured for years without pur­pose, so live that dying he can say: "All my life and my strength were given to the first cause in the world—the liberation of mankind."

 

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