A Change of Rules
Press Conference at Karachi,
September 29, 1971

I think you must have read in the papers that after the PPP Central Committee meeting we pressed the Government to convene the National Assembly session by the end of this year and to induct popular governments both at the centre and the provinces by the beginning of next year. We gave a number of reasons for the need to keep to this time-table. Enough time has been wasted. We find that time is really slipping away. We are convinced that the sooner the people are given their responsibilities the better it would be for Pakistan. We believe that the next six months are extremely important. I said in Quetta recently that we need at least six months. In these six months, especially in winter, a lot of travelling can be done, a lot of public meetings can be held and you can really get to the people. We can go out to the people in these six to eight months. Communication and dialogue with the people, winning their confidence and letting them know what is happening what would the consequences be, is most important. If any catastrophe comes, the people must be ready and mobilised. This I consider essential. For a long time now political activity has been banned and, therefore, it is all the more necessary to restore communication with the people.

Apart from that we believe that many other matters have to be taken up at the executive level and in the legislature. We have to pass many laws. We have to take many reformative measures. We have to try and put the economy on the rails. That also means that the Government must have sufficient time and be well-acquainted with the administrative problems on an executive level to be able to give the people a budget which, we hope for the first time, will really be a people's budget. If, for one reason or the other, it is considered that there should be a further delay, then I am afraid it would be difficult to retrieve the position.

Under the present circumstances, there is Martial Law in the country and there is a grave emergency in East Pakistan and, therefore, we believe that it is necessary for the general atmosphere to be right and congenial fur the holding of elections.

As for the announcement yesterday that the Governor and the pro­vincial ministers would be allowed to contest elections in East Pakistan. while the Presidential Council of Ministers would not be allowed to do so, I would not like to make a comment. The answer rests with the authorities. They shall be asked to reconcile the two different positions. However, there are also nominated gentlemen who are in the provincial cabinet. What is more interesting in my opinion is that when it comes to matters of this nature amendments are brought about in the Legal Framework Order, with great proficiency. When it comes to more urgent matters, I think, far too much time is given for reflection and stagnation.

As to the question whether elections will be free and fair in the presence of these provincial ministers, we will have to see. Only time will tell. If the elections are fair, we shall be very glad to contest them or we will abandon them under protest. Essentially, we are confining our attention to the basic problem, the problem of problems, which is the transfer of power to the people as soon as possible. We are not interested in side issues.

We have to be prepared for all eventualities. It is our duty to the people to make them vigilant and to prepare them for these eventualities. If the people are not aware, partly it will be the fault of the leadership. The people must be informed of all possibilities. For that reason we are discharg­ing our duty to warn the people against the conspiracies directed against them. The people are aware of these conspiracies. They have been going on for a long time. Ever since the death of Quaid-i-Azam and Mr. Liaquat Ali Khan, the people of Pakistan have been the victims of one conspiracy after another.

Now they are aware of the realities of the situation. They know how they have been cheated and robbed of their rights. The last general elections have shown that the people of Pakistan are awake and aware of the situation, especially when the situation is getting more difficult for the country. These conspiracies are continuing. As a matter of fact, not only are they continuing, but intensifying. It becomes essential for us to pinpoint the factors that are involved, the factors that are trying to prevent the people from attaining their democratic and economic rights. We cannot fail in doing our duty to the people of Pakistan. We cannot let them down.

I have been asked about the applicability of the general amnesty declared in East Pakistan. As far as the general amnesty is concerned, I have only pointed out some of the anomalies. General amnesty, as we under­stand the term, is granted at the end of a crisis. When the civil war was over in the United States, in Spain, in Nigeria and various other countries, it was given. It is only at the end of a civil war, when the emergency ends, when the conflict is over and when genuinely normal conditions are restored that general amnesty is granted. I don't think there is a parallel or a precedence of general amnesty being granted in the middle of a crisis. The crisis is not over. The situation has not returned to normal. In this situation, it is an anomaly to use the words 'general amnesty.' We should have used some other words or some other terminology. This is not general amnesty as properly understood and known. We have pointed out the anomaly.

We also wonder how is it that in East Pakistan general amnesty has been given in the middle of the crisis and yet the progressive forces there as well as here—socialists, student leaders, poets, philosophers, professors— are being arrested. If there is a general amnesty, then it should apply to the whole country and not only to one province. Whatever the Government does, must be done simultaneously for the whole country. Otherwise, the impression will grow that one part of the country is a colony. If such funda­mental decisions are taken, they should apply to the whole country.

I have also said in my address in Karachi as well as in Quetta that the Awami League leaders are in the custody of the Government. The Government has the data and the information; it has full knowledge of their activities and of their role as a party and as leaders. It also has on a number of occasions made some statements on the subject. As such, it is for the Government to decide the fate of the Awami League and its leaders.

As to whether we favour an open trial for Sheikh Mujib, I would say we would have preferred an open trial. But the Government is in a better posi­tion to come to a decision, because, as I said, it alone is in possession of all the facts. For instance, we do not know the extent of the involvement of the Awami League with any foreign country and particularly with India. We know that they were involved. This much we know. But we do not know the extent of the involvement. So, this decision can only be taken by the Government, but in principle, we would have preferred an open trial.

A word about Mr. Kosygin's statement in Moscow yesterday. I have read the statement. The statement follows other statements which he has made on the subject. His previous statements are partisan and this present statement is also partisan in character. All I can say is that it is regrettable and unfortunate that a neighbouring country of Pakistan, a great power for whom the people of Pakistan have always shown admiration, respect and concern, should indulge in this kind of partisan appreciation of the situation in the subcontinent. You know when I was in Government how assiduously I tried to improve Pakistan's relations with the Soviet Union. You know the position we had taken on the CENTO and other military pacts. But nevertheless the Soviet Union continues to have receptive ears only for the Indian point of view. This does not become a great power. And the Soviet Union is a great power. We would expect a better understanding of our point of view by the Soviet .

I have been asked if in law the present regime is sovereign. The point is that sovereignty in the Austenian sense, and sovereignty in the absolute sense, is an academic proposition in the world today. However, sovereignty in essence and in fundamentals is a different matter. We have fought for the sovereignty of the people and we will continue to fight for the sovereignty of the people in the sense of its essence. Let's confine ourselves to the situation as it is in the country. Since the inception of the Martial Law Government, you would recall that the LFO. under which political parties contested elections, does not give to the Assembly that kind of sovereign character, not sovereign in the sense in which you put the question to me.

The LFO, as a matter of fact, laid down everything right from the preamble to policy directives. All the issues and provisions of the constitu­tion were provided in the LFO. In the first instance, it was said that it was the provisional LFO but when it came out, it didn't come out as a provisional LFO. It came out as a permanent LFO. So that the LFO under which all parties including the Awami League contested the elections did not give the Assembly a sovereign character, because, as I have said, the constitution was virtually given in the Legal Framework Order.

What was omitted or the lacuna that had to be filled was whether there should be a bicameral legislature or a unicameral legislature. If the constitu­tion is to be federal, then it has to be a bicameral legislature. All federations in the world without any exception have bicameral legislatures. Besides, what was really left out was the voting procedure. At that time the voting procedure was left out because it was, I think, anticipated and assumed by the Government that a number of political parties will emerge. When the election was over, only two major parties emerged. In the LFO the President took powers without qualifications. He did not qualify the powers he took in the LFO. Thirdly, 120 days were given for the framing of the constitution.

Now, on the 20th of June, the President took away the powers of the Assembly to frame the constitution and said That the Assembly would be a legislative body and the constitution would be presented to it. A big diffe­rence! A great departure! However, you know, the other parties immediately hailed the announcement. They fell over each other. The same so-called stalwarts of democracy who had been saying that they were opposed to the dictatorship of Ayub Khan without exception hailed the announcement immediately. Secondly, they fabricated reports of conflicts within my party to weaken my negotiating capacity. It is not that my negotiating capacity can be weakened by such attempts but I must tell you how deep the conspiracies are against the people. There is Martial Law and a banon public meetings. There is mobilisation of Indian forces. There is censor­ship, So you know they have limited my power of negotiation but, neverthe­less. in spite of all these factors we undertook negotiations from the 15th of July upto the 18th of September.

I do not want to take credit. There is no credit to take. There is no credit involved in it. We talked to each other. But you should see what other changes have taken place since June through our efforts. When our great leaders came to know that the Government was inclined to change its position that there were negotiations going on, and when the President told me, "I agree in principle that the Assembly be given more authority," they started saying that the Assembly should have a say in constitution-making. We do not aim at perfection, but we have to be satisfied that the basic ingredients have been attained. We shall, of course, keep fighting for the attainment of the people's rights.

Let it be known that we can still look the people in the eye, because we have not betrayed them. But some adjustment is essential. You know of the tremendous developments that have taken place in East Pakistan, so some adjustments are necessary because we are responsible to the people and their welfare. But now there is a change. Ninety days have. been given for the constitution. Instead of 120 days, 90 days only. The original 120 days were supposed to be for the framing of the whole constitution, but 90 days have been given for amendment by simple majority.

If we are 10 have a federal constitution, if there is to be a federation, it is necessary for each of the federating units to be a party to that constitu­tion. Their consensus is necessary. This is the type of consensus which we want; not a consensus which gives powers to the Assembly to pass the amend­ment by a simple majority. The point is that a simple majority also shapes the character of the Assembly. No constitution can be made or amended by a simple majority. Simple majority as a base for amending the constitution also reflects on the character of the Assembly. Considering all these factors, I believe basically, not ideally, that single-handed we have tried to maintain the position of the people in consistency with our pledges and involvement.

We told Sheikh Mujibur Rehman, "Sorry, we cannot rubber-stamp your constitution which you want to dictate outside the Assembly. We asked him to be reasonable and also consider our point of view." We are saying the same thing here. That we must be heard. If you are reasonable, our point of view must be considered. When I said in Peshawar on the 15th of February that there should be no imposition of a ready-made constitution on us, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman said, "Yes, we are reasonable." So we have taken the position that we must be heard in the interest of Pakistan. We are reasonable and we would like you to be reasonable. We would like to see that amendments are brought into the constitution. In the present circumstances, I can still look at the people in the eye and tell them that I have maintained a consistent position. We want to serve the people more than anything else, more than a constitution. We want to bring about a change in the social structure of the country. People today want an end to poverty. misery and exploitation. They want bread and butter; they want food: they want their leaders to take charge of their destiny so that welfare should come to them. The people must get the opportunity to take the destiny of Pakistan in their hands.

 

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