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MOHTARMA BENAZIR BHUTTO Prime Minister of Pakistan

PRESS CONFERENCE

in

Prime Minister's Chamber in

Parliament House

Islamabad

27 February, 1994

Q : The Opposition has declared to launch a movement all over the country. What would be your comments on its consequences ?

Ans : This is not a surprising thing. Since the elections took place and the Opposition lost the elections, they had made it clear that they will not follow the democratic traditions. They do not want to compromise and it has been their motive, from the very beginning, not to let political stability prevail in the country. In order to instigate people they, sometime, raise one issue, then another and then yet another. So much so that the government had learnt that they were trying to purchase sugar worth five crores of rupees so that the prices of sugar would look up and thereby they would be able to provoke the people.

Opposition's plan was exposed to the people the very first day. But the government, which is an elected government, a people's government, a democratic government, an Islamic government, has come to power by virtue of the most fair, free and impartial elections after 1977. We have committed to the people of all the provinces that we will bring about political stability in the country, because with the political stability the economy also grows stronger and the country runs on the path of progress. We know that people want political stability and they want economic progress therefore they will not favor the Opposition.

Q : But, the Opposition, besides other matters, objects to the vote of No Confidence move in Frontier and the situation after that.

Ans : Objection has not started now. You may confirm that the Opposition's objection was right from the beginning and that is the reason why the Opposition suffered due to its faulty decisions. I had proposed that there should have been a consensus President. I also offered a panel which included the names of stalwart politicians not belonging to the People's Party. In other words the name of Nawabzada Nasrullah Khan was proposed, Hamid Nasir Chittha was proposed, Balakh Sher Mazari was proposed, that is a panel of different politicians was proposed. I had proposed that it would have been better for the nation if there were a President by consensus. But they did not agree to it. Then I also proposed that I was ready to take three names, or one name from their panel. We shall first short on the list of your panel. We are ready to do this but only on the condition that you would declare that you are against Eighth Amendment and support us in this respect. Since they were not ready to do so, they lost the Presidential election and then I told them to come and have a dialogue with me in the formation of code of ethics. There ought to be some code of ethics in the House, they refused to do this also.

So had they adopted the path of compromise it could have been possible that the Opposition won't have moved the Vote of No Confidence in Frontier Province thinking est. their Vote of No Confidence Move had spoilt the atmosphere of compromise. But since there already existed confrontation, the Opposition had nothing to do in Frontier or government had nothing to do in NWFP. So it was their second mistake. And their third mistake was their refusal when we reminded them of their promise for women seats, we too had made the promise for women seats, and told them that we will keep the Political Parties Act as status quo provided they supported us on the women seats. But now if the Political Parties Act is implemented, it will be a safeguard for the Opposition because the people belonging to the ruling party do not betray whereas the people of Opposition cannot sit in opposition so when they betray, then it is their loss. I think they must review their politics. Their confrontation started from the very beginning, it had nothing to do with the Frontier. The situation that has arisen in Frontier is due to their internal condition, that means that it had nothing to do with the federal politics and had no relation with the politics of the rest of the three provinces. It was merely in accordance with their own condition, and it was due to the fact that Sabir Shah's government was based only on one vote lead. As for the Speaker, he won the election by one vote. Thereafter, as related by the independent group, Sabir Shah had sweared upon the Holy Quran that he would confer on them those ministries. So the split that came about in them was for the reason that Sabir Shah, handed over the ministries of independent group to A.N.P., and it was not due to PP. PP was not to get ministries. It was Sabir Shah himself who at first promised the independent group and then took back ministries and broke the promise. How then it relates to PP or the government ?

As long as there is democracy and as for as our Consti­tution is concerned, those who are in majority, only they can form the government. And it is not your or my decision, it is a decision of Frontier Assembly. If they want Sabir Shah, we are ready to accept it, and if they want Sher Pao we are ready to accept. We are ready to accept Assembly's decision because we accept people's decision. But to say that some body has no majority support and still they will continue governing power by force, coersion and aggression in Fascists ways, then it will be wrong. The coersion over the Mashriq daily has instantly revealed their Fascists aggressiveness how the Media people were targeted. Just now we have been informed that have have been attacked as they used to be targeted in the past. We are very much aggrieved by this that the democratic traditions were the least taken care of by them. But we will perform our constitutional duty all the time. We have pledged under the constitution that we will defend Pakistan.

You know the Afghan situation. Fighting is still continued there, and some of their groups have no intention to compromise, and this has been continued since long. Besides, a school bus was kidnapped by three terrorists, women and children were made hostages and thereafter our ambulance was also attacked. We couldn't permit this situation against Pakistan's interests.

When uncertain situation arose in Afghanistan and it affected our embassy, our children and women, and simul­taneously an uncertain situation also arose inside Frontier Province, the situation was arising because the attitude of the provincial government, was, in Nawaz Sharif s words, "To hell with the constitution." We couldn't permit this. Constitution is a very sacred document, and the Governor's rule will bring about sobriety and dignity. It will cool down a bit those who are in different groups and those who are trying to raise political temperature, both sides will be cool down, and the Assembly will enjoy a healthy atmosphere. And alongwith it the constitutional matters will also go to the court. But it cannot be allowed that as long as the court verdict was not declared, or if challenged by some one, there won't be a constitution machinery, administrative machinery, or paralysis prevail. No, there will be no such thing.

The aggrieved parties whether they are disqualified members or anybody who thinks whether the Speaker's ruling is right or wrong or someone thinks Governor's rule is right or wrong, they can knock the doors of the court in a healthy atmosphere. But the Opposition must know they will be more advantageous if they act on mutual understanding and adopt the path of compromise.

They believe that they are the outgrowth of confrontation, and only if they act on confrontation, they will succeed. But they must realize that they have lost Frontier because of confronta­tion and also lost Political Parties Act due to confrontation. But we are democratic people, and if the Opposition reviews its attitude, then they will be welcome with open arms.

Q : Mohtarma, don't you think, the defection which is taking place in Sindh and Frontier will make any difference with regard to democratic traditions ?

Ans : You see, there exists no such clause in our Constitution that prevents the elected representatives to change their political party, and this tradition has come down to us since 1988. Chhanga Manga operation is in front of you, Murree operation is in front of you, Marriot Hotel operation is in front of you, but it has not happened until now. I tell you, I am personally in favor of Political Parties Act. And it has come into discussion in the Cabinet and been amply discussed over whether we should keep it intact or not and we have also formed sub-committee in this regard, but we have left this matter over to the Opposition. If they want that the Political Parties Act is implemented then they should support the government on women seats, if they support us the whole nation will be benefited. Then they should see what suits them. We have promised in the manifesto for certain constitutional amendments. Evidently if the Opposition does not cooperate in this regard then those members who wish to act in accordance with the manifesto they should be allowed to do so, otherwise the Opposition may find out its own way.

Q : Prime Minister, in the past you have said that you will bring the Anti Floor Crossing Bill and other bills irrespective of whether the Opposition supports it or not. Now you are making it conditional that the Opposition should support you in other bills too, only then you will agree to the Political Parties Act ?

Ans : If you check my words, I have never said that I shall bring forth the Political Parties Act even irrespective, because I knew that it was a move which might cause any table turn in politics. But I have certainly said that I shall first try to bring the Opposition round on the issues of women seats, and the Eighth Amendment. And if we could not bring the Opposition to agreement on both the bills, and since there is no question they will agree, then we will certainly bring forth, irrespective, both the bills.

There are certain prepositions in our Constitutional Reforms Package which has also attraction for the Opposition, then what we want is 'give and take' in this matter.

Politics is called the Art of compromise. But when we saw Opposition bent upon confrontation, we decided to press upon them that we were not going to be in defensive position. And if they acted on confrontation then the government will also be strict in its attitude and if they come through the path of compromise then government's attitude will also be fair enough for them.

Q : Mohtarma, is this defection for the sake of pressurizing Opposition or calling for their support on 8th Amendment ?

Ans : You see whether they have respect for the constitution or not. They have said, "To hell with the Constitution." They have said "they will burn MPA's houses of, those who will vote against them, and put their houses on auction". During the vote of no- confidence move the Speaker owned a constitutional right that he could ask for casting vote or declare the success or failure of this person or that, but the Speaker did not do it. According to the Constitution its decision has to be taken within seven days, whereas the Speaker has told 36 days and asked to postpone it till March 31. Aren't they playing with the Constitution ? Besides, the Governor has said, "It seems to me that you have no majority. You get the vote of confidence, I call for the session of the vote of no-confidence." Speaker has given in black and white that they would not do it. The Secretary to the Assembly has written to the Secretary, who is a government official and supposed him to work according to the Constitution that he would spare for neither day time, nor other time nor place to the members since the session was in progress. Speaker wrote a letter to the Home Secretary, "If somebody tried to enter the Assembly, stop him." This, I am sorry to say, it is a sheer disgrace for the Constitution. And this I am saying in civility. If you ask some lawyer about what they are doing you will know, that it is an open sedition what they are doing. Do they think that they can be above law? Law is equal for all. It is wrong to act undemocratically in a democratic set up. If they think since they will get no advantage in democracy they will have to work against democracy, then I think, they are working against the nation and its aspirations. The people of Pakistan have struggled for independence, whether it was a struggle against India, to build a free country, Pakistani people have also struggled against every dictatorship, this is also the war of independence. This is the war of democracy, This is the war of justice and equality. There is not of People's Party alone, it is a war of every citizen, it is the war of every street, it is the war of every field and every city. And in this regard. I think no body will permit Opposition to play with the Constitution or the law. People do not want Opposition to do agitation. If the Opposition adopted the way of agitation, it will be their yet another fault.

Q : How can democracy be served by suspending an elected government ?

Ans : It is the demand of democracy if there takes place any undemo­cratic move anywhere and constitutional machinery comes to stand still then, besides democracy, it is a part of Constitution as well that such Assembly is suspended. This is a part of the Constitution and we must honour Constitution. If there arises any problem, we cannot say that we will settle it or by burning of houses, breaking legs, we cannot say we will find solution by making hostages; we can only say that its solution lies in Constitution. Its solution lies in the law. Whatever is through Constitution and Law is democracy.

Q : Please tell us, will it mean that there remains no scope for compromise and understanding between the Government and the Opposition ?

Ans : Why are you saying' after this' ? You may look at their attitude from the start, from October, Do you find any difference ? They sometime try to raise one issue and some time another. Their first was the nuclear issue on which they could not go on agitation.

Then they tried to make Kashmir another issue, and yet another was their Sikh issue. I do not know why they love them so much when you know what they did with Muslims at the time of independence and how they played havoc with them and shedded their blood. So that issue also did not work. Now they are after Frontier issue. When this issue too will not work, they will create another issue. All this is not from the side of the government. The government is a democratic government. We want supremacy of law. The Pakistani people are with the government. Today there is stability in the country. Today the whole world is reposing their confidence in our country. Pakistan's funds have been three times over subscribed. An agreement has been concluded with IMF, and steps taken to reconstruct Pakistan's shattered economy, have been welcome.

Pakistan government has decided to refund 5 crore rupees to the people affected by Cooperative Scandal within a short period of time. Those who had claimed from 25,000 to 50,000 have already been paid off. Besides, the government has initiated Ghazi Brotha Water Way Hydel Dam-The first hydel dam, twenty years after Tarbela. Simultaneously the construction of Indus Highway, from Karachi to Khyber, is underway to accelerate the traffic between all the four provinces.

The government is recruiting 23,000 lady heath workers under Welfare Planning Programme so that a woman could be made available in every village to serve mothers and children.

The energy sector required an investment of two billion rupees which Pakistan was unable to afford alone by itself. Since we did not have so much resources, we had to decide that half of the expenses will be met by the government and for the second half to be collected from the other countries by offering incentives to them for which we have standardized the procedure. We come across a shortage of 200 MW electricity every year, which means after ten years there has to be a shortage of 20,000 MW in Pakistan. Therefore we can foresee nothing but load shedding in future. In order to avoid it the government has taken some revolutionary steps.

Not only that the problems of energy, populations planning and cooperatives are dealt with, but also for the first time in the country's history tax has been imposed on the big land lords. Somebody said it was Moeen Qureshi who had passed this Ordinance. I told them, that to talk ordinance, it is an easy thing. But it is not an easy task to convince the members of Assembly, the elected representatives, to satisfy those who possess big lands, the big landlords, rich and wealthy, whether they belonged to the city or village to pay tax which they will do. This was not an easy decision to take up, but we did take it up.

We have to reduce deficit in economy, because the dearness cannot come down unless the deficit is reduced. And as I have said, Inshallah, just eighteen months after the assumption of office the world will see the dearness is reduced in Pakistan.

And then, it was also not an easy task to introduce the struggle of Kashmiri people inside the occupied Kashmir to the world over, and what the government has achieved within its first hundred days. This success and achievement is by the blessings of Allah, and the good wishes of the poor people for us. We want to serve poor people. We have already struggled for them, and have given sacrifices for them in the past and will continue to do so in future, and will not give up this struggle. We will certainly not cease to offer our sacrifices for the people and for Pakistan, In need, we will offer any sacrifices for Islam.

Q : Madam Prime Minister, today the Leader of Opposition doubts your sense of patriotism. Yester he was one of the persons who wanted to appoint you as a Chairman of the Foreign Affairs Committee ?

Ans : Yes, the Leader of Opposition used to talk like this in 1988, the people defeated him. In 1990 the Leader of Opposition repeated the same again, and was again defeated by the people. But they succeeded to appear on the election scene through rigging. And in the elections which took place three years after they again talked about the same thing but were again defeated by the people. Now it is better for them to read the lines of their fate, they will see whenever they talk like that they are bound to be defeated by the people, because they know Pakistan is People's Party. Benazir Bhutto and Zulfikar Ali Bhutto have saved it. Not only saved it but also offered sacrifices for it. Bhutto has offered his life for it. As for as I am concerned I came over to Pakistan as soon as I completed my education. I refused to spend a comfortable life. I realized the people of Pakistan were in trouble. I preferred the path of perils for me. I endured the hardships of jails. I endured it for Pakistan, and for an ideology. We endured it because we wanted to materialize the dream of Quaid-e-Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah.

Q : Nawaz Sharif says that he is not ready to accept you as Pakistani what to talk about of your being Prime Minister, what do you say about it ?

Ans : That is his personal opinion, not the opinion of the people. This is the opinion which Pakistani people have rejected repeatedly. But I am ready to accept Nawaz Sharif as a Leader of Opposition because I belong to democracy so I suggest Mian Nawaz Sharif, since he has never come forward in the struggle for democracy, he does not know the meaning of democracy so he should learn it from his friend Iftikhar Gilani.

Q : Mohtarma, what will be the base of our resolution in connection with Kashmir, to be presented in Geneva ?

Ans : Yes, we deem it as a game of principles, and not the game of numbers. In the past none of the governments, either of Nawaz Sharif or of Mr. Junejo, presented the resolution in the United Nations, because they thought it was a game of numbers whereas we think it a game of principles. And if the world conscience does not wake up and Pakistan stands alone with conscience, then we will knock the doors of everyone; and we will never remain quiet on it. Because, if we become quiet, it will mean our conscience has also become humb like the others, as such we do not want this, And for the same reason we have decided, whether we win or not, attain number or not, the rest of the people come forward or not, Pakistan by playing the role of vanguard will certainly go ahead at the international level and will talk about the human rights as we have talked about it in the past. It is ordained in Islam that wherever you see cruelty prevailed you must rise your voice against it. It is said that even if you are in danger, and you are not allowed to raise your voice then you should migrate, as did the Holy Prophet (peace be upon him) from Holy Makkah to Madina, to another place, but do raise you voice for justice. And if you cannot do that even, accept death, but you must raise your voice for justice. And that is the reason the one who raises voice, he will certainly raise voice from our ranks and leadership even if Pakistan is left alone in raising voice for liberty, raising voice for the truth. And with this ambition we went to the United States and will continue to go there under the same ambition until India stops hostilities against human rights in occupied Kashmir in India and finds out the political solution in accordance with the International Law.

© Fayaz Sindhi 2010