Speech delivered at the public oath-taking ceremony at Rawalpindi on April 21, 1972

My dear friends, elders, peasants, workers and students Assalam-o-Alaikum:

I have made many public speeches in my life. I have been taking part in discussion and debates from my school days. I have made speeches not only in Pakistan but also taken part in discussions in international forums in many foreign countries. This is not my first public speech in Rawalpindi, anyway.

You would recall that before the elections and during and after the elections I made many public speeches here. But I find myself at a loss for words today. So overwhelmed I am by the significance of this day. This is an extremely auspicious day to only because it is Jumat-ul-Mubarik but also a day on which we commemorate our great national poet Allama Iqbal. Not only that, it is also the people’s day because the people of Pakistan have got today their constitution. After a struggle of 25 years, the country has seen today the dawn of a truly democratic era, and the located representatives of the people where given you a constitution. Now this is your constitution albeit it is an Interim Constitution, which as unhered in the country peoples rule, by bringing an end to Martial Law. And for this reason on this auspicious day I wish to congratulate you and thank all those friends who, in response to our invitation, have assembled here. I am grateful to all of you.

Let me assure you and through you all friends you all friends that it shall always be my endeavors to consolidate national unity. Indeed, national unity can be strengthened only by acting on principles, when we extend due respect to opposition, and struggle for realization of peoples aspirations and their prosperity. I wish to assure the leaders of the various parties who have assembled here that, if need be, I shall travel from Karachi to Khyber to strengthen national unity and to bring about greater co-operation among us. This is the need of the hour and the demand of the country that there should be greater national cohesion at this juncture.

Friends, perhaps those who are given to criticism, those who always criticise, will say where was the need for this pomp and show and extravagant spending on this occasion for a poor and a backward country. But is wish to tell the critics that this is not mere pomp and show. This is a peoples gathering. There is no greater strength than the people themselves. When the moneyed people and the capitalists gobble up crores and crores of nations money, nobody protests. But when the poor people are invited, when they are saluted on their day of victor, the narrow minded say what is the need of all this. I fervently believe this is my way of thinking that I will not take any basic step without permission, indulgence and co-operation of the poor.

So this is not the government’s day. It is the people’s day, the poor mans day. It is the laborers’ day, the farmers’ day and the students’ day. I have invited you to participate because it is through your efforts that this day has been possible. This is the fruition of your struggle. I, therefore, thought that it would be proper if the Government and the opposition both combine to pay their homage to you and to say how grateful they are to you. It is your victory, Pakistan’s victory and the people’s victory.

And for this reason, I believe that in future we will progress day by day, Insha Allah. Whatever the Government has already done is very little. I will never say that we have done a great deal. But whatever we have been able to achieve during the last months is commensurate with our capabilities and the national resources that were available to us. But I promise you that if we get the time and if you bear with us, you will see that, Insha Allah, we will fulfill each and every promise that we made.

My friends, we respect the constitution because we know that it is the fundamental law. The constitution is a legal framework without which the country’s affairs cannot be managed properly and we cannot progress. You have got an interim constitution after 25 years but it is your constitution. Besides, you have struggled for democracy; we have all struggled for it.

Pakistan today has not only a people’s constitution but has seen the beginning of an era of democracy. And as a result of the peoples struggle Martial Law has been buried. Insha Allah, it shall be our endeavor never to allow in this country an anti-people era. You should bear in mind the hardships and injustices which you have under the Martial Law regime, the injustices and the cruelties you have suffered. If you are not vigilant and if you do not handle things carefully, if the politicians make mistakes, and if we indulge in pretty matters, go along destructive channels or fight among ourselves, it is just possible that the bygone era might recur. So you should be vigilant. We all should be vigilant. We have to defend democracy like one man. I have told you before that while one man can destroy a nation, no one can build it single handed. If we are to reconstruct are rebuild, it has to be a co-operation effort, a co-operation struggle. It is not my duty alone: it is not the Governments duty alone: it is not the duty of the opposition parties alone. It is the duty of the whole nation, the responsibility o the whole nation. So you should remember, my dear friends, that we have to make a success of this democracy. We have to draw up a final constitution after this Interim Constitution. And after this, the most important and vital thing is that we have to bring about economic justice in the country. It is only a Government based on justice which can bring about economic justice.

On this occasion, on this auspicious occasion, I pay homage not only to the people of Pakistan but to the brave soldiers, sailors, airmen and their officers, I salute them. We are proud of our brave Armed Forces. The injustice done to Pakistan in the past which led us to trouble was not the fault of our brave Forces. There were selfish people who usurped the Government and exploited the nation, the people, and also exploited the Armed Forces. It was not a military Government, it was an oligarchy. There were a few people who wanted to lord it over and usurp Pakistan. The Armed Forces were not at fault. They were dragged into politics. The Armed Forces were exploited. There were people who got rich on bribes. See, what they have done to the nation. There were some individuals who did wrong to the country. The Armed Forces were not at fault, the people were not at fault. It was the system that was at fault. So with God’s help bury this system and do not let it come again. We have to give a permanent constitution to the country and to spell out the responsibilities as well as the rights of different sections of the people. The responsibilities of looking after the political affairs have been entrusted to the people while the Armed Forces have been asked to fulfill their own responsibilities. The people and the Government and also the opposition groups have to do constructive work. We have to build Pakistan. The Armed Forces are to defend the territorial integrity of the country, to defend the frontiers. And, Insha Allah, we will fulfill our responsibilities.

I had said that I will not make a long speech. I have no intention to make a long speech. But there are one or two things which I want to tell you. There were serious internal problems. With your co-operation and with God’s grace we have, to some extent, found a solution for them, besides we have to give full attention to external problems and world events. But we have to pay the utmost attention to problems in our neighbourhood, in the neighbouring countries, specially India with whom we had a war. This was not our first war. Unfortunately, this was the third war in the course of 25 years. There are problems between Pakistan and India. War creates problems and no one is really a winner in a war. We have to give a great deal of thought to problems that have cropped up as a result of the war. In this connection I want to tell you that since we assumed power it has been our endeavour to find an equitable solution to these problems.

You must have seen in the newspapers that an emissary of the Indian Government is coming to Pakistan on the 25th of this month. We will have discussions with him on many problems but the one problem which is upper most in my mind relates to our prisoners of war. The war ended on the 17th December. The formal cease-fire came on the 27th December. Today, it is 21st April that means four months have already passed since the end of the war. We have made it clear that we want to live in peace with out neighbours. The Indian Prime Minister has also said the same thing. Now that they also want a peaceful co-existence and so does Pakistan, then on what pretext are the Pakistani POWs held in India. This is against the international law and against the third Geneva Convention. It violates the resolution of the General Assembly. A resolution of the Security Council.

My friends, the United Nations is not the voice of one nation. It is the voice of the whole world. It is the world court of law. We respect law. Even backward countries like ours respect law. The whole world should respect the United Nations and its resolutions.

We respect our courts of law. We have our High Courts and the Supreme Court. Who administered the oath of office to me? It was the Chief Justice of the Supreme Court. We respect him. We respect his decisions. It was only yesterday that they decided that the previous regime was illegal and unconstitutional. We respect each and every verdict passed by them. When we respect and honour our courts of law, we expect others to respect and honour the verdict of the world court of law. The decision should be accepted by all. It is the decision of the Geneeva Convention. Besides, 105 nations represented at the General Assembly of the United Nations gave the verdict in our favour which was, in fact, the verdict in favour of truth and justice that the war should end, aggression should end, and the armed forces should withdraw from the borders and go back to their respective countries and the POWs should be repatriated. We respect this verdict the verdict of the Security Council. The five great powers represented at the Security Council enjoyed veto but none of them exercised it in favour of the above mentioned resolution. This was actually a referendum in favour of Pakistan and India should accept it. This is the voice of the whole world, a referendum of the whole world. Why does India not abide by it? I wish to tell India that we want peace and mutual relations based on justice. We do not want a war between our two countries, I should even go to the extent of telling the Indian Prime Minister that if she keeps our brothers as POWs without any justification and in spite of the verdict of the entire world, in spite of the fact that the war has ended, and she swishes to keep our prisoners as hostages, she will be committing a big mistake. We will not make a similar mistake. I am even prepared to repatriate the Indian POWs without any preconditions.

If, despite perpetuating injustices to Pakistan, Mrs. Indira Gandhi wishes to keep Pakistani POWs as hostages for bargaining purposes, we will not be a party to it. We will not go against principles since two wrongs do not make a right. If India wants to keep our POWs in spite of the worlds verdict against it and in spite of the resolutions of the General Assembly and the Security Council, we will still respect the law. I will say to them, keep our POWs. They are brave Pakistani Muslims. I have just received a vote of confidence from the National Assembly. I wish to get a vote of confidence from you too. I know there are some who do not like this procedure. But I will tell them that this is my way and if the people do not like it, they will throw me out and will not vote for me in the next election.

Now I ask you, do you approve that I should return the Indian POWs to their homes without preconditions? (This was reciprocated by resounding “Yes” from the audience). I have taken the approval of the National Assembly. I have taken your approval also. It is my proposal that even if the Indian Government does not want to release our POWs forthwith, I am prepared to go ahead unilaterally. If the Indian Prime Minister makes a request for the borders tomorrow. If our sisters, our mothers and our brothers have to undergo more sufferings on this account, there is no alternative, but I do not want the kith and kin of Indian POWs to suffer the same agony. I do not wish to be cruel to them since it is against the principles of justice.

In the end, I would like to say that I could take the oath of my office in a closed room but I wanted to take the oath in public and in front of my people. If you have been inconvenienced, I am sorry for it. But I am grateful to you all.

Pakistan Paindabad. Quaid-i-Azam Zindabad.
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