By Dr Muzaffar Iqbal
The News, September 12, 2008
My fellow citizens, assalamu alaykum. First of all, I am grateful to the Almighty for giving me the honour of serving a great nation as its president. It has become somewhat clichéd to say that today Pakistan stands at a crossroads, but today it is really so and I wish to turn the course of our journey towards a direction that is full of hope, vigour, and bright future for a nation that has been deceived, robbed, and cheated so many times.
Let me begin by stating that on Nov 3, 2007, a military dictator hijacked the entire system by serving a crushing blow to the judiciary. That one man can do so much harm to the system is in itself an indication of how bad things have become in the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, but I will come back to that in a minute. First, let me share with you my decision to redress that action of Nov 3, 2007, by the military dictator. I have issued instructions to complete the legal process so that that the deed done by the general becomes null and void. Simultaneously, a process of accountability has started to bring to justice all those who have violated the Constitution, plundered national wealth, and the millions of American dollars given to Pakistan during the last nine years. Soon, you will hear more on this.
The restoration of the deposed judges, however, only corrects one wrong; what we need is an overall correction of the system itself. One man, namely the President of Pakistan, has too much power and we all know too much power concentrated in one hand leads to wrong decisions, corruption, and many other ills. Therefore, I hereby ask all political parties to join hands and evolve a constitutional package that will address major imbalances in our system. To this end, I have asked our party to organise an all-parties conference within a month. Insha’Allah, with sincere efforts in this regard, we will overcome the misdeeds of decades and come up with a package that restores balance in our system.
Clearly, the elected house must have the greatest power. Personally, I think the president should be a statesman, rather than a politician, someone who remains above politics and guides the country. It may not be a bad idea to give the right to people to directly elect their president, but I will let the political parties decide this. Surely, the amendments made in the 1973 Constitution, which have given the president draconian powers, must go.
As I speak, I am deeply troubled by the death of twenty-six women, children and men in Angoor Adda. I take it as a bad augury for my presidency, an evil gift from those with whom we have cooperated for eight long years on their war of terror. These were mostly innocent lives that have been lost to a barbaric act of terrorism on our soil. As the commander-in-chief of Pakistan’s armed forces, I have issued instructions to our military and air force that in future all intrusions into Pakistan space must be repelled with force. We must honour our sovereignty and force others to do so. This must be the last act of violation of our land, people, and their lives.
For years, we have been supporting the American efforts in the region. In return, our last military dictator was supported for nine long years, millions of dollars were given to those who have squandered them, and we have lost much of our sovereignty. I am not willing to tolerate this anymore. It is true that we want to fight terrorism, but we want to do so on our own terms. We want to bring to justice those who violate our laws, be they Pakistanis or foreigners.
It can be argued by the other side that they have supported and are supporting Pakistan by giving us arms and money, and that we must be grateful. But, as I mentioned earlier, they have been supporting a military dictator and the money that has come into Pakistan has not been of any use to Pakistanis. Look at the state of our economy! While we can use military and monetary support, we cannot accept such support at the cost of losing our sovereignty. I recall the words of Zulfikar Ali Bhutto who had vowed to eat grass but go ahead with nuclear development. Today, we stand at yet another point where courage matters more than dollars, as our dignity, self-respect, and even sovereignty are at stake. I, therefore, declare that any future violation of Pakistan’s air space or territory will be repelled with force.
At the same time, I stand by our time-tested commitment to curb terrorism and violence. To this effect, I have asked the government to invite those who are waging a war against the state to an honest and open dialogue within the framework of our Constitution. We must find out from them why are they so annoyed with the state that they have taken up arms against their own armed forces. What do they want? I understand that they want to have Islamic laws and Shariah, but there is no one who can be opposed to this; after all, we are all citizens of an Islamic republic. They must come forward in the best spirit of Islamic brotherhood and share their concerns with the government, meet with the elected representatives who should devise a plan to address all their genuine demands. I myself am willing to meet them and invite them to the Presidency.
My fellow citizens, today is the day to positively turn the direction of our journey. Today is really a day of new hopes and new beginnings. You will hear more from me in the days and weeks to come, but now I do not want to speak too many words, for a man is known by his actions, not by his words.