Text of Gen. Pervez Musharraf's address to the nation on December 30, 2004
My dear Pakistani brothers and sisters, itís been a long time since I addressed you last. This delay has been due to a busy schedule of engagements and some developments.
But today, five days after Quaid-e-Azamís birth anniversary, I think it is appropriate that we review collectively what has happened to the Pakistan of Quaid-e-Azam, how we are correcting the situation, and what the future holds for the country.
First, let us see what conditions prevailed before October 1999. Here, first of all I would like to dilate on the economic state. The economy was in a shambles. It was bankrupt. The nationís wealth had been looted and the exchequer was empty. We were confronting darkness all around with hardly a ray of hope in sight.
As much as Rs 1,000 billion were reported to have been spent on development between years 1988 and 1999. Where was that hefty amount spent? That is for you to judge. I can see only the M2 Motorway between Rawalpindi and Lahore. Where did the rest of the amount go? You can judge for yourself.
Then, no less than $11 billion of Pakistani private foreign currency account holders were frozen, because they were not intact. The entire amount had been spent over the 11-year period. That is why the government at that time decided to freeze the foreign currency accounts.
What were the reasons that had pushed the country to this situation? This sorry state was due to the fact that our expenditure exceeded our income by seven to eight times. Our balance of payments faced a huge deficit of $4 billion annually and we went around begging for loans from the World Bank and International Monetary Fund. This resulted in our credit rating plunging to selective default level, below which is only default in actual terms. Consequently, we were about to be declared a failed state. This was the economic situation.
Extremism and terrorism were on the rise, corruption and nepotism were the order of the day. The system of government was that of loot and plunder. All national corporations and institutions were headed by flattering government officials. These corporations and institutions were badly damaged. Transparency International rated Pakistan the second most corrupt country. It was a shameful situation.
Political tussles were rife. On the one hand, a political dictatorship was being let loose in the form of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution, which deprived parliamentarians of their right to express their will. On the other hand, the opposition, at the very outset, engaged itself in toppling the government. They would go to GHQ and ask the army chief to take over or remove the prime minister. Such was the state of democracy at that time.
Vital national interests were compromised and bargained away. We faced isolation in the world. Nobody was willing to interact with us. Resultantly, we were being dubbed a defaulted state, a terrorist state and a failed state. This, in brief, was the pre-October 1999 scenario.
Now let us see what have been our achievements and what we have set upon to achieve in the future.
First, let us see Pakistanís international stature. Previously, we were called a pariah state, one that nobody was willing to interact with. Now world leaders meet us, seek our views, listen to our views and accept our views. World leaders visit Pakistan to meet us. Pakistan holds a special status in the Muslim Ummah. We have a lead role to play in the Ummah. We are friends with all leaders. We are in touch with them on important issues.
In this context, we have put forward the strategy of enlightened moderation, which has been widely received. I am hopeful that this strategy will help take Muslims forward on the path of socio-economic development.
Let us look at our region and view our relations with Afghanistan. In the beginning, we faced some difficulties with Afghanistan, but now the two countries enjoy excellent diplomatic, political and trade ties. The government and the people of Afghanistan are extremely thankful to Pakistan for our cooperation in political developments and the Afghan election process. God willing, Pakistanís trade with Afghanistan will cross $1 billion this year. Our relations with Afghanistan are progressing well. It is only some terrorists from our tribal region that bring us a bad name. Otherwise, our bilateral relations remain excellent.
Let us look at our relations with India. Our relations have seen a great improvement. Now we are dealing with them on the basis of sovereign equality. We are not compromising on principles, as was being done before.
We are moving forward our relations at two levels: confidence-building measures and the dialogue process. We have made it clear that the Kashmir issue is central to the whole process of bilateral relations and resolving this dispute is absolutely imperative. We have also stated that we will show flexibility for the resolution of the dispute. But we have never said that we will demonstrate this flexibility unilaterally, that we shall leave aside our principled stand and move forward. I have neither stated this nor shall I ever say that. Our stand today is the same as it was in 1948, that is the UN resolutions and plebiscite as a solution. But we have shown flexibility to the extent that we will be flexible if India reciprocates. If both countries step back, we will be able to move forward to the resolution of the Kashmir dispute somewhere from the middle path. This is what I have said and this is the purpose of demonstrating flexibility. We shall never show flexibility unilaterally. We have also made it clear that the dispute cannot be resolved against the wishes of the Kashmiri people. The will of the Kashmiris has to be taken into account. The Kashmiris will have to be included in the dialogue process at some stage. We have made this clear. Therefore, I say that I see a ray of hope. It will be our endeavour that our relations with India improve and all outstanding issues, particularly the Kashmir dispute, move toward their resolution.
Let us have a look at the economic scenario now. Thanks to Allah, our economy is firmly on sound footing. All the macro economic indicators are positive. Our economic growth is 6.4 percent. God willing, we will raise it to eight percent in the coming years. Foreign exchange reserves are at a strong level. I want to give you evidence of the strength of our foreign exchange reserves. The entire world witnessed a surge in international oil prices, but we did not increase petrol prices. The government bore a loss of almost Rs 40 billion and did not pass this burden onto the people. This was possible due to the healthy state of the economy and due to the fact that we had foreign exchange reserves worth $12 billion. If a similar raise in oil prices had taken place in the pre-1999 era, I donít know what the impact would have been in Pakistan on poverty and the national economy.
I want to inform you that Pakistan is the first country in the world that has successfully come out of IMFís Poverty Reduction and Growth Facility. Some time ago, we decided not to take the last tranche of $262 million. Our economy is robust, and we thanked them and did not take the money. That is our strength, the strength of our economy. This has restored our economic sovereignty and prestige. We are no longer begging and, God willing, Pakistan will continue to remain that way in the years ahead. Our government has steered Pakistan out of the previously much-talked about IMF control and now Pakistan has secured an honourable status. Our credit rating, which was at the rock-bottom selective default level, has improved by seven steps. The same international institutions have put us seven steps up. We have to further consolidate our economy, which, thankfully, is in better shape.
A lot of improvement has been made to the system of governance. Corruption and nepotism have been reduced at the top level of government. The fear of God has been put in the hearts and minds of the rich and powerful. All corporations and institutions, including PIA, Railways, PNSC, Steel Mills, KPT, WAPDA, etc, are performing efficiently. Previously, they were corrupted with nepotism and favouritism. Now, they are running efficiently and progressing.
All mega development projects, numbering 18, which were started in 2000 and 2001, are being completed and inaugurated. I inaugurated the Coastal Highway, which has been completed in four years. Travel from Karachi to Ormara, which earlier took a full day, now takes just three hours. That speaks of the quality of the Coastal Highway. In three months, the Chinese prime minister will visit Pakistan and we shall together inaugurate the Gwadar deep seaport. The construction of small dams including Mirani, Gomal Zam dams, the raising of Mangla Dam, the construction of canals, including Rainee and Thal canals, is proceeding as scheduled. The construction of roads is also in progress and on schedule. God willing, in the next few years you will witness the inauguration of all the mega development projects and Pakistan will continue to develop and prosper. That is why I say that Pakistan is not a beggar. By the grace of Allah, Pakistan is moving forward as a respected and progressive country.
Now that the economy has seen improvement, what are we to achieve in the future? We have to pay our full attention to poverty alleviation. It needs a strategy.
My dear countrymen, here I would like to say that nobody holds a magic wand in his hand for poverty alleviation. I do not issue political statements that I will finish poverty. Such statements were issued in the past when the national exchequer was empty and the state of the economy was abysmal. How was it possible at that time? It was all deception. Poverty cannot be arrested if the economy is in bad shape. Thankfully, the economy is in a much better state. Now we are able to reduce and stem poverty. The biggest hurdle in the way of arresting poverty is our two percent population growth rate. The 150 million-strong Pakistan nation adds three million to its population annually, which is a burden on the national economy. We can lower this burden by cutting the population growth to one percent, like in developed countries. I hope that the entire Pakistani nation will try to lower population growth.
Let us see what else can we do to reduce poverty. I am fully alive to poverty reduction. I am conscious of this because I am neither an industrialist nor a landlord. I am from amongst you. I fully understand the meaning of poverty. So with this feeling, I am striving for poverty reduction. Our holistic strategy to reduce poverty revolves around four pillars. First and foremost is to have an accelerated economic growth rate. Our economy should grow apace. This is the foundation without which poverty cannot be reduced. Thankfully, our economy is progressing steadily and will continue to grow in the years ahead. So, our foundation is right and we can reduce poverty.
Development projects in rural and urban areas constitute the second pillar of the strategy for poverty reduction. We have to be wise in chalking out development projects. Seventy percent of the population lives in rural areas and the population is growing by two million every year in rural areas. We have to enhance their income through the land, which will reduce the poverty of that 70 percent. We have to create jobs in the cities. This will help curb poverty. There is a holistic strategy for poverty reduction. The construction of dams and canals will lead to development. Water will reach places where people have no drinking water. This will lead to greater output in the agricultural sector and thus poverty will be reduced. Watercourses are being brick-lined under a Rs 66 billion project so that eight million acre feet of water is available for use by farmers. This will avert water waste and help rural people generate greater income for themselves. In addition, the government has also announced a farmers package. I do not want to go into its details. So we are fully seized with efforts for improving the lot of our brothers and sisters living in rural areas. And it is these projects that will achieve that objective.
In the cities, we are endeavouring for job creation. Now, where are the jobs available? Public sector employment opportunities are limited, only a few hundred thousand. The government sector cannot provide jobs to millions. It is industrial development that will create jobs. We have motivated both foreign entrepreneurs and the Pakistanis for investment. As the economy is in better shape, the small and medium enterprise sector is flourishing, with foreigners also investing in the sector. This will create ample employment opportunities. The governmentís facilitation of the construction and building industries has witnessed such a boom that there is a shortage of skilled labour. I want to inform you that our strategy for rural and urban development is going successfully.
The third pillar of poverty alleviation is human resource development. Enhancement in the quality of our human resources will be possible through education and health. The centre as well as the provinces are pursuing strategies for improvement in these sectors. We are also receiving foreign cooperation in this respect. The allocation of funds to the education and health sectors has seen a marked increase in recent years. This will result in human resource development. It is not a matter of a few months. It will take years.
The last pillar is targeted intervention for lifting the lot of the poorest of the poor. That we are doing through the Khushali Bank and judicious distribution of zakat that runs into billions. As many as 400,000 people have been extended, on the average, Rs 20,000 and enabled to stand up on their feet. This process should continue. These were four pillars for poverty reduction.
I am fully confident that poverty will be reduced in the next few years and if these are pursued consistently, poverty will be reduced in the country.
Let us now turn to politics and democracy. First of all I shall give my own view. Pakistan has never had real democracy in more than fifty years. That is why democracy has been derailing. We are endeavouring to introduce the essence of democracy.
What have we achieved in this respect? We have empowered the people through the local government system. We have devolved power to the grassroots. They have the money and they will devise a development strategy and implement it. So we have empowered the people.
We have empowered women. Now more than 40,000 women sit in political authority. We have empowered the minorities through the joint electorate system and allocation of reserved seats. We have empowered the youth of Pakistan by lowering the voting age to 18 from 21. We have empowered parliamentarians through removal of the 14th Amendment to the Constitution. Now parliamentarians are empowered to use their vote of conscience without fear. We have even empowered the opposition by giving the leader of the opposition representation in the National Security Council, an institution, which will keep a check on the president, the prime minister and the army chief. The leader of the opposition will now sit in the council along with the leader of the house.
We have empowered the media. It was not long ago that Pakistan had just one PTV channel. Now a dozen new channels have come up and another dozen channels are on the way. Now, there are a dozen channels that can air their views. This is evidence that the media has been empowered. The media are free to air their programmes. The newspapers are free to voice opinions through articles. Tell me, which other country has granted so much freedom to the media as Pakistan has given to its media? Very few countries.
My dear brothers and sisters, this is the essence and spirit of democracy which we are endeavouring to bring to Pakistan.
We took stock to see why democracy gets derailed in Pakistan. We have addressed that. We have introduced a system of checks and balances. In my view, democracy will continue unhampered in Pakistan in the future. We have restored the spirit of democracy in Pakistan.
I want to say something about myself. I have always fulfilled my pledges in the political sphere. I remain true to all commitments I have made. Now I would like to talk in the context of politics. I had promised to empower the people through devolution. I had promised to introduce a local government system and I had committed to hold elections in the year 2002.
With the grace of Allah, the system of local government, introduced on August 14, 2002, is functioning well in the country. A Supreme Court verdict mandated me to run the government for three years. Thankfully, general elections were held in October 2002, exactly after three years. Secondly, I voluntarily handed over the government to the elected government and an elected prime minister.
Here, I would like to state that a situation arose in the aftermath of 9/11 that provided a justification for me to seek an extension from the Supreme Court. And a number of suggestions to that effect were floated at that time, asking me to seek an extension. But I listened to my conscience, which said that I had made a pledge to steer the country forward on the path of democracy.
Therefore, I fulfilled that commitment, and we held free and fair elections in the year 2002. Some people had even doubted that. Look at the strong opposition presence in the National Assembly, the Senate and the provincial assemblies. This strength of the opposition is evidence that the elections were free and fair. I voluntarily handed over the government to the prime minister. That happened for the first time in the history of Pakistan.
I have always taken the people into confidence on important national matters. I have been talking to you on TV, I have been giving interviews to the newspapers and have been taking you along on national issues.
I had decided to leave the office of the army chief and also announced this. But I announced this decision with some hopes and expectations. I had made it with good intention, but also with some hopes and expectations. I had decided this voluntarily. It is not mentioned in the governmentís accord with the MMA and nor has the 17th Amendment of the Constitution touched it. I decided this on my own. But this decision was made with some hopes and expectations.
First of all, the 17th Amendment should have been passed, and thankfully it was passed. Secondly, I had thought that the opposition would engage in serious politics. Thirdly, the elected government would be allowed to complete its tenure and the government would be supported amicably. Fourthly, the political system would run smoothly and strengthen Pakistanís integrity.
But let us view the situation after I announced the decision in December 2003. One year has passed. Let us see the situation on the ground. First of all, after having signed the accord, the MMA time and again went back on its word. Secondly, the oppositionís attitude went from bad to worse as they indulged in undemocratic activities. They want the rule of the minority. They want to suppress the majority, which is contrary to the demands of democracy. In addition, they are threatening that taking off the uniform is the first step, after which they will take more action. Instead of strengthening democracy they pose a risk to democracy.
After looking into the political side, I reviewed the situation internally, regionally and internationally. I want to inform you about that as well. In my opinion, it is absolutely imperative that parliament and the government complete their tenure. Continuity of policies and strengthening of democracy are absolute requirements for Pakistan.
Thirdly, there is a military action against foreign terrorists and their local abettors and political dialogue going on in the South Waziristan agency of the tribal areas. The continuation of this process is vital.
And, continuity in the process of improvement in relations with India is very important in the context of resolution of the Kashmir issue. Continuity in Pakistanís foreign policy is very important in view of the developments taking place in the world including Palestine, Iraq, Afghanistan, and the Islamic Ummah.
Then, improving Pakistanís perception internationally is also vitally important for us as the country is wrongly perceived in the world as an extremist, militant, intolerant society. We also have to deal with extremism internally as we need unity to take our society forward towards moderation.
Then, we have to safeguard our vital national interests. It is the voice of the Pakistani nation.
In view of this situation, Pakistan direly needs harmony among political, bureaucratic and military institutions. I have viewed the issue of my holding two office both legally and constitutionally. The Constitution of Pakistan allows me to retain both offices until 2007. And I shall never violate the Constitution. The National Assembly and the Senate, the two premier democratic institutions of Pakistan, have passed a bill that I should keep both offices. This is the voice of the majority. Democracy demands that the minority should accept the ruling of the majority. I know that the uniform is a non-issue for the people of Pakistan. They (the opposition) are doing it for political mileage.
I have informed you about the entire situation. Therefore, I have decided to retain both offices. In my view, any change in internal and external policies can be extremely dangerous for Pakistan. Therefore, I appeal to the opposition to accept the democratic verdict of the National Assembly and the Senate and not adopt an undemocratic attitude.
Pakistan faces an internal challenge in the form of extremism and terrorism. I would like to talk about the culture of hatred and violence being spread by some elements in the country. If we do not check it, which we are doing, then internally, this menace will eat us like termites.
Here I would like to quote a favourite verse of mine:
ĎI have high ambitions and I do not fear flames from outside
What I fear is that the fire of this flower may set this garden ablazeí
We have to face it collectively and boldly and not fearfully. We have to face it wisely and with a strategy. I know that the majority of Pakistanis are moderate Muslims and I call Jaish, Sipah, Lashkar extremists. In my view, they have no place in society. Nobody should doubt that Pakistan is an ideological state. It is the Islamic Republic of Pakistan. It is the only country that came into existence in the name of Islam and it is home for the Muslims of this part of the region. Nobody should doubt that. Muslims of strong faith inhabit this country. Nobody should doubt that either.
It is not a question of being Muslim or non-Muslim, the question is what kind of ideology should be in place in Pakistan. An ideology of ignorance, backwardness, a retrogressive ideology which is given the name of Islam? Or should we have an ideology of high values, justice and progressiveness? The answer is clear. Pakistan wants a system with the ideology of Allama Iqbal and vision of Quaid-e-Azam.
Let us all pledge today that we shall boldly confront those who want to push us into darkness and that we will make efforts to ensure the majority of moderates prevails over the minority of extremists.
My dear countrymen, I assure you at the start of the year 2005 that I am fully for democracy. Democracy will continue to function in the country and the assemblies will complete their tenure. Local bodies elections will begin in April next year. The fight against extremism, terrorism and anti-state interests will continue unabated. The writ of the government will be established firmly. God willing, all mega development projects will be completed. About large dams, I would like to say that I will give the nation good news shortly. The national economy will be further strengthened and poverty will be reduced. All efforts will be made for poverty alleviation. We will address the Kashmir dispute and improve relations with India honourably. Our nuclear and missile power will be further strengthened.
At this juncture, I want to quote from a speech Quaid-e-Azam delivered on April 12, 1948 in Peshawar:
ĎOur duty to the state often demands that we must be ready to submerge our individual or provincial interests into the common cause for common good. Our duty to the state comes first. Our duty to our province, our district, to our town to our village and ourselves comes next. Remember, we are building up a state which is going to play its full part in the destiny of the whole Islamic world. We therefore need a wider outlook, an outlook which transcends the boundaries of provincialism, limited nationalism, and racialism. We must develop a sense of patriotism which should galvanise and weld us all into one united and strong nation. That is the only way in which we can achieve our goal, the goal of our struggle, the goal for which millions of Muslims have lost their all and laid down their lives.í
This was his address to the nation in Peshawar. This address should be a guiding light for all Pakistanis.
My dear Pakistani brothers and sisters, todayís Pakistan is not the Pakistan of pre-1999; not an asleep, lost, drowning, begging country surrounded in despair. It is a wakeful, progressing Pakistan, respected in the Muslim Ummah and a hopeful Pakistan. We should take pride in our country. We should be united for sake of its prestige, honour and security.
I extend a hand of friendship to the opposition. Come forward and let us take Pakistan forward towards light. Give up confrontation. Strengthen democracy and do not weaken it. Our youth and coming generation demand a bright future from us. God willing, I shall never disappoint them. May Allah be our protector and guide us so we may advance the vision of Allama Iqbal and Quaid-e-Azam. Long live Pakistan.
Source: Daily Times, Lahore