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Sunday, October 17, 1999 Published at 19:36 GMT 20:36 UK


Excerpts from General Musharraf's address

Pakistan's new military leader, Gen Pervez Musharraf, addressed the nation on Sunday to explain the reasons behind last Tuesday's coup, and to set out his plans. The following are excerpts from his TV address.

"Pakistan today stands at the crossroads of its destiny - a destiny which is in our hands to make or break.

Pakistan in crisis

"Fifty-two years ago, we started with a beacon of hope and today that beacon is no more and we stand in darkness. There is despondency and hopelessness surrounding us, with no light visible anywhere around.

"The slidedown has been gradual but has rapidly accelerated in the last many years. Today, we have reached a stage where our economy has crumbled, our credibility is lost, state institutions lie demolished. Provincial disharmony has caused cracks in the federation, and people who were once brothers are now at each other's throat.

"In sum, we have lost our honour, our dignity, our respect in the community of nations.

Reasons for coup

"Is this the democracy our Qaid-i-Azam [Mohammad Ali Jinnah, Pakistan's first president] had envisaged? Is this the way to enter the new millennium?

"Let us not be despondent. I am an optimist. I have faith in the destiny of this nation, belief in its people, and conviction in its future. We are not a poor nation as generally perceived. In fact, we are rich. ...

"My fellow Pakistanis, as you are aware I took over in extremely unusual circumstances not of my making. It is unbelievable and indeed unfortunate that a few at the helm of affairs in the last government were intriguing to destroy the last institution of stability in Pakistan by creating dissension in the ranks of the armed forces of Pakistan.

"And, who would believe that the chief of army staff, having represented Pakistan in Sri Lanka, upon his return was denied landing in his own country, and instead circumstances were created which would have forced our plane either to land in India or crash. ...

'Not martial law'

"My dear countrymen, the choice before us on 12th October was between saving the body, that is the nation, at the cost of losing a limb, which is the Constitution; or saving the limb and losing the whole body.

"The Constitution is but the path of the nation. Therefore, I chose to save the nation, and yet took care not to sacrifice the Constitution.

"The Constitution has only been temporarily held in abeyance. This is not martial law, only another path toward democracy.

The armed forces have no intention to stay in charge any longer than is absolutely necessary to pave the way for true democracy to flourish in Pakistan. ...

Policy objectives

"My dear countrymen, our aims and objectives shall be:

"No. 1- rebuild national confidence and morale;

"No. 2 - strengthen federation, remove inter-provincial disharmony and restore national cohesion;

"No. 3 - revive [the] economy and restore investors' confidence;

"No. 4 - ensure law and order and dispense speedy justice;

"No. 5 - depoliticise state institutions;

"No. 6 - devolution of power to the grassroots level; and lastly,

"No. 7 - ensure swift ... accountability. ...

Composition of government

"The government I plan to institute shall comprise the president - on my request, President Mohammad Raffia Tarar has very kindly agreed to stay; a National Security Council, headed by a chief executive with six members - these members will be chief of the naval staff, chief of the air staff, a specialist each in legal, finance, foreign policy and national affairs; a think-tank of experts shall be formed as an adjunct to the National Security Council to provide institutionalised advice and input; a cabinet of ministers, who will work under the guidance of National Security Council; [and] the provinces, to be headed by a governor, functioning through a small provincial cabinet.

"All these appointments shall be made purely on the basis of professional competence, merit and repute. ...

Economy

"Revival of [the] economy is critical. Our economy is in deep trouble and revolutionary steps are needed to put it back on track.

"The Pakistani people were subjected to betrayal of their trust. Their hard-earned money was frozen or taxed in violation of state commitment. We need to restore this trust.

"To revitalise our economy, in addition to measures like recovery of the looted national wealth - a task that will ruthlessly be pursued - I am identifying policy guidelines, some of which are: rebuilding of investors' confidence through stability and consistency in economic policy and economic security - the objective is to encourage the local investors, overseas Pakistanis, and foreign investors; increase domestic savings; carry out pragmatic tax reforms; turn around state enterprises toward profitability; boost agriculture and revive industry; strict austerity measures. ...

Tax, loans

"The process of accountability is being directed especially toward those guilty of plundering and looting the national wealth and tax evaders. It is also directed toward loan defaulters and those who have had their loans rescheduled or condoned.

"The process of accountability will be transparent for the public to see. My advice to the guilty is to return voluntarily national wealth, bank loans, and pay their taxes before the hand of law forces them to do so with penalty.

"As a last chance, I urge all defaulters to come forth and settle their debts within a period of four weeks after which their names will be published and the law will take its due course. They owe this to Pakistan and I expect their spirit of patriotism to guide them. ...

Media and Islam

"I have great regard and respect for the media. I trust it to play a positive and constructive role. I am a firm believer in the freedom of the press and I am even considering to liberalise the policy on the establishment of private television and radio channels. ...

"Islam teaches tolerance, not hatred; universal brotherhood and not enmity; peace and not violence; progress and not bigotry. ...

"I have great respect for the ulema [religious scholars] and expect them to come forth and present Islam in its true light. I urge them to curb elements which are exploiting religion for vested interests and bringing bad name to our faith. ...

Foreign affairs

"I wish to reassure the international community that there is no change in our foreign policy. We will continue to honour international obligations and commitments as in the past.

"It will remain our constant endeavour to promote peace and stability in our region. We would like to maintain our abiding policy of friendship and co-operation with all countries. The strengthening of brotherly ties with Islamic countries will be a central pillar of our foreign policy.

"We shall continue our efforts to achieve a just and peaceful solution in Afghanistan. We wish to see a truly representative government in Kabul.

"We will maintain and further reinforce our traditional and time-tested friendship and co-operation with China.

"We attach the highest importance to our friendly relations with all major powers, especially the United States. ...

Nuclear policy

"Pakistan has always been allied to international non-proliferation concerns. Last year, we were compelled to respond to India's nuclear tests in order to restore strategic balance in the interest of our national security and regional peace and stability.

"In the new nuclear environment in South Asia, we believe that both Pakistan and India have to exercise utmost restraint and responsibility. We owe it to our people and also to the world.

"I wish to assure the world community that while preserving its vital security interests, Pakistan will continue to pursue a policy of nuclear and missile restraint and sensitivity to global non-proliferation and disarmament objectives.

Kashmir

"As for relations with India, let me at the outset congratulate Mr Atal Behari Vajpayee on assumption of office as prime minister of India. I welcome his offer for friendly relations and positively reciprocate it. ...

"Both [India and Pakistan] must sincerely work toward resolving their problems, especially the core issue of Jammu and Kashmir.

"The people of Kashmir have made great sacrifices for the achievement of their rights promised to them by the United Nations. We shall continue our unflinching moral, political, and diplomatic support to our Kashmiri brethren in their struggle to achieve their right of self-determination.

"India must honour the UN resolutions and its own commitment to the people of Kashmir. It must also end its repression of the Kashmiri people and respect their fundamental human rights.

"Pakistan would welcome unconditional, equitable and result-oriented dialogue with India. While our armed forces are fully equipped and ready to defend our national sovereignty and territorial integrity, it is our desire that the situation on our borders with India and on the Line of Control should remain calm and peaceful.

"I take this opportunity to announce a unilateral military de-escalation on our international borders with India and initiate the return of all forces moved to the borders in the recent past. I hope this step would serve as meaningful confidence building measure."



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