Address of Ms Benazir Bhutto
Address of Ms Benazir Bhutto
At International Kashmir Alliance - London
By Ms Benazir Bhutto
Ladies and gentlemen,
I am privileged to join such a galaxy of delegates at this conference including those from the Indian Administered Kashmir. I congratulate Dr Syed Nazeer Gelani and the International Kashmir Alliance for collecting so many luminaries from far and wide together here in London.
We meet in London at a time when the world is at war, not peace.
The U.S. led coalition occupies a major Islamic Nation, suffering daily attacks and many casualties. No one knows whether Iraq will survive the present phase or disintegrate.
And as I talk to you, the resurgent Taliban are mounting fresh attacks against the Karzai government in Afghanistan. They are mounting attacks against the Coalition forces and the NGOs working there.
In Jammu and Kashmir, despite the present welcome ceasefire at the Line of Control, violence continues.
We must ask ourselves: are we to condemn our future generations to a world of violence, of conflict, of bloodshed, of war, blood and destruction.
This conference, organized to explore peace initiatives, is an important step in building a different kind of world. A world that protects the life, liberty and livelihood of every individual irrespective of their race, religion, gender or political affiliation.
There is an important responsibility on the shoulders of the Kashmiri leadership. This responsibility is all the more grave as the world is involved in the war against terrorism.
We owe it to the Kashmiri people, to people all of South Asia, to make every effort, to pursue peaceful means for the resolution of the outstanding dispute of Jammu and Kashmir. In today's world climate, the Pakistan Peoples Party promotes confidence building for reduction of tension in our region.
In this spirit, the Pakistan Peoples Party welcomed Islamabad's announcement of a unilateral ceasefire along the Line of Control inclusive of Siachen. This measure was taken in response to Prime Minister Vajpayee's twelve point package of confidence building measures.
There are many who believe that in the context of Indo Pak relation, tension can only be reduced when both countries are truly democracies. I am one of those who believe that democracies do not go to war against other democracies. I say this on the basis of Indo Pak history. Since Independence the three wars that took place between India and Pakistan took place under military dictatorships.
And since the destabilization of the democratic government that I led in 1996, India and Pakistan have come close to war three times.
As a witness to the historic Simla Agreement, the agreement which brought peace without either side abandoning its position on Kashmir, my Party and I are committed to a Peace process that keeps in mind the sentiments of the Kashmiri people. It is this commitment which led the PPP and me to welcome talks between New Delhi and Islamabad despite the military dictatorship in my country.
For the time being, the Indo Pak ceasefire has brought immediate relief on both sides of the Line of Control. Hundreds of villages with thousands of peaceful inhabitants are worst hit during a military standoff. Mines are laid maiming many. Constant firing denies villagers sustenance.
The major impact of this ceasefire relates to Siachin area. Both India and Pakistan spend enormous amounts on maintaining their respective holds on this highest and coldest of battlegrounds.
As Prime Minister, I have seen the transformation of the glaciers into formidable military camps. Estimates claim that the cost to both countries since 1985 is in the region of roughly twenty billion rupees annually. This huge amount is being spent to sustain and counter each others confrontation in the icy peaks. Against this background investment in Kashmir has fallen. Unemployment, poverty and insecurity stalk the land.
The United States, China and others have welcomed the much needed ceasefire in the hope that it will create confidence building.
The Pakistan Peoples Party is the only Federal and broad based political party outside those created by the establishment. The PPP has the singular honor of making a breakthrough on Siachen during Indo Pak talks in 1989. It is the architect of the policy of soft borders on the disputed Kashmir territories. This was enunciated in 1999.
The PPP hopes that intra Kashmir talks can be followed by greater travel links between divided Kashmir as well as talks on how to lessen violence and use of force in the area. The PPP hopes that another ceasefire with militants and the Indian army can be reached as it was in the past. The lessening of violence in the valley can be calibrated to the reduction of Indian troops in the area giving a greater sense of security to the Kashmiri people as well as bolstering trade and economic development.
Public opinion in both countries is building up. Exchanges and visits by Parliamentarians, intellectuals, business community and women's groups are taking place.
The renewed contacts between India and Pakistan are taking place against the backdrop of statements by key officials both in Washington and in London.
We are living in a new world. This world emerged from September 11th with zero tolerance for acts of violence.
Militants believe that without violence there will be no settlement of the Jammu and Kashmir issue. During your discussions, I hope you can address how to have borders that are soft on the ceasefire line and which are also safe from militants.
In war games and scenarios played out by think tanks fictitious volunteers are seen as the
Achilles heels of the normalization process. These war games have led security agencies to conclude that the region is “one of the most dangerous places on earth.”
Cognizant of these new realities, Islamabad banned some militant groups, froze their accounts and sealed their offices. It is hoped that such groups would not resurface once again when the snows of winter melt.
The struggle of the Kashmiri people has impacted on the world community. The sacrifices of its martyrs are bearing fruit. As New Delhi engages the All Parties Hurriyat Conference in dialogue we stand on the brink of a new phase of history.
My mind goes back to the Islamic Conference in Morocco. There the late Nawabzada Nasrullah Sahib and I worked with other Muslim countries to have the All Parties Hurriyet Conference Recognized as the sole voice of the Kashmiri people. The OIC accepted our diplomatic efforts to form a contact group on Kashmir.
In asking the OIC to recognize the APHC as the sole voice of the Kashmiri people, I was inspired by an earlier Islamic summit. As a teenager I attended the Lahore Summit in 1974. Here the Palestinian Liberation Organization was recognized as the sole voice of the Palestinians. The political impact of a unified leadership is tremendous.
Today APHC, despite some disunity, remains a potent voice of Kashmiri people. It has an important role to play in any political move regarding Jammu and Kashmir.
Ladies and gentlemen,
I thank Mr. Nazir Gillani once again for bringing us together to speak on an issue impacting on the future of one fifth of humanity.
And when a conference takes place in Pakistan, I hope I will be able to attend as I did here. For now, I, like many Kashmiris am an exile.
I recall Maqbool Butt who was hanged in 1984 during my exile. I recall Ayub Thakar who died in exile. I pay tribute to all those who paid the price of their commitment.
Like some of my fellow Kashmiris, I am banned from my country. I am banned from contesting for contesting elections, banned from seeing my husband who is in the eighth year of his imprisonment, banned from entering my ancestral homes, banned from praying at the graves of my Martyred Father and brothers.
I do not despair. In life, an individual makes choices.
I made mine on the last day of my Father's life in a prison that our colonial masters built in the city of Rawalpindi. That was the choice to fight for justice, to fight for human dignity and freedom that must come when people can combat hunger, poverty and illiteracy.
I know that realities change. That a person can go from Prime Minister to prisoner and from prisoner to Prime Minister. I have seen power from the time that I was a child. I must tell you that the sense of satisfaction and joy that I felt never came from the chandeliered halls or the turbaned staff, or the pomp and power of governing a state.
It comes from living a life devoted to high ideals and high principles. It comes from knowing that I fight for a cause greater than my own -- the cause of my people.
The wheel of history turns. There was a time when Prime Minister Gujral fled Jhelum, the city he was born in. It was 1947. Now he, though an Indian, can visit Jhelum. I, though a Pakistani, cannot visit my Larkana. But I know, as you know, that the wheel of fortune must turn.
The wheel of history turns. For individuals and Nations.
God brings night and God brings day. God brings light and God brings darkness. Victory and defeat are in God's hands. In our hands is the decision to live a life that can give us the satisfaction to say, when dying, that we lived a full file, a life devoted to serving humanity and its highest ideals.
As the wheel of history turns for the children of divided Kashmir, I hope each one of us can bequeath them a better future than our bitter past.
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