Democratization in Pakistan
The Middle East Institute
Washington, DC - September 25, 2007

1. Ladies and gentlemen. I thank Ambassador Chamberlin and the Middle East Institute for the invitation to be with you this morning. I visit at critical and uncertain time in Pakistan.  When the history of my nation is written, we will look back to the fall of 2007 as a genuine turning point in Pakistan.

2. It is a critical fork in the road between democracy and dictatorship and between moderation and extremism.  In its resolution lies not only the future of Pakistan, but also its ability to contain the spread of militancy and extremism which now threatens the territorial integrity of Pakistan. The stakes could not be higher.

3. Four times in history, Washington has supported military dictatorship in Pakistan.  Three times the US acted out of perceived self-interest to constrain communism.  Today Islamabad enjoys the support of Washington because General Musharraf’s military regime is viewed as a vital asset in fighting extremism and contributing to regional and global security.

4. Some argue that extremism can better be confronted by a military backed regime.  As such, a controlled dictatorship is seen as a stable and reliable ally, as opposed to a truly elected government that has the support of the people.

5. It will not surprise you that I disagree with this view quite vigorously.  I think it is a strategic miscalculation that has had a negative impact in the battle against violent fanaticism, posing grave dangers both to Pakistan and the larger world community.

6. The recent German investigation into a terrorist conspiracy simply reinforces this view. It certainly makes Pakistan uncomfortable that whether it is John Reid the Shoe bomber, or Tanweer the tube bomber, or Khalid Sheikh the CEO of Al Qaida, or the German plot — unfortunately the steps lead back to our country. But none of these high-profile terrorist acts took place when I was the Prime Minister of Pakistan. The attacks on the World Trade Towers, the Cole ship at Yemen, the embassies in africa, the blasts in bombay and in the indian parl took place when I was in opposition

7. Since 9/11 the Musharraf regime has professed support for confronting militancy.  But actions on the ground have not matched the rhetoric.  Indeed, the only nation on this planet that has ever signed an actual peace treaty with the Taliban and al Qaeda militants is the current regime in Islamabad.

8. Large sections of Pakistan’s tribal areas have been ceded to non Pakistanis in the Taliban and Al-Qaeda militias. In fact, after defeat and demoralization following the fall of the Kabul, these violent elements have re-organized themselves under the shadow of the military regime. They attack NATO forces across the border in Afghanistan every day.  They conduct suicide attacks within Pakistan killing innocent people. On September 20, 2007, Al – Qaeda declared war on the Pakistan army.

9. Military dictatorship has fueled extremism. A democratically elected government enjoying the support of the people can bring peace to the people of Pakistan and eliminate extremism. Eliminate terrorism by taking extremism off the radar screen of the region.

10. I was the civilian female leader of a democratic Pakistan that invested political capital in the tribal areas that a military regime has failed to control.  As Prime Minister I brought the rule of law and the fruits of development to the people in the Federally Administered Tribal Areas. My government broke up the international drug cartel’s militias that have now reasserted themselves under the Musharraf rule and are funding Al – Qaeda to have a narco-fiefdom.  My Administration brought the authority of the government and the rule of law to FATA in the 1990s.  And we can do it again.

11. I would also add that as Prime Minister I took the necessary steps to close down political madrassas whose curriculum taught hatred and para-military terrorist techniques. I did this before they became a threat to the world community. I considered them a threat to the stability, security and progress of the people of Pakistan.

12. Since the dismissal of my government by military hardliners that had fought the Afghan Jihad of the eighties, there has been an explosion in these militant training schools, educating a successor generation of extremists, reinforcing irregular armies in Pakistan who have made my nation the Petri dish of the international extremist movement.

13 General Musharraf’s team, many of them linked to a military dictatorship of the eighties, that founded the Afghan Mujahideen to fight the Soviets in Afghanistan, has presided over the rise of political Madrassas and private militias while neglecting social issues and governance.

14. The people of Pakistan want a government that can build a school system giving their children a chance for a better life.  Education was the centerpiece of my social agenda. My government built 48,000 primary schools in its two stints in government.

15. If the people of Pakistan wish me to lead them again, education will be the center-piece of a new PPP government.

16. General Musharraf has tried convincing the world that he is the only thing standing in the way of an extremist takeover of a nuclear armed Pakistan. In fact military rule is the cause of this anarchic situation in Pakistan. Extremism thrives under dictatorship.

17. When Osama Bin Laden declares war on Musharraf, it makes the West rally around Musharraf’s dictatorship. This in turn extends the environment that enables Osama to thrive.

18. Neither Musharraf nor Osama Bin Laden wants democracy for their own reason. One considers democracy a threat to his dictatorship; the other considers democracy a threat to the environment of chaos and fear in which he thrives.

19. Both know that the people of Pakistan have never supported dictatorship or extremism.

20. It is only dictatorships which have used the Islamic card to legitimize their rule at the expense of the neglected people of Pakistan. Dictatorships, lacking a popular base, need the religious card, played in one shape or another, to justify their stranglehold on power. They need a crisis to obtain international support, both political and financial. Extremists have never been able to achieve more than 11% of the vote in a free election, and they will do worse, not better if free elections are held today.

21. The Musharraf dictatorship like its predecessors is only establishing the prerequisites for the radicalization of Pakistani society.  As our people continue to be deprived of basic political and human rights, and as the social needs of our working families go unmet, people lose faith in the ability of government to respond to their needs.  When they lose faith, they become hopeless, they become desperate and they tend to become vulnerable to the hysterical appeals of extremists.

22. Ladies and gentlemen, dictatorship in Pakistan is not containing extremism, it is fueling it.

23. The suppression of democracy in my homeland has had profound institutional consequences.

24. Each of Pakistan’s four military dictatorships has assaulted the major infrastructural building blocks of democracy -- by attempting to marginalize political parties, dismantling NGO’s and undermining civil society,  by constraining  labor and student unions,  and allowing the intelligence agencies and government members to physically assault and intimidate the free press.

25. Each military dictatorship has undermined the independent judiciary by sacking of judges. In the last twenty years, my government is the only one which has neither removed a Chief Justice nor attacked the premises of the Supreme Court.

26. Let me tell you what dictatorships do allow to flourish.

27. Under General Musharraf, the military intelligence agencies have received over ten billion dollars in unaccountable assistance from the U.S. government. Retired military officers from the security forces who fought the Afghan Jihad of the eighties are running our intelligence and administration.

28. The ones who recruited the Mujahideen who morphed into Taliban and Al-Qaeda are in charge of our homeland security.   Under their watch religious extremists have expanded in Pakistan. Radical mosques and madrassas have been encouraged as an alternative to recognized political institutions.  They are awash in money and weapons while the people of Pakistan bear the burden of unemployment, inflation, poverty and hunger.

29. Dictatorships, by dismantling the infrastructure of democracy, allow the mosques to become the only outlet of political expression in Pakistan.

30. The Musharraf regime has appointed extremists to head many of the mosques. For example the head cleric of the Red Mosque in Islamabad who led a mutiny in the summer of 2007 was appointed by the regime of General Musharraf. When he was caught smuggling weapons into Islamabad in 2004, he was released by the Minister of Religious Affairs. The same Minister has twice defended suicide attacks before a Pakistani audience while retracting them for the international community.

31. When Pakistanis gather to pray on Friday in the mosques they are often subjected to long lectures by radical clerics appointed by the government even as the government claims publicly to be against extremism.  The voices of moderation are exiled or imprisoned. The voices of extremism are protected.

32. We are all united in the common effort of the world community against violence and extremism that would destroy our values and the social fabric of our societies.  I am returning to Pakistan to coalesce the forces of moderation against extremism and to prove that the fundamental battle for the hearts and minds of a generation can only be accomplished under democracy.

33. Extremism looms as a threat, but it will be contained again as it has been contained in the past, if the “moderate middle” can be mobilized to stand up to fanaticism.  And I intend to lead that struggle.  I intend to mobilize the moderate center of my nation to assert control of our future and protect us from the threat of extremism and fanaticism.

34. Moderate and centrist political parties, thriving human and political rights NGOs,  the media, and progressive leadership within our security and intelligence agencies must be brought together to confront extremists who pose the greatest internal threat to Pakistan.

35. This is a battle that can only successfully be waged in a democratic Pakistan by a legitimate government that enjoys the support of the people.  This is a battle that I am prepared to wage, to lead and to win.

36. I am well aware that some in Pakistan have questioned the dialogue I have engaged in with General Musharraf over the last several months. I entered into that discussion with my eyes wide open.  My goal from the beginning and to this day is to have free and fair elections in Pakistan that constitutionally elects a civilian president who recognizes the supremacy of the Parliament – which embodies the will of the people through their elected representatives.

37. The goal of my dialogue with Musharraf has never been personal.  The goal was always to ensure that there be fair and free elections in Pakistan, pursuant to the Constitution, supervised by a robust team of international monitors and observers, as quickly as possible.  My goal was quite literally to save democracy in Pakistan, to give democracy a chance to nurture and grow and strengthen.

38. The fight against extremism requires a national effort that can flow only from legitimate elections. Within our intelligence and military are elements who sympathize with religious extremists. If these elements are not answerable to Parliament and the elected government, the battle against religious militancy, a battle for the survival and future of Pakistan, could be lost. The military must be part of the battle against extremism, but as the six years since Sept. 11 have shown, the military cannot do it on its own.

39. Many issues remain unresolved in our political structure. Musharraf is precluded by law from seeking reelection in or out of uniform. Pakistani law requires a two-year lapse before a member of the military can run for the presidency.

40. The general can respond to the people's desire for legitimate presidential, parliamentary and ministerial elections, or he can tamper with the Constitution.  The latter choice would risk a fresh confrontation with the judiciary, the legal community and the political parties.

41. It is perhaps this reason that General Musharraf embarked on negotiations with the PPP for a transition to democracy. The understanding has stalled because extremist sympathizers in his party refuse to accept a democratic process. Musharraf couldn’t deliver on commitments because of these extremist sympathizers in his party — over whom he seems to have little control.

42. Once General Musharraf files his nomination papers, the PPP would decide whether it would resign from the present Parliament or whether it would boycott the elections. While the PPP would not vote for General Musharraf as President from this Parliament unless there is a constitutional amendment, it would not resign if he took the necessary steps to show that he was moving toward fair elections and a level-playing field.

43. If General Musharraf will retire from the post of Army Chief by  October 5 - given his pledge to retire before the year’s end; second seek national reconciliation by passing an immunity law for those parliamentarians not proven guilty in the last decade; and third repeal the ban on a twice elected prime minister seeking office — a law that he put into place contrary to the constitution; the PPP will not resign from the Assemblies.

44. The Pakistan People’s Party is holding a meeting with its ARD allies to decide this issue on October 3.

45. Islamabad’s Election Commission created a new controversy when it attempted to change constitutional provisions to facilitate Musharraf’s election in uniform. In a government of law, laws are changed by an elected parliament, not an official appointed by the military regime.   This action alone demonstrates why presidential and parliamentary election held under the supervision of the present Election Commission worry civil society. The Election Commission is also viewed as a partisan by civil society and political parties for its failure to draw up a credible electoral list.

46. As a pretext for the declaration of martial law, the forces of regression in Pakistan deliberately want to provoke a mass uprising. More and more, Pakistanis are coming to this sad conclusion.  It seems that some in the President’s ruling party, a party created in the headquarters of the I.S.I in 2002, believe that they can only continue in power if they seize power, and not earn it through the people’s trust.  They will do any thing; force an emergency or martial law or rig elections to prevent the restoration of democracy. They fear that democracy would mean a roll back of their structure which has permitted the expansion of extremism and militancy to threaten an Islamist take over of nuclear armed Pakistan.

47. Civil unrest is what the extremists want. Anarchy and chaos suits them.

48. The political element in Musharraf's party that presided over the rise of extremism has worked with every Pakistani administration since my government was destabilized in 1996.

49. Its members have done everything possible to block the democratic change I have tried to achieve through dialogue with Musharraf. They fear that democracy will be difficult to manipulate to the benefit of extremists and militants.  In this, they are absolutely right.

   50.  My dialogue with Musharraf aims to bring change by promoting democracy and stopping a dictatorship that has failed to stop the tribal areas becoming safe havens for militants. The extremists are now spreading their tentacles into Pakistan's cities.  It is a process that must be stopped, if the people of Pakistan are to have security, employment, education and a better quality of life and if Pakistan is to be saved from the clutches of extremists.

51. My party and I seek fair, free and impartial elections to be held by an independent election commission under an interim government of national consensus. We want a level playing field for all candidates and parties.  The Musharraf Election Commission has failed to give civil society and the opposition confidence.

 52. Joseph Stalin is thought to have once said, "Those who cast the vote decide nothing. Those who count the vote decide everything."   That's why we have stressed electoral reforms -- although our efforts have so far been in vain.

53. The people of Pakistan want change. Change of systems, change of programs, change from a climate of threat to one of stability and prosperity.  They don’t want to see the sham of 2002 repeated again, resulting in an illegitimate government that has no mandate to govern and fails to give security of life or economic growth that can provide hope and opportunity to those unemployed or living on the margins of poverty.

54. President Bush has rightly noted, “The most powerful weapon in the struggle against extremism is not bullets or bombs -- it is the universal appeal of freedom. Freedom is the design of our Maker, and the longing of every soul.”

55. I plan to return to Pakistan next month, to land in my home town of Karachi on October 18th.

56. I chose Karachi as the city to return to because it is the city where the founder of Pakistan rests. Quaid e Azam Mohammad Ali Jinnah campaigned to create Pakistan as a democracy where all citizens would be equal irrespective of their race, their religion or their gender. I go to Karachi to rekindle the dream of Quaid e Azam for the people of Pakistan.

57. Quaid e Azam believed that every Pakistani should be free to go to the mosques, the churches or the temples. The extremists who oppose democracy today oppose Quaid e Azam. But they were defeated; and they will be defeated again, God willing, because most Pakistanis are moderate. Most Pakistanis yearn for security, for democracy and for economic progress.

58. My father gave his life standing up for Quaid e Azam’s dream of Pakistan. And so Karachi is full of symbolism for me.

59. When my plane touches down on the tarmac, I know I will be greeted with joy by people who are longing to see an end to military rule, and a chance for democracy.

60. I do not know what awaits me, personally or politically, once I leave the airport.   I pray for the best and prepare for the worst.

61. But in any case, I am going home to fight for the restoration of Pakistan’s place in the community of democratic nations. I do not fear the extremists for I have put my fate in the hands of the people of Pakistan, and my faith in God.

62. Thank you for coming here today, and thank you for your support for democracy in Pakistan.