General Pervez Musharraf's address to the nation

October 17, 1999


My dear countrymen,


Pakistan today stands at the crossroads of its destiny - a destiny which is in our hands to make or break. 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 slide down 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 comity of nations. Is this the democracy our Quaid-i-Azam 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 were not a poor nation as generally perceived. In fact we are rich. We have fertile land that can produce three crops in a year. We have abundant water to irrigate these lands and generate surplus power. We have gas, coal and vast untapped mineral resources, and above all, a dynamic and industrious people. All these await mobilization. We have only to awaken, join hands and grasp our destiny. For Allah helps those who help themselves.

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 the few at the helm of affairs in the last government were intriguing to destroy the last institution of stability left 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.

Providence ultimately intervened. Praise be to Allah that the plane landed safely when barely seven minutes of fuel was left. I salute all my officers and men for acting courageously in the supreme interest of the nation. Most of all, I salute our people who stood solidly with their armed forces at this critical hour.

Quite clearly, what Pakistan has experienced in the recent years has been merely a label of democracy, not the essence of it. Our people were never emancipated from the yoke of despotism. I shall not allow the people to be taken back to the era of sham democracy but to a true one. And I promise you I will, Inshallah.

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 a part 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 towards 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.

Ever since 12th October I have deliberated, carried out consultations and crystallised my views about the future course to be adopted. I wish to share these with you today.

My dear countrymen, our aims and objectives shall be:

  1. Rebuild national confidence and morale.
  2. Strengthen federation, remove inter-provincial disharmony and restore national cohesion.
  3. Revive economy and restore investor confidence.
  4. Ensure law and order and dispense speedy justice.
  5. Depoliticise state institutions.
  6. Devolution of power to the grass-roots level; and lastly,
  7. Ensure swift and across the board accountability.
Good governance is the pre-requisite to achieve these objectives. In the past, our governments have ruled the people . It is time now for the governments to serve the people. The government I plan to institute shall comprise:

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

Revival of 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 trust. Their hard-earned money was frozen or taxed in violation of State commitment. We need to restore this trust.

To revitalize our economy  in addition to measures like recovery of the looted national wealth, a task that will be ruthlessly be pursued, I am identifying policy guidelines. Some of which are:

This brings me to the next aspect, which  is accountability. Lack of accountability has resulted in corruption of horrendous proportion, threatening the very basis of our society. The term 'Ehtesab' has been abused to an extent that it has lost its meaning. There is thus a need to re-establish faith in the process of accountability.

The process of accountability is being directed especially towards those guilty of plundering and looting the national wealth and tax evaders. It is also directed towards loan defaulters and those who have had their loans re-scheduled 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.

Cementing the Federation is very vital. This will be achieved through devolution of power, from the centre to the provinces and from the provincial to the local governments as actually enshrined in the Constitution.

The media forms an integral part of statehood in this era of information. 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 am even considering to liberalise the policy on the establishment of private television and radio channels.

And now a few words on exploitation of religion. 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 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. I would like to reassure our minorities that they enjoy full rights and protection as equal citizens in the letter and spirit of true Islam.

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 the 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.

Here I would like to mention two key areas of our external relations; international security and disarmament, and our relations with India. Pakistan has always been alive 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.

As for relations with India, let me at the outset congratulate Mr Atal Bihari Vajpayee on assumption of office as Prime Minister of India. I welcome his offer for friendly relations and positively reciprocate.

At the turn of the century, South Asia stands at a crucial juncture of its history. 20th Century saw our transition to independence, but the region has unfortunately remained mired in conflicts and economic deprivation.

Together, Pakistan and India can change this scenario. For this objective both must sincerely work towards 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 our forces moved to the borders in the recent past. I hope this step would serve as a meaningful confidence building measure.

My dear countrymen, to conclude my address let me say that: We have hit rock bottom. We have no choice but to rise, and rise we will, Inshallah. Our actions shall Inshallah speak louder than words. Therefore, my countrymen, let us rise to the occasion and seize the opportunity.

"Before I close, I would like to give you a personal commitment. I hereby undertake to declare my tax returns and assets to be documented and open for public scrutiny.

And now I would like to share a prayer that I wrote for myself:

O Allah, I promise my nation sincerity, honesty, integrity and unflinching loyalty.
Give me the vision to see and perceive the truth from the false,
The wisdom to comprehend a problem and find its solution,
The courage to do justice and the strength to do the right.

May Allah be with us all. Aameen

Pakistan Paaindabad.

Source: Dawn - The Internet Edition - - October 18, 1999 [with minor corrections]