Opening Statement

I have taken the first opportunity to invite you in order to meet old friends and make the acquaintance of others I did not have the pleasure of knowing earlier.

My respect for media persons has deepened as a result of your role in educating opinion about the extraordinary circumstances that precipitate the extraordinary change of government on October 12. Even in countries that issued instant verdicts there is now a better appreciation of the objective situation in our country. At least one seems to recognize now that the government we had was 'bad', 'corrupt' and ‘unacceptable' to our people and that the economy was in a 'terrible situation'. Still, some foreign governments want to know the timeframe for restoration of democracy. We hope they do not have in mind the same kind of democracy that an eminent American scholar has called 'kleptocracy'. But democracy we will have - a democracy that is found on honesty and integrity, freedom and tolerance, equity and social justice.

The timeframe question is problematic. It is difficult to forecast how soon essential reforms for genuine democracy can be implemented, and, its announcement may be undesirable because that could trigger the lame-duck syndrome. From personal experience in the 1993 caretaker government, I can tell you we felt frustrated. Few took us seriously. The game of musical chairs was resumed also after the hiatus in 1990 and 1996.

As for foreign policy, broad outlines have been sketched by the Chief Executive. Characterized by continuity, the policy cannot but remain responsive to imperatives of peace and the security of our country. In pursuing our goal we shall not be oblivious to the legitimate interests of others. Principles of international law, norms of peaceful coexistence and reciprocity will be our guide in the promotion of mutually beneficial relations with all countries.

Strengthening existing friendships and expansion of cooperation for peace and progress remains the essence of Pakistan's diplomacy. That is manifest in the Chief Executive's visits to Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, Qatar yesterday, Turkey today and Kuwait tomorrow. He will take the earliest opportunity to visit also other countries of the Gulf.

High on priority is Iran. Sharing strong bonds of history and culture, Pakistan and Iran have been close friends. We shall make unremitting efforts to reconstruct and fortify mutual confidence and enhance cooperation to advance the common interests of our Islamic republics.

Pakistan cherishes its partnership with People's Republic of China. It has strengthened bonds between our two peoples, contributed to global stability and is a cornerstone for peace and security in our region.

It will be our constant endeavour to expand cooperation with the United States, Japan, Germany, the United Kingdom and other industrialized countries. Their economic assistance has contributed to development of our economy. Greater access to their markets and flow of investment are crucial to our hopes for modernization.

Pakistan's friendly relations with Afghanistan are rooted in shared history and geography, commonalties of language and culture. We are proud of our part in the world community's support and assistance to the epic struggle of the Afghan people for the recovery of their freedom and independence. In collaboration with Iran and Saudi Arabia, Pakistan also played a role in promoting the 1993 Islamabad Accord between Afghan parties.

Pakistan desires peace and unity in war-ravaged Afghanistan. No other country except Afghanistan itself will benefit more from an end to the fratricidal travail. It is incumbent on all neighbours and signatories of the Geneva Accords of 1988 to respect the right of the Afghan people to determine the system of their government. Ground realities recommend more intense dialogue and engagement with the Afghan government and observance of international norms by all including Afghanistan.

Containing nuclear dangers in South Asia will command our top priority. To that end the Chief Executive's pledge of restraint and responsibility will reinforce his government's search for effective, non-discriminatory, multilateral and bilateral agreements.

Historically, Pakistan was not the first to build weapon-oriented nuclear plants in our region. Even after the Indian atomic bomb test in 1974, Pakistan observed restraint. Despite achieving explosion capability, Pakistan did not conduct a test.

In 1996 Pakistan voted in favour of the CTBT. It did not sign the treaty only because we suspected India's intentions. The apprehension was confirmed on May 11, 1998. Worse, after the multiple explosions, Indian government ministers engaged in threats and bluster, leaving Pakistan no choice except to demonstrate its deterrent capability and thus to safeguard its peace and security.

Immediately thereafter, Pakistan declared a moratorium on further tests. As in the past so also in the future, Pakistan will not take a provocative initiative. We will remain sensitive to the world community's concerns for non-proliferation.

Minimum credible deterrence will remain our policy. We will not participate in build-up of strategic arsenals. A nuclear arms race by Pakistan is a figment. We cannot afford it. Nor is it necessary.

CTBT is an important milestone on the road to vertical and horizontal non-proliferation. But into it is the principle of nondiscrimination. It cannot come into force until all 44 nuclear-capable states, including Pakistan and India, sign and ratify the treaty. We have therefore no objection of principle to the treaty. Yet our people need to be reassured against a discriminatory approach on part of one or more nuclear weapon powers, offering rewards to one signatory but refusing to extend the same to another. Clarifications on this aspect and removal of sanctions will be indispensable for domestic consensus on this sensitive issue.

Reduction of tension between Pakistan and India is obviously desirable. Overt nuclearisation in 1998 added to the necessity and urgency of eliminating flash points. Pakistan remains ready to respond to the international community's call for a dialogue to address the root causes of tension between Pakistan and India, including specifically Kashmir.

The Kashmir question involves the life and future of the millions of Kashmiris. Self-determination is their inherent right. It was pledged to them by India as well as Pakistan. It remains sanctified in resolutions of the Security Council.

Pakistan has consistently upheld the demand of Kashmiri people for the exercise of self-determination. India's repression has inflicted untold suffering and sorrow. According to the All Parties Hurnyat Conference, more than sixty thousand men, women and children have perished in the freedom struggle. Civilized humanity cannot remain indifferent to the tragedy and heart cry of the Kashmiri people.

Pakistan wants to improve relations but India does not give that prospect a chance. Instead of resolving differences on basis of law and justice, it seeks to exploit power disparity to impose unilateral preferences. Attempts at domination and dictation cannot be an acceptable basis for international relations.

India alone has shut its ears to the sigh of relief of our people at riddance form corruption and misrule. Instead it has sought to exploit our domestic affair for narrow ends. Unmindful of the injurious blow to the hopes implicit in SAARC, it has unilaterally aborted the scheduled summit.

Pakistan will not retaliate. We will not engage in brickbats. The policy of General Musharaf’s government will reflect our commitment to good-neighborly relations. Adhering to principals of peaceful coexistence, we shall preserve in our efforts to build a future better that the past.