Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s Speech at the 2nd PakLOT Summit.

21 Nov

“Bismillah ir-Rahmanir-Rahim
Assalam Alaikum,

Welcome to Islamabad.
This is the 2nd ‘Leaders of tomorrow’s conference I have had the pleasure of attending.

I must say I take issue with your organization’s name ‘Leaders of tomorrow’. We keep hearing that the youth is 65 percent of the population. Youth is our future. All those auditioning to be leaders of the youth pander and tell us anything we want to hear. They pander and expect it to work. They throw concerts or sing songs at their jalsa so they’ll seem hip and cool. The problem is, this youth has been cut a rather raw deal. This is not only true for Pakistan.  From the Americas to the Himalayas, our furthers have been gambled away.
We have been burdened with the debts of our forefathers who have mortgage our futures to make their lives easier.

They have polluted our planet for their industrial revolutions and economic booms and left us to live with the consequences of climate change.
They have fought war after war and not only left us with the bill but have left the societies we are to inherit vulnerable to the menace of drugs, violence and division because they were not conscious of the consequences of their wars on our future.

This is why I take issue with the title ‘Leaders of tomorrow’. I am standing amongst the best and the brightest of the schools of Punjab have to offer. We can not wait for tomorrow. It is time to become leaders of today.
Look at the example set by our sister, Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s, Pakistan’s heroine; Malala Yousufzai.

At such a young age, her motherland was threatened. The Taliban had taken over Swat having remained unchecked by the dictatorship that governed this country for almost a decade. Our beautiful Swat valley ran red with blood. Innocent men, woman and children lived under the terror of the Taliban. The women would wake up in the morning to find the bodies of their loved ones hanging from lampposts. If people didn’t live up to Taliban’s standards or if the women were not imprisoned in their homes, if the men didn’t grow their beards but instead wanted to grow their mind or if they dared to seek the simple joys of music – they were killed. It was in the face of this brutality that the young Malala demanded her rights. She said “I have rights. I have the right to play. I have the right to sing. I have the right to talk. I have the right to go to market. I have the right to speak up.” For this she was shot.

If a 16-year-old girl can stand up to the Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan, who continue to terrorize our country, what excuse do we have? When grown men are exposed as cowards and can’t even take the name of our sisters’ attackers, what excuse do we have? They are happy to lead peace marches in support of the Taliban, under the protection of the Taliban but when our sister is shot by the Taliban, they can’t bring themselves to condemn the Taliban. I thought they were meant to be the leader of the youth.
Well, if this is what the leader of the youth looks like, then it is time for us to give up on this sort of leadership, stand up, have our voices heard and fight for our own future. We don’t need others who claim to but fail to fight on our behalf.

We have a choice: We can either accept the status quo, we can wait and watch our futures gambled away, accept being pandered to, accept that others, our elders, our leaders will leave us a better Pakistan. Or we can be counted now. We don’t need to wait for a messiah. We will be our own leaders. We will not wait for tomorrow when we can start today. This is the beauty of democracy. The people can now be their own leaders, chose for themselves who they want to elect and de-iced their own destinies.

Our choice is simple; we can either be apathetic and content with being the Pakistan where Malala is shot, Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto is assassinated and Osama Bin Laden is caught on our doorstep. Or we can be the change we want to see in this country. I know, and I am sure you will all agree there is nothing wrong with Pakistan that cannot be fixed by what is great about Pakistan.

We must refuse to be branded as the country others want us to be, we must fight for the Pakistan we were meant to be. Jinnah’s Pakistan, Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan, Malala’s Pakistan.
Cowards try and muddy the waters. They want to keep us confused.  This must not be allowed. Everyone is entitled to their own opinions but not their own facts. Let’s get the facts straight.

Malala was not a drone strike. Malala was not a secret agent at age 11. Malala is a true Pakistani. A brave Pakistani. She refused to wait for her future to be stolen by bigots with beards who massacre innocent civilians, bomb their homes, bomb their schools until there is nothing left for young Malala to live for. But her voice was drowned out by so-called leaders who were too scared to stand by her in her struggle.

You will hear such cowards argue that our soldiers who risk their lives everyday fighting our war are fighting someone else’s war.  These cowards argue our brave soldiers are not fighting to protect their homes, they are not fighting to save their families and not fighting to save their country. These cowards argue that our soldiers are fighting for America. That is just not true.
It is our leaders who are killed. It is our mothers and fathers. our brothers and sisters. It is our cities and villages under attack. If this is America’s war why are the Taliban killing our civilians, destroying our homes, blowing up our schools, shooting children on our school buses, if this is a war against America they’d be fighting Americans.
There are thousands of American soldiers in Afghanistan they could be fighting. But they are not fighting American soldiers they are killing innocent Pakistanis. The Tehreek-e-Taliban Pakistan is not confused. They know who they are fighting. They admit to killing our soldiers, our civilians and even shooting Malala Yousufzai. There is no reason for us to be confused.

There is no reason for our leaders to be confused. Our country is under attack. Pakistan is under attack. You are either with us or against us it is that simple.
You will hear these cowards argue that if we could just talk to the Taliban we can have peace. That’s just not true. We’ve already talked to the Taliban. The PPP election manifesto clearly describes our counter-terrorism strategy. We made it really simple. The 3 Ds; dialogue, deterrence and development. We followed exactly that when we first came to power.

Despite the fact that we knew the TTP was involved in my mother’s assassination, a fact that both the UN report and the two investigations carried out by Pakistan confirm, we still agreed to negotiate with the Taliban in the larger national interest, because other members of parliament needed some convincing we agreed to hold talks with the Taliban. Parliament unanimously support our decision.  We were given authority to negotiate with the Taliban and if they did not live up to their end of the bargain, then we had parliamentary approval for a military operation.

We struck a deal with them, what I thought was a pretty fair deal, we compromised on our stance on Sharia law for the areas they controlled. This would be laws decided by parliament and not the Taliban, in exchange they were to lay down their arms and accept the constitution of Pakistan. These negotiations started in February 2009. On April 13th 2009, Pakistan kept its promise to the Taliban.  The President signed into specific laws for Swat in accordance with the Talibans’ demands. April 19th 2009, just 6 days later, not even one week had passed and the Taliban broke their side of the bargain.  They declared the constitution of Pakistan as un-Islamic, rejected our judicial system demanded the federal government call back all judges and that they would have their own legal system.

Then they broke the ceasefire first, marched into Bajaur and our army had no choice but to fight back. I know Imran Khan is getting old, but surely he’s not losing his memory already? This happened only 3 years ago. The whole world was watching. We were called all sorts of names by America for trying to ‘cut a deal with the Taliban’ which they are now seeking to do by the way. We had to do what was in the national interest and we did.

These are the people who murdered my mother. Who shot Malala. Who removed our flag from Swat, who attack us on a daily basis. Until today I still say we are willing to talk. Lay down your arms, stop attacking our country and our people, respect the constitution of Pakistan and we will not need to launch any military operations.  They are the ones who refuse.  Now why should we trust them? They have proven they cannot be trusted. When will our cowardly politicians wake up and fight back for sake of our country, for the sake of our solders and for sake of our innocent people, we are willing to negotiate but we are not willing to give up on Jinnah’s Pakistan, on Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto’s Pakistan and on Malala’s Pakistan. Just because the terrorists are scary, just so some old fogies can yet again negotiate our future away so the short time they have left passes easily and by the time ‘our future leaders’ are ready to lead we are left to live in the Taliban’s Pakistan?

Another argument you will hear from the cowards is that this is all the fault of US drones strikes. That’s just not true. Read my lips.  Malala Yousufzai was not a US drone. We oppose US drone strikes. We have done what the military dictator with all his might could not.  We shut Shamsi air base. It was when the mullahs of the MMA were in power in KPK and Musharraf was in government that the drones strike first started not in our government. They weren’t blaming the drones then but now when they are in opposition suddenly its all the drones fault.

Tell me this. What started first? Drones strikes or terrorism. Since it is a indisputable fact that terrorism started first. Can we all agree that drones did not start terrorism.
Can we also all agree that we all oppose drone strikes? That they may not have started terrorism but they do indeed make things worse, the loss of civilian life as collateral damage is unacceptable. The United States violation of its own laws, our laws and international laws while dictating its agenda to the rest of the world is the height of hypocrisy.

The US is also smart. They play games with the world. Send out signals and pretend that the government of Pakistan has secretly given their blessing to drone strikes. That’s just not true. Let me make it absolutely clear. We oppose US drone strikes. I have sat in the room when President Zardari met with President Obama three years ago and opposed the use of drone strike. I’ve sat in the room when the President met with Hillary Clinton many times and each time he has opposed drone strikes. We’ve said it again and again at every forum from the United Nations to the streets of Pakistani we oppose drone strikes.
Parliament has ruled that we do not support US drone strikes. I can’t speak for any secret deal former general dictator Musharraf may have approved. He was a military dictator. He did not have the mandate of the people. It is the people’s parliament that has spoken and unanimously opposed US drone strikes. Any secret agreement made with America under the dictatorship of the Musharraf regime stands null and void. It has been superseded by the new terms of our foreign policy set by parliament and we have been clear we oppose US drone strikes. So now what is their excuse?

Yet the Americans still pretend that Oh we have to say that but actually we mean to give them approval. Let me make it absolutely clear, we are not responsible for what you think we mean to say we are only responsible for what say. We oppose drone strikes. If this misconception still exists and the Americans have wrongfully inferred from something our diplomats said, something our generals have said, something our foreign ministry have said, something the president may have said, if America has misunderstood us, I’m making it clear now, we oppose drone strikes, we demand they cease and deceits immediately. No one at any level of government has any authority to undermine parliament.

There is no other party that would do anything different to what we have done. Let’s take the PTI for example. You all know who Shah Mehmood Qureshi is? He is the vice-chairman of PTI. I have a lot of respect for Shah Mehmood Qureshi. He was our Foreign Minister for the first few years of our government. Do you think he would have approved drone strikes when he was our FM?  I’m sure he didn’t. I sat in many many meetings with Shah Mehmood Qureshi. I listened to many of his speeches. He never in private or in public disagreed with our stance, nor did he try and argue with the party leadership to change our stance because nothing needed changing. We never have and never will support  US drone strikes in Pakistan. period. If he was aware that the government, the president, the PM or anyone in this government approved drone strikes would he not have resigned immediately and cited drone strikes as the reason for his resignation? If he could stop drones strikes when he was our FM, why didn’t he? If he couldn’t what would he do differently as FM in a PTI government? We all oppose US drone strikes lets not pretend that this not the case.
After the OBL raid, the PPP and the President of Pakistan were one of the few political parties to stand by our generals and our soldiers.

Even Nawaz Sharif was calling for our military and intelligence leadership to be sacked. President Zardari was defending our military leadership and defending Pakistan. When the whole world wanted them gone, when the opposition wanted them gone, President Zardari stood by the armed forces of Pakistan and lived up to his title of Commander-in-Chief. Now even the Americans accept, that Pakistan did not know OBL was here and he was hiding in plane sight.  This has been admitted by US Admiral William McRaven.

We’ve presided over a fundamental transformation of Pakistani foreign policy when our Parliament decided what our relationship with America would be like on our own terms.  Unlike the military dictator before us, we did not base our whole country’s foreign policy on a single threatening phone call from an American president. Let me remind you. It was this Pakistan People Party government that made the United States of America apologize not on their terms but on our own terms.
No other government has done this. No other country could do this.  But when my Salala was attacked a superpower was made to apologize to Pakistan.

People confuse the PPP’s opposition to military dictatorships with some sort of animosity towards the army as an institution. This is not the case. The facts have proved us right once again. We never oppose any institution as a whole it is only when an individual usurps the power of the whole institution into a single person and imposes dictatorship then we have a problem. Then we will oppose in a way that only the PPP knows how and we will win. We always will win. We are committed to democracy in Pakistan. Our leaders have given their lives for democracy in Pakistan. If an individual takes over an institution then our fight has and always will be against the individual and not the institution as a whole. The same would apply to any other institution, if anyone considers using the judiciary for example to impose effective judicial martial law on this country we will never attack the institution, we will never ridicule the institution, our fight will only be with the individual who usurps powers that belong to the people of Pakistan and no one man alone.

Inter-institutional conflict and even inter-political party conflict, specially when it comes to our national counter terrorism policy is extremely counter productive. This is why the PPP has made a genuine push for reconciliation to unite political parties despite our difference. It is why despite being threatened by various quarters we’ve all ways pulled back from all out conflict between institutions.

When I discuss terrorism it is not just as some other politician.  I’m also speaking as a son whose mother has been assassinated, as a member of a family who are victims of terrorism. The pain of losing my mother Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto has been a fate worse than death. I was 19 years old when my mother was assassinated, my sister Bakhtawar was just 17, my youngest sister Aseefa was only 14.

It is a pain I would not wish on my worst enemies. When I call on all political parties to unite on this issue. I’m not asking for them to do this just for me and my sisters, I’m not even calling for this unity just to avenge the death of my mother and our leader but I plead for this unity so that we can stop ordinary Pakistanis from falling victims just as I have. Every single day innocent Pakistani civilian fall victim to this menace of terrorism. I feel their pain.  We owe them, ever single political party owes them the unity and leadership required to end their suffering.

I know this is possible. The Pakistan Peoples Party stands ready and willing to invite every single political party to join us in this fight. I know the ANP of Pakhtunkhwa have suffered like my party has suffered. Their leader Asfandayar Wali Khan stands shoulder to shoulder with President Asif Zardari in this fight.  Despite our past differences with the MQM, we have been willing to put these difference aside and unite against this common enemy. We have to protect Jinnah’s Pakistan from the threat of the Taliban so that there still is a Karachi tomorrow for us to address the various issues on which we do disagree.

PML(N) has been part of our coalition before and although it was short lived and we tend to focus on all of the reasons we disagreed.  Look at what we did achieve together. It was partly because of the support from the party in power in Punjab that we built the necessary consensus in the country that allowed us to end Taliban rule in Swat and raise the flag of Pakistan there once again. I hope this is a different PML(N) from the 1990s. I am certain Nawaz Sharif is genuinely an ally in supporting democracy in Pakistan. If he would just ignore the hawks in his party, show the leadership I know he is capable of, build census with the PPP on the threat of terrorism we can eradicate this menace together.

I even welcome Imran Khan’s decision to finally partake in the next general election. I am confident his inclusion will have a positive impact of politics of Pakistan. While there are major issues on which we disagree there is plenty of common ground for us to agree.  I know that much of his and other’s attacks on my party on the issue of corruption are actually a result of the propaganda campaign against my party and my mother in the 1990s. I know that just as the Asghar Khan case proved my mother correct when she said the 1990 elections were stolen from her. I am also certain history will also prove she was right when she said unelected people accuse elected politicians of corruption to discredit politicians and undermine democracy in Pakistan.

That said corruption is a serious and pressing issue that is eating away at the fabric of Pakistan. My mother Shaheed Mohtarma Benazir Bhutto did not sacrifice her life for democracy in pakistan only for corrupt people to make money out of a democratic pakistan. I look forward to working with the PTI, PML(N), MMA or any party on this issue to ensure a transparent method of tackling corruption while ensuring it is not used as a weapon to demonize and victimize political opposition. In exchange however the PTI, PML(N) and other parties sympathetic to the Taliban would also have to agree to have a serious conversation on the issue of terrorism and accept that not only is it a real threat but it is a threat from within that needs to be address with unity in an apolitical manner.

I am even certain we can build consensus with the religious parties including Jamat-e-Islami. This political party has a long history of opposition to the PPP. However, I respect them for their willingness to engage in the democratic process and I know they have vigorous theological debates that includes Islamic scholars in formulating their political and theological philosophy. The TTP may sound like they propagate similar views even if they do so with violence. However, the religious parties should not be fooled. They are after your vote bank. You will be their targets. Time and time again they have mocked and ridiculed the work of Islamic scholars, they do not believe in our Islam  they do not agree with you, once they have rid the country of people like me they will, I guarantee you this, they will come after the leadership of religious parties. They are not fighting this war so that any other political force can rule Pakistan  They are fighting so that they can rule Pakistan. I appeal to the leadership of religious political parties, join us in this fight now or you will be their next victims.

All of you gathered hear today are the youth of Punjab. Your capital city of Lahore houses our great national monument marking the spot where the resolution of Pakistan was passed, Minar-e-Pakistan.  Punjab has also suffered at the hand of extremism. It may not have suffered as many attacks as other provinces but I promise you it will be next.

If we don’t want Minar-e-Pakistan to become Yaadgar-e-Pakistan, it is time for all political forces in this country to unite on the one point agenda of defeating the Taliban’s terrorism and saving Pakistan.

It is time for our leaders to get on board or get out of the way.  Don’t do it for me. Don’t even do it for the sake of my martyred mother. Do it for innocent men women and children who are falling victim everyday. Do it before this menace claims the lives of your children as well. Unite and save Pakistan for all of us. For all those auditioning to be leaders of the youth I’ve got some insider secrets I’d like to share with you. We want unity. We are not looking for old men to be our saviours. We are not waiting to be leaders of tomorrow.
If Malala can stand up now each and every youth in this country is ready to stand up now. Don’t be leaders of tomorrow. We are ready for you to be leaders of today.
Thank you.”

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2 Responses to “Chairman PPP Bilawal Bhutto Zardari’s Speech at the 2nd PakLOT Summit.”

  1. iFaqeer November 21, 2012 at 5:22 pm #

    Is there video of this speech?

  2. FAREEDULLAH November 22, 2012 at 5:36 am #

    Long Live Bilawal Bhutto Zardari!

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