P.P.P.-A.L. DIRECT TALKS VITAL

Mr. Z. A. Bhutto's Press conference in Dacca on March 25, 1971

 

Mr. Z. A. Bhutto, Chairman of the Pakistan People's Party, accompanied by Mr. J. A. Rahim and Mr. Mustafa Khar, met President A. M. Yahya Khan at the President's House here this morning.

 

Lt.-Gen. S.G.M. Peerzada, Principal Staff Officer to the President, was also present at the meeting which continued for about 45 minutes.

 

Later, Mr. Bhutto told the newsmen that the constitutional experts of his party would meet the President's advisers this afternoon. The PPP advisers were to meet the President's advisers this morning, but the meeting was postponed following the " new development " that took place after yesterday's meeting between the advisers of the President and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman.

 

He said, the new development which had been communicated to him necessitated his meeting with the President and Lt.-Gen. Peerzada.

 

When asked whether the negotiations had bogged down, Mr. Bhutto said that they had not bogged down. " We are not creating any difficulty ", he added.

 

The PPP Chairman told a correspondent that his Party wanted transfer of power both at the Centre and the provinces simultaneously.

 

On the question of autonomy, Mr. Bhutto said that the quantum of autonomy sought by the Awami League was some thing which could be termed as "more than autonomy ". It was bordering on sovereignty, he added.

 

All the four provinces in West Pakistan also wanted autonomy and they must enjoy genuine autonomy. He said that autonomy sought by East Pakistan was not genuine autonomy by definition of autonomy.

 

Mr. Bhutto said that they were prepared to come as close to six points as possible except foreign aid and foreign trade. " We wanted full discussions on how these could be handled in an undeveloped country divided by over one thousand miles within the framework of one Pakistan. I would like Awami League to explain, but we were denied explanation. We have an open mind,"

 

One Unit

 

Mr. Bhutto made it clear that under no circumstance his Party was for restoration of One Unit, in one form or the other in West Pakistan.

 

The PPP chief said that if some agreement was reached it should be taken to the National Assembly which could pass a resolution giving the agreement a stamp of constitutional legality. The National Assembly, he said, could improve upon the agreement.

 

Mr. Bhutto referred to the meetings of advisers of President Yahya Khan and Sheikh Mujibur Rahman yesterday and said that some " developments ", had taken place which necessitated his meeting with the President and Lt.-Gen. S.G.M. Peerzada today.

He said he had sent some of his party members to Karachi as no direct talks were taking place.

 

He recalled his meeting with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and said that it was fruitful.

 

When asked why the talks were being "dragged on," the Chairman of the People's Party said that they had only one meeting with the President's advisers. " It was not a simple matter. We want to end the crisis."

 

Mr. Bhutto told a correspondent that the future Constitution of the country must be based on federal structure in which all provinces must have rightful share of autonomy.

 

He said that one of the 11 demands of students was for a zonal federation for West Pakistan. The Awami League never officially revised it.

 

To another question the Chairman of the People's Party said that if settlement was reached within a day or two he would stay on in Dacca. Otherwise he said he would like to return to West Pakistan because his presence there was required.

 

Mr. Bhutto referred to the postponement of the National Assembly session earlier and said the Awami League had sought postponement this time " and we did not object to it ".

He also told a questioner that he had fewer meetings with the President as against the series of meeting Sheikh Mujibur Rahman had with him.

 

Mr. Bhutto said reciprocity from both sides must take place. Negotiations, he said, had become more complicated because these were not taking place and unfortunately the position looked uncertain.

 

Awami League Formula

 

The Chairman of the Pakistan People's Party said that he did not have any objection to the formula of broad based understanding that the Awami League chief, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, had presented to the President for the transfer of power to the representatives of the people.

 

The PPP chief, who was talking to newsmen on his return from the President's House after his fourth round of talks with the Head of the State, said that direct negotiations between the Awami League and the Pakistan People's Party were essential for breaking the present stalemate. It was for this reason that he had sent a telegram to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. The request was not heeded to and the Awami League had contented itself with an indirect dialogue through the office of the President. He, however, reiterated that he would be more than willing to meet Sheikh Mujibur Rahman even at this stage to work out a formula and to narrow down the differences.

 

On a question from a correspondent, the PPP chief said that while he supported in principle the four-point pre-conditions of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, his Party was trying to " come close to the six points ". His Party was indeed keen to reach a settlement but " reciprocity on both sides must take place”.

 

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He believed that since the Awami League had concluded its discussions with the President and his advisers, the PPP must continue their bit now. Therefore, it was not necessary that these discussions should be held at Dacca.

 

The PPP chief maintained that things could have been expedited to a great extent. About some points that remained to be discussed between the two parties, the PPP Chairman said that the Awami League had suggested to the President for the transfer of power to the provinces and not at the Central level for the interim period of constitution-making. The PPP would like the powers transferred at both the levels, he maintained. Nor would he like to dismiss it as a purely interim arrangement as " interim arrangements become permanent sometimes ".

 

(THE PAKISTAN TIMES, Lahore-March 26, 1971)

 

 

Source: Bangladesh Documents, vol – I, p. 267-269