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Pakistani Prime Minister Nawaz Sharif's Address to the Nation,
July 12, 1999, During The Kargil Crisis

My dear Countrymen, not everyone will know of the tensions that we have gone through and the circumstances we have braved during the last month and a half. It is a fact and no secret anyway that the deterioration in Pakistan-India relations brought our two countries to the brink of war. While there is no doubt that the Kashmiri Mujahideen through their sacrifices and battle successes wrote out a new chapter in their freedom struggle, the situation on the diplomatic front became so complicated that it was no easy task to straighten it out or control its adverse fallout.

Dear brother and sisters, by the grace of God, Pakistan is not a wall of sand or a child's plaything. We have the ability to deal befittingly with aggression. Had war been imposed on us, the invader would have lived to regret the day. However, we do not wish to make war, nor have we looked for it. We know that in a nuclear conflict there can be no victors.

It is my considered opinion that by going to war Pakistan and India can only multiply their problems without solving even one of them. I have repeatedly said that the Kashmir dispute should be resolved amicably. I am also aware of the record of those who vowed to fight for a -thousand years. I know what their aims were. Their only gift to the nation was ignominy and lasting regret. After taking stock of past events and making an objective study of history, I have come to the conclusion that our principal national priority should be making Pakistan a great self-reliant economic power. Only then can we achieve our supreme national objectives.

After the Lahore Declaration in February this year, not only the people of Pakistan and India but the international community as well had begun to hope that after their long history of discord, our two countries had chosen the path of peace. Prime Minister Vajpayee of India visited the Minar-i-Pakistan in Lahore and what he said on the occasion was a good augury for the future since it showed that he wanted to begin a new chapter in our relations, with the bitterness of the past forgotten and old attitudes abandoned. I welcomed this. While we were preparing to o negotiations in line with the Lahore Declaration, the Indian Lok Sabha was dissolved and fresh elections were announced. On the other hand, the Kashmir freedom struggle which has been underway for the last eleven years entered a new and intensified phase with the freedom fighters gaining control of the Kargil mountains.

Prime Minister Vajpayee phoned me, expressing his concern at these developments. I suggested a meeting between local commanders while pointing out that we should resolve this matter at a local level, as in the past so that there should be no escalation. He agreed with me and the next day the two local commanders met but, simultaneously, India turned its heavy guns on us, while the Indian air force began to pound the Mujahideen-held positions. This sudden escalation was unexpected. It is true that the Mujahideen were present on several Kargil heights but it was part of their long freedom struggle and inseparable from it. For example, you all know that the Mujahideen took control of the Hazratbal shrine in Srinagar once. Now there is no way in which Pakistan could have come to their aid there. The shrine was surrounded by Indian troops and yet the Mujahideen took it over and held it for several days. Once the world took notice of what their action and the unresolved question of Kashmir became duly highlighted, they vacated their occupation of the shrine. It is for the same reasons that the Mujahideen must have occupied those heights in Kargil. Once the Mujahideen had succeeded in drawing world attention to Kashmir, it is understandable that they would wish to disengage.

Had we tried, this matter could have been resolved peacefully; but India set the fires of war alight instead of dealing with the situation through negotiations. It also chose to engulf the entire country in a war frenzy. However, Pakistan remained unprovoked and we saw to it that there was no war hysteria in the country. We also ensured that there would be no break in mutual contacts. Since the start of the crisis in Kargil, up to this day, I have spoken to Prime Minister Vajpayee on the phone several times. I also sent my Foreign Minister over though his visit proved fruitless. Given all this, it is unfair to allege that we stabbed anyone in the back. It has been my constant effort that our countries be spared the horror of a nuclear war. Only a desire for collective suicide can prompt us to take such a step. I have no such intention. I believe Prime Minister Vajpayee has no such intention either. However, going by the attitude of India, it did seem to us that New Delhi was rapidly moving towards war. The use of air and land power in Kargil by India was on a scale associated with a large and regular war only. Pakistani positions were shelled from across the Line of Control resulting in the death of innocent civilians and armed forces personnel who were merely defending themselves.

The number of troops deployed by India on our borders was again warlike. Its naval power was moved close to our shores and its nuclear missiles turned towards us. The Indian air force was put on red alert. I salute the armed forces of Pakistan which took all necessary steps to deal with the expected Indian attack with exemplary efficiency and speed. I also wish to pay tribute to all those innocent citizens who fell victim to Indian shelling. Those who suffered material loss as a result of Indian actions have my full sympathy. The government will soon take steps to give them due compensation. I also salute those martyrs of the Pakistan army who fell while performing their duties on the Line of Control. Those who suffered injury also have my heartfelt sympathies. Their courage, valour and resoluteness will serve as an example to the world. They surprised a military power several times their size on the world's most inhospitable and difficult front by dint of their grit and determination. They resisted the unrelenting attacks of the Indian air force and infantry in an admirable manner. They proved that they were prepared to go to any extent for the sake of their freedom. I take this occasion to pay tribute to the gallant freedom fighters of the All Parties Hurriyet Conference.

My dear Countrymen, we have decided to give diplomacy another chance. This decision is neither hasty nor has it been taken under pressure or out of nervousness. It has been said that it takes more courage to extricate oneself from war than to start one. For many years and with time it has gained in intensity and strength. Kargil has been a part of that struggle. We were constantly in consultation with our friends as the fighting continued. When tile clouds of war began to draw closer, we intensified our contacts. At the same time, we did not snap contact with the Indian government. I was busy trying to press every entity, every individual, in aid of our cause and its furtherance. I was in touch with President Clinton. When American representatives came to Pakistan, we made it clear to them that the problem would not be solved by putting out the fires in Kargil but to get to the heart of the problem. We argued that, the Kashmiri urge for freedom was like molten lava in the belly of the earth which would always find other points of eruption.

Even if we succeeded in capping the fire-spitting mountains of Kargil, unless the basic problem was addressed, there will be outbreaks elsewhere. If the Kashmiri people were not given their right of self-determination, there would be other Kargils. Neither we, nor India, would be able to stop that. The only way to stop more Kargils from happening was to do justice to the Kashmiris. The promises made to their had to be fulfilled. That was the message I carried to America and I am glad that President Clinton agreed that unless the basic issue of Kashmir was resolved, the clouds of war would continue to hover over the Subcontinent. This was the backdrop of the joint statement issued in Washington. The statement clearly stated that as soon as the situation on the Line of Control returned to normal, negotiations between India and Pakistan would begin in order to resolve all outstanding issues, including Kashmir. President Clinton extended the assurance that lie would riot only encourage all moves aimed at settling all outstanding disputes through dialogue, but he would take a personal interest in these efforts in order to ensure that they were intensified.

This assurance, coming from the head of a great power like the United States is no ordinary matter. It is clear that after this unequivocal commitment from President Clinton in particular and the international community in general, the world will pay serious attention to Kashmir, being now aware of its importance and sensitivity. That is why we appealed to the Mujahideen to come down from the heights they were occupying in Kargil and give diplomacy a chance so that it could carry forward and complete the mission for which they had made so many sacrifices. I am grateful to the Mujahideen for having accepted our appeal. The outcome of every war leads to negotiated decisions which is the route we have also taken and I am sure that truth and justice will prevail in the end.

My dear Countrymen, true leadership is that which is riot interested in merely staying in office but in ensuring national security and public welfare. True leadership does not hesitate from sacrificing office or popularity if it is the security of the country and the people which is at stake. You will recall that in my first term as Prime Minister, the shadows of the Gulf war lay across this region. Kuwait had been occupied and the Allied forces were preparing to invade Iraq, at that time, many of our political parties, leaders amid even individuals in the service of the state tried to gain cheap popularity by inciting the people and playing with their sentiments. They kept the facts hidden front the masses in order to advance their own political careers. They led processions and fell no hesitation in jeopardizing the national interest as long as it won them popular following. You know well that had I allowed myself to be swept away by emotion and begun to raise sentimental slogans to please die masses, the consequences for my country and its people would have been grave. Those who conspire to attain power and advance their political careers are the very same people who end up pushing their country and their nation over the precipice. Whatever decision I took, I took to protect the interest of my country and my people. During the Gulf war I chose what in my view was the right course. I was riot swayed by considerations of personal power.

I did not follow the popular upsurge, if you recall. The results are there for everyone to see. If you have faith, you should only take those decisions which in your judgment are correct.

Dear Countrymen, I want to declare that the Kashmiri urge for freedom cannot be stifled by force. The Kashmiri people's struggle will continue. Freedom is their fundamental right and unless they Win that right, the people of Pakistan will continue to be with them, shoulder to shoulder. We will never abandon the Kashmiris.

My dear Countrymen, it has always been my dream to take Pakistan to the highest pinnacle of glory and in the pursuit of this dream, I have not been held back by fear or self-interest. You will recall that when India was firing off its missiles and the world instead of restraining that country was putting every possible pressure on Pakistan not to join the race, I resisted and went on to test the Ghauri and Shaheen missiles. There were many other pressures on us subsequently but I refused to buckle under them. Can anyone forget the crass Indian bid to establish its overlordship over this region after detonating nuclear bombs on 11 and 13 May 1998! Highly provocative statements were issued and it was said that Pakistan would have to come to terms with its reduced status. While we were being subjected to intense external pressure and threats, inside the country there were some to whom the lure of dollars was more attractive than the attainment of self-sufficiency and freedom. They were terrified of sanctions but it was I who stood firm and went ahead to conduct our nuclear tests. Thereafter, sanctions were indeed imposed on us but I stood my ground. Such hard decisions can only be taken by a person who has the supreme interest of his people and the fear of God at heart. You know that whatever Nawaz Sharif does, he does in order that you and your children live in peace and security, enjoy prosperity and walk with honour. For me my country always comes first. Pakistan and Nawaz Sharif are one. Pakistan is a part of my being and I am part of Pakistan. Each breath that I take is like a prayer for the security of Pakistan and the' progress and well-being of my people.

My dear Countrymen, I want to thank you today because at this most delicate point in our history, you have not fallen into the emotional traps laid out for you and you have not allowed yourselves to be fooled by any political party. You have refused to hit the streets for the sake of the those who have chosen the path of negativism. You have demonstrated that the Pakistani nation is not willing to act frivolously when the questions involved carry grave national consequences. You have shown that you have complete trust in your elected leadership.

Let me assure you that given the help of God, I will never betray your trust.

My dear Countrymen, during the Lahore summit, I told Indian Prime Minster Vajpayee that we had gained nothing by fighting wars. Every war had led to the next one. I say again today that in the last fifty years, Pakistan and India, despite having fought several wars, despite having put their armies in direct face-to-face confrontation with each another, despite spending billions of rupees on armaments, and despite having trained their nuclear weapons at each another, have failed to resolve any of their disputes through conflict. Is that not a pity!

Because of the failure to resolve the Kashmir dispute, we have not been able to give the people of the Subcontinent a single day of peace. Can we not solve this problem and thereby guarantee a peaceful, tranquil and secure future to the one billion people who live here! How many more Kashmiris have to die at the hands of India before this reality dawns upon that country! How many more Kashmiri homes have to be laid waste! How many more Indian soldiers have to die pursuing an unjust war! How many more Kashmiri youth have to perish! How many more Kashmiri women still need to be outraged! How any more mothers in Indian cities are fated to shed tears over the dead bodies of their sons!

My dear Countrymen, world opinion will have to decide how long this drama of blood and fire is to be played in Kashmir. Why the delay in resolving the Kashmir problem! The United Nations conferred the right of self-determination on the Kashmiris over fifty years ago. India promised to implement those resolutions. It was not Pakistan which passed those resolutions: it was the United Nations. India neither implements those resolutions nor does it enter into any meaningful or result-oriented discussions with Pakistan. Is this how problems are resolved in this world! Where lies the gain in sticking to a single recalcitrant position! How can anything be resolved amicably if such diehard attitudes are allowed to prevail! Because of its intransigence, India has suffered. It has been left behind, and so have we. It is in the interest of both India and Pakistan to give up the old, obstinate, unbending attitudes of the past and make an honest attempt to settle tile Kashmir dispute amicably through negotiations.

How long can we snatch food from the mouths of our people to buy guns?

How long will we goon jeopardizing the future of our children by buying the shells that go into these guns?

How long will we allow our resources to go up in gun smoke and add to the number of our unemployed?

India should learn a lesson from history. No liberation movement has ever been crushed through the use of military force. Bullets do indeed draw blood but in the process become blood drenched themselves. How long will India continue to tell the world that it is Pakistan which is interfering in Kashmir! No outside power can sustain a movement for eleven years through the use of infiltrators.

My dear Countrymen, you will remember that during my election campaign I had promised to end all disputes with India and establish good relations with that country. I want that the mandate which the people have given me should be used for their welfare. I want to settle the long-standing question of Kashmir so that I can forever secure the future of my country and its people. The people of India also need peace. India too has to move ahead. I ask Prime Minister Vajpayee to step forward and talk to us. Let's save our people from the scourge of war and give them peace and security. Let us sit across tile negotiating table and begin our search for a better future for our people. A great deal of time has passed. Let no more time pass. In the end, I pray for the solidarity, strength and well-being of Pakistan and its people. May God be our strength and our support.

Long live Pakistan.

Indian Prime Minister's Address during Kargil Crisis





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