Thursday, May 5, 2011

The President’s Speech (that wasn’t)


I speak to you today as Pakistan finds itself under siege from an extraordinary set of
internal and external challenges. By now, all of us have heard about the dramatic US
operation that led to Bin Laden’s death in Abbottabad.

I would like to begin my address today by apologizing to the people of Pakistan. As
President of the Islamic republic of Pakistan, I personally let this country down by not
speaking out when the country needed its leaders to stand up and clarify Pakistan’s
role and position on Osama’s death. 

With this speech, I hope to change all that.

The truth is that my advisors warned me against publicly discussing Pakistan’s role in the hunt for and eventual death of Osama Bin Laden. I was warned that Osama’s death could spark a series of spectacular terrorist attacks in Pakistan that could result in the death of hundreds if not thousands of civilians. This was a decision that I could not take lightly.

You will all remember that I lost my wife to a terrorist’s bullet. I know the pain of losing a loved one and I didn’t want my people to suffer the same.

But today, we face a collective choice as a country. We can bury our heads in the sand or we can stand up to the challenges that confront us. I’ve made a decision that we can no longer afford to bury our heads in the sand.

I have always argued that democracy is the best revenge and I refuse to keep you, the citizens of this country, in the dark about your government’s actions.

The truth is that Pakistan is at war with militants who have declared Jihad on the Pakistani state apparatus and by extension, the Pakistani people and our way of life. We did not start this war and we don’t want to fight this war.

It’s not easy for any of us to see the Pakistani military killing fellow Muslims, no matter how violent their ideology is.

After the attacks on 9/11, America declared war on Al Qaeda and Taliban in Afghanistan. Pakistan chose to side with America in this war, without any significant conditions attached to our loyalty.

If I could go back in time, I might have been firmer in my negotiations and not compromised our sovereignty in a wholesale deal. But we can’t go back in time… I can only deal with the cards I’ve been dealt.

Today, Pakistan is at war with militants who threaten our way of life. This is partly because we chose to become allies with the United States in its “War on Terror.” And partly because our state has been playing a strategic double game; supporting militants who could become our allies in a post-US Afghanistan and confronting militants who are directly threatening Pakistan’s security. 

Our double game has been criticized by many “experts” who observe it in isolation, without historical or regional context.

Today... let me publicly reveal why we started this double game. Our security establishment calculated that the US is a fickle partner and would leave Afghanistan and the region at a timeline determined by their domestic political considerations. The US has done this before when it abandoned Afghanistan and our region in the late 80’s, leaving Pakistan to clean up after its mess. We didn’t want to be caught off guard when history repeated itself.

Unfortunately, our double game has back fired.  

We had never expected these “Muslim” militants to start blowing up Pakistani girls in their schools or open fire on teenage boys as they prayed Juma in Rawalpindi. We had never expected the militants to attack the Sri Lankan cricket team, our country’s official guests.

These militants have used Islam as a cover and America’s occupation of Afghanistan as a justification to orphan our children and turn countless Pakistan women into unaided widows.

Enough is enough.

As I told the world in my Washington Post article, more Pakistani soldiers have died in the war than all of NATO’s casualties combined. Two thousand Pakistani police officers, 30,000 innocent civilians and a generation of social progress in Pakistan have been lost in this war.

Despite our country’s sacrifices, the Americans didn’t consult us when they chose to take out Bin Laden. We were later told that this was because the US didn’t fully trust Pakistan. They were worried that some elements within the Pakistani state might tip off Bin Laden.

We have no one to blame but ourselves for this spectacular demise in our international credibility.

And while there is plenty of blame to go around, as the democratically elected President of Pakistan, the buck stops with me.   

The time has come for us as a nation to raise our heads from the sand and confront head on the task that lies ahead of us.

Today… I’m announcing the news of an all-parties roundtable summit to be held later this month in order to build consensus on how together, as Pakistanis, we can fight the challenges that confront us.

I’m also inviting members of the civil society, the academia and our business community to contribute their ideas and take ownership of a counter militancy strategy that has a strong emphasis on economic empowerment, education, an end to double games by our security establishment and re-calibrating our relationship with the US.

Pakistan has paid a very heavy price in this war, with our blood and with our livelihoods. I don’t promise that I have the capacity to solve all our problems. But I do promise transparent decision making in our government.

I would like to end my address by remembering the 30,000 Pakistanis who have lost their lives in this ugly war. Let us make a promise to them today… that we will not let their sacrifices go in vain.

From now on, no more cover ups and double games. For better or for worse, your government will be honest and transparent in its communication. Come what may, we are in this together.

Pakistan Khappay! Pakistan Zindabad!

P.S. The idea for “The President’s Speech (that wasn’t)” was inspired by a blog post
written by my friend and class mate Ahmed al-Omran titled “The King’s Speech (that
wasn’t).” Ahmed blogs on

1 comment:

Asma Shabab said...

Nicely done.

This is a speech that Pakistan needs to hear. Everyone knows the answers but these have to be stated and not by anyone else but the President/Prime Minister (I dont agree that the COAS should do that cos that is what we need to get away from.. accepting that the Army is in control and not the people)

The lack of any communication on these issues from the authorities implies consent with the Taliban movement. How can the people know tht they have an alternate option until they are told

Did u intentionally decide not to include the blasphemy issue? Shazbaz Bhatti and Taseer's death? Wouldnt it be an opportune moment to speak about strengthening the country by respecting every and any Pakistani regardless of race, religion etc.