Benazir Bhutto

Address to a Joint Meeting of he U.S. Congress

delivered 7 June 1989, Washington, D.C.

Audio mp3 of Address1


[AUTHENTICITY CERTIFIED: Text version below transcribed directly from audio]

Mr. Speaker, on behalf of myself and my delegation in this hall, permit me to extend my warmest congratulations to you on the assumption of your high office. Mr. President, distinguished Members of the Congress, As-Salaam-Alaikum. Peace be with you.

We gather together, friends and partners, who have fought, side by side, for liberty. We gather together to celebrate freedom, to celebrate democracy, to celebrate the three most beautiful words in the English language: "We the People."2 I stand here conscious of the honor you bestow on my country and on me. I am not new to America. I recall fondly my four years at Harvard.3

America is a land of great technology. America is a land of economic power. Your products are sent all over the world, a tribute to the creativity and productivity of your people. But your greatest export is not material. Your greatest export is not a product. Your greatest export is an idea. America’s greatest contribution to the world is its concept of democracy, its concept of freedom, freedom of action, freedom of speech, and freedom of thought.4

President Bush, in his inaugural address, spoke of a "new breeze" across America.5 In fact, this new breeze is sweeping the whole world. In Afghanistan, the people have freed their country of foreign occupation. In South America, the generals are returning to their barracks and the people to the halls of government. In the Orient, the old order is changing and the demands growing. Glasnost and perestroika are shaking the East bloc -- the ultimate tribute to the strength of freedom, to the desire of people wherever they live to control their own destiny. And it is the words of Lincoln, that are quoted -- "a government of the people, by the people, for the people."6 For many of us, the root of all this progress, the foundation of democracy, lies on this continent, 200 years ago, in your covenant of freedom, in words penned by Madison, "We the People."

My presence before you is a testament to the force of freedom and democracy in Pakistan. Throughout 1988 the call for democratic change in Pakistan grew louder. After a decade of repression the wave of freedom surged in Pakistan. On November 16th, the people of Pakistan participated in the first party-based election in 11 years. The Pakistan People's Party won a convincing victory, showing wide national support all across the four provinces of our great country. Democracy had at last returned to Pakistan. We -- We, the people, had spoken. We, the people, had prevailed.

In its first days, our new government released political prisoners, legalized labor and student unions, and restored press freedoms. We signaled our right of recognition to the role of the opposition in a democratic society, giving them free and regular access to the state media for the first time in our history. We set as our focus reconciliation, not retribution.

Some claimed to fear revenge, revenge against the murderers and the torturers, revenge against those who subverted constitutional law. But, ladies and gentlemen, there was no revenge. For them -- For -- For them and for dictators across the world, democracy is the greatest revenge.

For us the election was the end to an unspeakable ordeal. A democratic government was overthrown in a military coup, and for 11 years dictatorship ruled our nation. Political parties were banned; political expression prohibited. There was no freedom of press. The Constitution was suspended and amended into virtual nonexistence. Women were subjugated, and laws written specifically to discriminate against them. Political opponents were imprisoned, tortured, and hanged. It was the luckier ones who went into exile. Our struggle was driven by faith -- faith in our people's ability to resist, faith in our religion, Islam, which teaches us that tyranny cannot endure; tyranny cannot endure.

It is the same faith which has fueled the battle for freedom next door in Afghanistan. Both our countries have stood alongside the Afghans in their struggle for more than a decade. For 10 long years the people of Pakistan have provided sanctuary to our Afghan brothers and sisters. We have nurtured and sustained their families. More than three million refugees are on our soil. Still more are coming, fleeing the bloodshed. And we have welcomed them, housed them, and fed them. And for 10 long years, the United States, in a united, bipartisan effort of three Administrations and six Congresses, has stood side by side with Pakistan, and the brave Mujahideen.

We both deserve to be proud of that effort. But that effort did not come without a price. Our villages were strafed, our people killed. Our peaceful country has changed. The war has brought the curse of drug addiction to Pakistan -- over one million heroin addicts to a land that never before knew it. Our forests have been depleted. Yet our commitment to pay the price for freedom has not been shaken.

And now -- And now, despite the Soviet withdrawal, peace has not returned to Afghanistan. Even now, the Soviet Government is giving full backing to the Kabul regime's efforts to cling to power. It has left in its possession vast quantities of lethal weapons, weapons supplemented by a regular supply of hardware including Scud missiles, some of which have already hit Pakistan territory. More threats have been received, threats to supply new weapons never before seen in the region. The Soviets have gone. But the force of foreign arms continues to deny Afghanistan the ultimate fruit of victory, self-determination.

Those responsible for a decade of death and destruction now blame us for the continuing bloodshed. They accuse us of interfering in Afghanistan.

Distinguished Members: Nothing is farther from the truth, and nothing is more unjust. Our concerns are for a stable, independent, and neutral Afghanistan, an Afghanistan where the people can choose their own system, their own government in free and fair elections.

We in Pakistan would like to see the refugees return home in peace and dignity. Unfortunately, the conflict is not over. It has entered its closing stage, a stage often the most difficult and most complex.

Distinguished Friends: Pakistan and the United States have traveled a long road with the Afghans in their quest for self-determination. Let us not at this stage, out of impatience or fatigue, become indifferent. We cannot, we must not abandon their cause. The world community must rise to the challenge which lies ahead. The challenge of achieving a broad-based, political settlement to the war, of rebuilding a shattered country, of helping the victims of war, of developing the Afghan economy.

Mr. Speaker, now Pakistan and the United States enter a new phase of an enduring relationship. Our shared interests and common international goals have not disappeared. If anything, they have been strengthened. Our partnership is not a friendship of convenience. For decades, we have been tied together by mutual international goals, and by shared interests.

But something new has entered into the equation of bilateral relations: democracy.

We are now moral as well as political partners. Two elected governments bonded together in a common respect for constitutional government, accountability, and a commitment to freedom. Because of the intensity of our struggle for freedom, we will never take it for granted in Pakistan. Our democratic institutions are still new and need careful tending.

Democracy's doubters have never believed that it could address the problems of developing countries. But democracy in Pakistan must succeed to signal nations in political transition all over the world that freedom is on the rise. This is the time in Pakistan when democracy's friends must come forward. We need the time and the resources to build a truly strong constitutional government. If we succeed, all democracies share in that success.

Today we are on the threshold of a new democratic partnership between our two countries, addressing new priorities; a partnership which addresses both our security concerns and our social and economic needs; a partnership which will carry us into the 21st century -- strong in mutual trust, close in common interest, constant to the values we share, working in association with democratic governments all across the world to promote the values of freedom.

This is the partnership, the new democratic Pakistan we hope to build with your continuing help. The time is right, my friends, to make miracles in Pakistan. The dictatorship of the past has given way to the forces of the future. The years of social and economic neglect beg for redress, so I come to this land of freedom to talk about the future -- the future of my country and the future of freedom everywhere; the future of our children, my child and yours.

I come before you to declare that we cannot choose between development and democracy. We must work for both. Partners in democracy must now focus attention on urgent problems which affect mankind as a whole -- the widening gap between the rich and poor countries, environmental pollution, drug abuse and trafficking, the pressure of population on world resources, the full economic participation for women everywhere.

We must join together to find remedies and solutions for these problems before they overcome us. Of all the crises facing us, my government is giving the highest priority to the problem of drug abuse. We are determined to eradicate this plague from our country. To that end, we have established a new Ministry for Narcotics Control. We are taking vigorous action against drug offenders. Our close cooperation and that of other nations must be strengthened if we are to turn back the tide of drugs sweeping your nation and mine.

So, too, must we work together as partners to avert the catastrophe of a nuclear arms race. Speaking for Pakistan, I can declare that we do not possess nor do we intend to make a nuclear device. That is our policy. We are committed to a regional approach to the nuclear problem and we remain ready to accept any safeguards, inspections, and verifications that are applied on a nondiscriminatory regional basis.

Pakistan has long advocated the creation of a nuclear-weapon-free zone in the region. A first step in that direction could be a nuclear test ban agreement between Pakistan and its neighbors in South Asia. We are prepared for any negotiation to prevent the proliferation of nuclear weapons in our region. We will not provoke a nuclear arms race in the subcontinent.

The United States has long held a commitment to peace in South Asia. It is a commitment which Pakistan shares. It is in this spirit of peace, of regional cooperation and bilateral partnership that I come before you today. This then must be our agenda: democracy and development, security and international cooperation.

The people of Pakistan appreciate the assistance you have given us, the assistance which you continue to give us. Your -- Your military assistance has helped maintain a relative balance in the region. It has contributed to Pakistan's sense of security. It has strengthened the peace and stability of the South Asian region.

Mr. Speaker, everywhere the sun is setting on the day of the dictator. In Pakistan when the moment came, the transition was peaceful. The whole nation, the whole nation, farmers, workers, the soldiers and civilians, men and women, together heralded the return of democracy. The people have taken power in their hands. But our work has just begun.

My friends, freedom is not an end. Freedom is a beginning. And in Pakistan, at long last, we are ready to begin. Our two countries stood together in the last decade to support the fight of the Afghan people for freedom. Let us stand together now as the people of Pakistan strive to give meaning to their new-found freedom. Come with us towards a tomorrow better than all the yesterdays we knew.

History, the rush of events, perhaps even destiny have brought me here today. I am proud to be the elected Prime Minister of Pakistan in this critical time. It is an awesome obligation. But in the words of John Fitzgerald Kennedy, "I do not shrink from this responsibility, I welcome it."7

As a representative of the young, let me be viewed as one of a new generation of leaders unshackled by the constraints and irrational hatreds of the past. As a representative of women, let my message be: "Yes, you can."

And as a believer of Islam in this august Chamber, let my message be about a compassionate and tolerant religion, teaching hard work and family values under a merciful God; for that is the Islam I know, and that is the Islam we must all come to understand.

For me and the people of Pakistan, the last 11 years have encompassed a painful odyssey. My countrymen and I did not see our loved ones die, or tortured, or lashed, or languished in solitary confinement, deprived of basic human rights in order that others might again suffer such indignities. We sacrificed a part of our lives. We bore the pain of confronting tyranny to build a just society. We believed in ourselves, in our cause, in our people, and in our country.

And when you believe, then there is no mountain high enough to scale. That is my message to the youth of America, to its women, and to its people.

I thank you, Distinguished Members.

Book/CDs by Michael E. Eidenmuller, Published by McGraw-Hill (2008)

1  Initial 2:50 minutes of audio corrupted at source and digitally filtered

2 Allusion to the Preamble to the U.S. Constitution

3 Ms. Bhutto earned a B.A. in Comparative Government at Radcliffe College at Harvard University in 1973. [Source:] See also the Benazir Bhutto Leadership Program at Harvard University.

4 Conduplicatio grounded in perhaps the most important god term of the American Republic

5 "Relevant quotation: "I come before you and assume the Presidency at a moment rich with promise. We live in a peaceful, prosperous time, but we can make it better. For a new breeze is blowing, and a world refreshed by freedom seems reborn; for in man's heart, if not in fact, the day of the dictator is over. The totalitarian era is passing, its old ideas blown away like leaves from an ancient, lifeless tree. A new breeze is blowing, and a nation refreshed by freedom stands ready to push on." [emphasis added; source:]

6 Allusion to Lincoln's Gettysburg Address

7 Kennedy, J.F. (1961). Presidential Inaugural Address.

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