Your Excellency, President Zia-Ul-Haq, distinguished members of the Government, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen.
I thank you most warmly for your hospitality. The crowded and fascinating programme which you arranged for me was some compensation for my all too brief visit to your marvellous country.
I wanted to revisit Pakistan, partly because you kindly invited me to do so, partly because I wished to return the visit, itself too short, which you paid to London about a year ago.
I also wanted to come because Britain and Pakistan have important things to do together. Trade, certainly. I hope it will expand faster. Cultural ties are important too—there is so much in our shared history which links us. But over and above these we have a shared interest in the stability and prosperity of this strategically crucial area. And a shared interest in confronting the situation which has arisen in Afghanistan. [end p321]
Mr. President, this last point was, rightly, the central issue in the very valuable talks which I have had with you today, and the central focus of my programme. I have now seen for myself the situation on your North-West frontier. I have seen some of the two-and-a-half million refugees. And I have been moved —by the sheer size of this humanitarian problem; —by the suffering of the innocent people involved; —by the efforts of your country and its helpers to care for them.
As I told refugee leaders earlier today I am not only moved but angry. They and their people are suffering needlessly, through the ruthless actions of a neighbour pursuing its interests careless of the consequences. [end p322]
This situation can be changed. And it must be, in the interests of the Afghan people, of Pakistan, of this sub-continent and of the peoples of the world. For what has happened on your borders is not a local affair—it is a global event with global implications. East/West relations cannot be normalised, with all that would mean for the stability of Europe, Asia and beyond, without a settlement of the problem of Afghanistan.
Mr. President, the government and people of Pakistan saw this from the beginning. You accepted that a historic responsibility had been thrust upon you, a responsibility to cope with and manage this situation not just in the interests of Pakistan, but in the interests of the international community. It is for that reason, among others, that Pakistan deserves the support of Britain and of all the nations of the world who are genuinely interested in bringing about the withdrawal of Soviet troops. [end p323]
On behalf of Britain, let me confirm to you—Pakistan has our support in the great problems you are facing. As Prime Minister of the country which at present holds the Presidency of the European Community, I can say too that the ten member states of that Community support you. We admire deeply the courage and skill you have shown in handling the crisis. We admire and support the attachment you have steadfastly shown to the four principles laid down by the Islamic Conference: —the honourable return of the refugees to their country; —the right of the Afghan people to choose their own form of government in peace.
If we all stand firm on these principles the day will come when our efforts succeed. That will be an important day in world history. [end p324]
Mr President, our relations are necessarily dominated by this problem at present. But the ties between Britain and Pakistan long pre-date the problem and will certainly survive it, probably stronger and richer because of it. We fully respect the non-aligned status of Pakistan and seek no ties which contradict that status. But it is the wish of both our countries, confirmed again in our talks today, that we should maintain a close and friendly relationship. The United Kingdom will therefore continue to be receptive to the wishes, the aspirations and problems of Pakistan. We shall continue to seek ways of giving Pakistan practical support in its present difficult circumstances. And we shall look forward to, and work for, the day when, released from the pressures of the present international situation, your country can [end p325] concentrate fully on the task of promoting the progress of its people.
In conclusion I thank you Mr President for your kind remarks in proposing a toast. In return I too wish to ask those present to join me in a toast: To the health and happiness of His Excellency, the President to the prosperity and success of the people of the Islamic Republic of Pakistan, and to lasting friendship between the peoples of the United Kingdom and Pakistan.
Finally, as we begin one of the great Festivals of Islam may I wish you all “Eid Mubarak!”