Speeches, Interviews & Other Statements

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1987 Apr 6 Mo
Margaret Thatcher

Speech at dinner for Pakistan Prime Minister (General Mohammad Zia Ul-Haq)

Document type:public statement
Document kind:Speech
Venue:No.10 Downing Street
Source:Thatcher Archive: COI transcript
Journalist:-
Editorial comments:1945 for 2000.
Importance ranking:Minor
Word count:884
Themes:Foreign policy (Asia), Foreign policy (Middle East), Foreign policy (USSR and successor states), Race, immigration, and nationality

Prime Minister

[ Mohammad Zia Ul-Haq] Prime Minister, Your Highness, Ministers, Your Excellencies, Ladies and Gentlemen, may I first of all welcome you, Prime Minister, to what I believe is the first ever official visit by a Pakistan Prime Minister to Britain? This is an exceptionally important event, we are delighted to have you here and hope you will have not only a very successful visit, which we know, but also a very happy visit to the United Kingdom. We also welcome, no less warmly, the members of your delegation and the members of your family who are with us this evening; they are honoured guests in our country and in our home here at Number 10 Downing Street.

I recall very clearly my own two visits to Pakistan and the warmth of the welcome which I was given there and so I am exceptionally pleased to have a chance to return that hospitality. This year as you know Prime Minister, marks the 40th anniversary of Pakistan's existence as an independent state. You have made remarkable strides in that time and your own five point programme, Prime Minister, charts a course for continuing that development and improving still further the social and economic conditions of your people. We here watch you with great pleasure and wish you every success in your great endeavours.

Your visit to us also serves to highlight the return to[fo 1] civilian constitutional government in Pakistan. We congratulate you on this important step and on the lifting of martial law. It was greeted very well in this country and we recognise a crucial role which you personally have played in these important steps towards restoring democracy. Britain and Pakistan are of course good and close friends. You yourself studied in our country. We know Pakistan as the home of unbeatable squash players and almost unbeatable cricketers and we have our squash champion with us this evening, and of course we have in Britain well over 300,000 people of Pakistan origin who make their contribution to our national life for which we are grateful.

But there is one characteristic more than anything else which we in Britain admire about you, that is the generosity which you have shown by providing refuge to the millions of Afghans driven from their homes by the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan. Yours is a generosity which has neither been sufficiently recognised nor sufficiently honoured. I have visited one of the camps and been able to witness the care which you provide for them. We know the burden which this imposes on your country and we do our best to help. May I also say that we were horrified by the recent bombing raids into your territory which have killed many many innocent civilians? To their families, we express through you Prime Minister our deepest sympathy.

Last week, I discussed the Soviet occupation of Afghanistan with Mr Gorbachev. I have the clear impression and so has my [ Geoffrey Howe] Foreign Secretary that the Soviet Union wishes to withdraw but is unable to bring itself to take the necessary steps. I told Mr Gorbachev that we would support a neutral and non-aligned[fo 2] Afghanistan but that this could only come about when Soviet forces were withdrawn and the Afghan people given a chance to decide their own future in freedom. I know this is your position too, Prime Minister and that you and your distinguished Foreign Minister we are very pleased to see with us, have worked long and patiently for that goal. Sometimes I have to remind myself that the occupation of Afghanistan has lasted longer than the whole of the Second World War. Sometimes I feel that in connection with Afghanistan, Prime Minister, you must feel a little like Mark Twain. You will recall that he was once walking down a country road looking for a friend's home and asked a farmer how far it was: "A mile and a half," he was told. He walked further and asked the same question: "A mile and a half," he was told, he walked further, a lot further than a mile and a half, how far? "A mile and a half," he was told. This happened three more times. Finally Mark Twain said, "Thank God, I am holding my own".

Well, Prime Minister, on the question of Afghanistan, your country has bravely been holding its own and you have our full support. I believe that your courage, your strength and your persistence will have their reward and your example will be a lesson to the world. There is a new mood in the Soviet Union, so far we have seen very few signs of it in Soviet policy abroad but I do not believe that foreign policy can be insulated from internal change and I am more hopeful as a result of my visit to Moscow that we shall see progress in Afghanistan. Prime Minister, our friendship with Pakistan is strong and abiding. You will remember a passage in Shakespeare which expresses what we in Britain feel for your country:[fo 3]

"The friends thou hast and their adoption tried, Grapple them to thyself with hoops of steel."

Prime Minister, we are your friends and you are our friends, and I hope that your visit here to which we attach such very great importance will bind us closer and it is in that spirit that I raise my glass and ask you to drink to a toast to the Prime Minister of Pakistan, our honoured guest, to the success of democracy in Pakistan and to the continuing and abiding friendship between our two countries. Prime Minister, health and success to democracy.