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President Yahya's Address to the Nation, March 26, 1969

Yahya addresses 1st press conferenceGeneral Agha Mohammad Yahya Khan came to power through a letter addressed to him by President Ayub, in which he was asked to impose Martial Law in the country and take over the office of the President. The new President addressed the nation the very next day, declaring that his main goal was to carry out elections in the country. However, the refrain in many of his speeches - beginning with this one - became the restoration of 'sanity' to the country. This was obviously a reference to the street demonstrations against the Ayub regime over the past few months.

General Yahya's address to the nation

March 26, 1969


You have already heard Field Marshal Mohammad Ayub Khan's speech which was broadcast yesterday and by now you must have read his letter of March 24 which is addressed to me and has been published in the Press. As is evident from this letter, Field Marshal Mohammad Ayub Khan took all possible steps, in the past few weeks, to come to some arrangement whereby a peaceful and constitutional transfer of power could take place. As we all know, his effort did not meet with success. He, therefore, called upon me to carry out my prime duty of protecting this country from utter destruction.

As proclaimed earlier, I have imposed Martial Law throughout Pakistan.

We, in the armed forces, had hoped that sanity would prevail and this extreme step would not be necessary, but the situation has deteriorated to such an extent that normal law enforcing methods have become totally ineffective and have almost completely broken down. Serious damage of life and property has occurred and a state of panic has paralyzed life of the nation.

Production has gone down to a dangerously low level and the economy generally has suffered an unprecedented set-back.

Strikes and violence have become a daily routine and the country has been driven to the edge of an abyss.

The nation has to be pulled back to safety and normal conditions have to be restored without delay. The armed forces could not remain idle spectators of this state of near anarchy. They have to do their duty and save the country from utter disaster. I have, therefore, taken this step.

My sole aim in imposing Martial Law is to protect life, liberty and property of the people and put the administration back on the rails. My first and foremost task as the Chief Martial Law Administrator, therefore, is to bring back sanity and ensure that the administration resumes its normal functions to the satisfaction of the people. We have had enough of administrative laxity and chaos and I shall see to it that this is not repeated in any form or manner. Let every member of the administration take a serious note of this warning.

Fellow countrymen, I wish to make it absolutely clear to you that I have no ambition other than the creation of conditions constructive to the establishment of a constitutional Government. It is my firm belief that a sound, clean and honest administration is a prerequisite for sane and constructive political life and for the smooth transfer of power to the representatives of the people elected freely and impartially on the basis of adult franchise. It will be the task of these elected representatives to give the country a workable constitution and find solution to all other political, economic and social problems that have been agitating the minds of the people. I am, however, conscious of the genuine difficulties and pressing needs of various sections of our society, including the student community, the labor and our peasants. Let me assure you that my administration will make every endeavor to resolve these difficulties.

A word about your brethren in the armed forces. You are well aware that they have always stood by the nation selflessly and gallantly. They have always responded to the call of duty with promptness and devotion. They have never regarded any sacrifice as too great to ensure and enhance the glory of Pakistan. The armed forces belong to the people; they have no political ambition and will not prop up any individual or party. At the same time, I wish to make it equally clear that we have every intention of completing the mission that we have embarked upon, to the nation's satisfaction.

We are passing through the most fateful period of our history. The recent events have dealt a serious blow to our national prestige and progress. The Martial Law administration cannot and will not tolerate agitational and destructive activities of any kind. I urge every one of your to cooperate with my administration in bringing the country back to sanity. Let every one, whatever his calling may be, return to his post and do his bit to repair the damage caused to the economy and well-being of Pakistan.

Soucre: Election Handbook 1970 by S.G.M. Badruddin, published by Publishing and Marketing Associates Ltd, Karachi (1970)

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