11.8 PROSPECTS IN EAST PAKISTAN
Public Record Office
REF: FCO 37/468
in East Pakistan
The initial survey by the British Deputy High Commissioner in
Dacca of the political scene in East Pakistan was completed in November, 1968. In
it he argued economic and social conditions at the time made for a dangerous
political situation. (Paragraphs 1-3).
2. In November
President Ayub seemed firmly in the saddle and the
political opposition ineffective. But Ayub is now
ready to negotiate with the Opposition; this will inevitably affect inter-Wing
relations, since there will be a growing need to conciliate the Bengalis. This
will adversely affect both the economic climate (especially in the fields of
investment and industrialisation) and standards of administration
Pakistan. (Paragraphs 4-8).
3. There is danger
to British economic and commercial interests. Moreover a revolutionary
situation is likely to develop which would give opportunities to the Chinese
and so increase the dangers to world peace. (Paragraphs
4. Our economic
stake is now more vulnerable but, more than any other country, we could
exercise a stabilising and constructive influence in East Pakistan; for political and economic reasons
can we afford to neglect the opportunity to do so? (Paragraph
British High Commission,
19th of February, 1969
The Right Honourable
Michael Stewart, C.H., M.P.
Prospects in East Pakistan
When Mr. Fox took over as Deputy High Commissioner in Dacca in
September, I instructed him, especially since his previous experience in
Pakistan had been largely with trade and economic matters, to give first
priority in his first few months in Dacca to a survey of the political scene
and to do his best to get on terms with the political leaders of East Bengal. In an election year it seemed to me
imperative for him to do so since we would need constantly to be coming to judgement about political developments and their effect on
2. Mr. Fox completed his survey at the end of
November. It was forwarded separately to your Department and was the subject of
discussion during your visit to Dacca in December. I now have the honour to attempt an assessment of the significance of Mr.
Fox's survey (of which I attach a copy for ease of reference) in the light of
the political developments to which I referred in my despatch
of the 12th of February.
3. Mr. Fox argues that progress in raising the
standard of living of the people of East Pakistan has been painfully slow. Over recent
years they have been exposed to the miseries of flood and hurricane and little
has yet been done in the way of flood control to mitigate the effects of such
calamities. Population still increases rapidly and there is not much optimism
that their meagre diet will be significantly improved
in the immediate future. Industrial progress is slow and capital is scarce. The
East Pakistanis complain that East Pakistan does not receive its fair share of the nation's financial
resources, and complaints about disparity and corruption are made with
increasing bitterness. Mr. Fox argued last November with some pre-science that
all the conditions designed to produce unrest and even revolt and riot were
either present or not very far away; and that the situation was economically
extremely difficult and, partly because of this, politically dangerous. He was
concerned at the opportunities offered to Chinese influence, and concluded that
if East Pakistan is to be saved from Communism there is little time in which to
4. Three months ago,
however, President Ayub appeared to be firmly in the
saddle despite the emergence of Mr. Bhutto as a political leader. Mr. Fox
thought that it was difficult to believe that any coherent political opposition
could rally to any specific focal point. Now, however, we have reached the
point where the President has agreed to negotiate with the Democratic Action
Committee (D.A.C.) on fundamental changes of the Constitution. Whatever the
outcome, there will be drastic changes which cannot fail to affect the relations
between the two wings of Pakistan.
5. I have
submitted separately to your Department a paper on the Radical Left in
Pakistani politics. The students in East Pakistan are now established as a political
force, which may not remain coherent, but which cannot now be suppressed,
except at the cost of an impossible strain on the fabric of Pakistan. If we reject the possibility that
the present political agitation in East Pakistan could be contained for more than a
short time by martial law and armed force, the only alternative is further
action to meet the political aspirations of East Bengal. Whether the
President achieves a compromise with the D.A.C. or not; whether the students
accept such a compromise or not, inevitably we must expect to see policies in East Pakistan being increasingly
determined by the necessity to conciliate Bengali opinion.
6. East Pakistan has to no small extent depended for
the last two decades on West Pakistani expertise and West Pakistani capital -
however inadequate it may have been. There is little evidence that sufficient
East Pakistanis are yet capable administrators and managers; or that they can
generate from their own resources the
capital necessary for their development. Nor
do I believe that the substitution of one lot of political masters for another, or that changes among the administrators will of
themselves solve the problem of corruption.
criticisms there may be of the present regime, as 1 pointed out in my despatch No. 2 of the 15th of March,
have had their successes in the field of food production and they have set up a
comprehensive scheme for family planning. In the economic field, they have
followed at least in the recent past sensible development policies. I see
little prospect of any alternative regime in the immediate future following
equally coherent and decisive policies. Although a more nationalist Bengali
regime may be able to harness enthusiasm for social causes, I fear that there
will be a deterioration of the administration, and it may well be that those
who object to family planning will have greater scope. There have already been
reports of mobs burning land records and attacking officers working in the
thana headquarters. One circle officer was killed earlier
this week. In fact, even if current developments lead to some alleviation of
the short term political problem, the long term problems of East Pakistan are not likely to become less acute,
and indeed will be exacerbated.
8. This is especially
so in the field of investment and industrialisation.
I would expect West Pakistan businessmen to make every effort to disinvest in East Pakistan - some have already begun the
process. Foreign capital will certainly not be attracted. I do not doubt that
will nevertheless have no hesitation as to their own capacity to carry through
a policy of nationalisation, which is included in the
Eleven Points of the Students' Action Committee.
9. I shall be
addressing you separately about the effect of these policies on British
interests. Certainly there is a danger of banks being nationalised;
British agency houses being squeezed out; tea estates being Bengalised;
and remittances being stopped.
10. But more
important than the immediate threat to our interests, is the danger of a
deterioration of the whole fabric of East Pakistan life and its threat to the peace and
stability in that part of the world. If no effective action is taken to
increases and diversify food production, to limit population or to develop job
opportunities for the increasing number of landless labourers
moving into towns, an increasingly revolutionary situation will develop in
which the Chinese will make full use of their opportunities. "This cannot
fail to be related to developments in West Bengal and will lead to increasing dangers to world peace.
11. In this
situation we, together with the Americans, will need to review our policies
towards Pakistan as the political situation develops.
Our economic stake in Pakistan is now much more vulnerable than
before; and we must consider what policies to pursue in order to safeguard it.
We probably have, more than any other country, opportunities of exercising a stabilising and constructive influence in East Pakistan, if we wish to do so. Such leaders as
Nurul Amin, Justice Murshed and even Sheikh Mujibur Rahman are all in varying degrees likely to be responsive
to our sympathetic handling. I would not despair of the possibility of getting
on terms with other leaders who have not yet emerged. We shall need to consider
whether, both for economic and political reasons, we
can afford to neglect these opportunities.
12. 1 am sending copies of this despatch
to Her Majesty's Ambassadors at Washington, Kabul and Tehran, Her Majesty's Charge d'Affaires at Peking, the High Commissioner at Delhi, and the Deputy High Commissioners at
Karachi, Lahore and Dacca.
I have the honour
Your obedient Servant,
Source: The British Papers – Secret and
Confidential India.Pakistan.Bangladesh Documents
University Press. P. 793-796