Memorandum From Harold Saunders and Samuel Hoskinson of the National Security Council Staff to the President's Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)/1/
/1/ Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 625, Country Files, Middle East, Pakistan, Vol. IV, 1 Mar 71-15 May 71. Secret. Sent for information.
Situation in Pakistan
President Yahya Khan has announced the postponement until "a later date" of the National Assembly, which was to have begun drafting a new constitution in
/2/ March 3.
The future course of
events now depends largely on the decision of Mujibur
Rahman and the other leaders of the dominant Awami League party in
/3/ The Consulate
It is impossible to
predict what Mujibur Rahman
and the Awami League will do at this point. They are
most unlikely, however, to back down from their six-point program calling for
virtual autonomy. It has the strong emotional and popular backing in
Rahman's six points are:
-The constitution should
provide a federal and parliamentary form of government based on direct
elections and universal suffrage.
-The central government would have authority only for defense and foreign affairs with all residual and other powers residing in the federating states.
-Two separate currencies which would be freely convertible should be created, although one currency would be acceptable provided that there would be adequate protection against the flight of capital from East to
-Responsibility for fiscal policy should rest with the federating units and taxes would be collected by the states rather than by the central government.
-The states should maintain separate accounts for foreign exchange and would be free to conduct their own trade and aid negotiations.
-The federating units would be empowered to raise and maintain their own militia and paramilitary forces.
In terms of substantive issues, the differences between Rahman and Bhutto seem to have largely narrowed to those of foreign trade and aid. Bhutto in a speech February 28 said he felt the central government would have to retain control in these fields if its control of foreign affairs was to be realistic.
The constellation of
political forces and interests in
base of support is the army and economic elite. They do not want to compromise
with Bhutto because they fear his platform of "equitable distribution of the
wealth." They figure that the weak central government the East wants would
loosen their grip on
-Bhutto's base is the masses. He does not want to compromise with the East because he wants to control a strong central government.
The two men have
different ideological outlooks-Yahya a fairly
and Bhutto a leftist and populist approach. So while they both oppose Rahman, they are also commited to not seeing each other gain a predominant position in any ensuing government.
Rahman is almost solely concerned about
February 28. Farland's conversation with Mujibur
Rahman was reported in telegram 540 from
President Yahya is well aware that he is risking a strong East Pakistani reaction, but presumably decided that the alternative to postponement would be even worse. He may have seen two principal alternatives: (1) postpone the session and-although he left some room for maneuver-risk an immediate confrontation with East Pakistan; or (2) hold the session, risk an immediate confrontation with his army, the West Pakistani political/economic establishment, or both, and, because he would in the end have to reject an East Pakistan autonomy constitution, a confrontation with the East Pakistanis in a few months.
Thus, Yahya is unable to compromise with Rahman
or move closer to Bhutto without jeopardizing his own base of power and risking
his ouster by hardline military elements who would end the move toward representative government and
most likely precipitate widespread and perhaps uncontrollable disorders in
In short, Yahya appears to have decided to risk a confrontation with East Pakistan now in the slight hope that, if he pushed all the parties to the brink, a compromise might evolve from their coming to grips with the consequences of a split-up of Pakistan. Given the sentiment within the West Pakistani political-military establishment, he may have seen no other realistic choice.
As you know, we have so far attempted to remain neutral and uninvolved. Our line has been that we favor the unity of
Beyond that, we have
-If there is secession, how active should the
The contingency plan ordered in NSSM 118/5/ should be finished in the next twenty-four hours. I will send that to you as soon as it arrives with a recommendation on handling. We are after all witnessing the possible birth of a new nation of over 70 million people in an unstable area of
/5/ National Security
Study Memorandum 118, directed by Kissinger on February 16 to the Secretaries
of State and Defense and the Director of Central Intelligence, called for a
contingency study to be prepared outlining the possible range of
Source: Document 2, volume XI, South Asia crisis 1971, Department of State.