Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for
Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Sisco) to
Secretary of State Rogers/1/
/1/ Source: National
Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970-73, POL 23-8 PAK. Confidential.
Drafted by Craig Baxter (NEA/PAF) and cleared by Spengler
and Van Hollen.
Mujib Takes Over
Pakistan; Yahya Flies to
Sheikh Mujibur Rahman announced in
Dacca early today, that his party, the Awami League, was taking over the administration of
East Pakistan on the grounds that the party had a
majority (288 of 300) in the Provincial Assembly. Mujib
acted unilaterally and in defiance of President Yahya
Khan's Martial Law Administration which continues to be the Government of
Pakistan. The fact that Mujib's announcement
contained 35 "directives" for assuming control of the administration
indicates that it was a deliberate and carefully planned move.
In taking this step, Mujib has directly confronted the Yahya
government but has carefully avoided an unqualified declaration of East
Pakistani independence and has based his action on the "democratic"
voice of the people as expressed in the December election. The Yahya regime must react quickly to this critical move, and Yahya himself has flown to
Dacca to talk with Mujib.
The options available to
Yahya appear to be two, either of which would further
endanger the already fragile unity of
Pakistan. If Yahya
acquiesces in the step, he has forfeited his martial law powers, at least in
the East, and would be hard pressed to retain them in the West (see below
regarding Bhutto's speech on Sunday/2/). If Yahya, or
others in the military, decide to resist Mujib's
action by force, East Pakistan will be engulfed in a struggle between the
military and the Bengali nationalists, the outcome of which can only be
eventual independence of Bengal and the breaking of all ties with West
Pakistan-unless, as seems unlikely in the long run, the army can successfully
contain a rebellion. Mujib's statement called on
Bengalis to resist "by all possible means" any force used against
In a speech in
Karachi on Sunday,
West Pakistan political leader Zulfiqar Ali Bhutto demanded that power be turned over to
majority parties in each wing, Bhutto's in the West, Mujib's
in the East. Bhutto's speech, in fact, may have triggered Mujib's
action. It may also indicate what has been suspected for some time, that Bhutto
has decided that his chances of attaining power in the West are best achieved
by a split-total or nearly so-in the country. However, Bhutto has less
opportunity to act than Mujib because the army is
strong in the West and could probably contain a rebellion.
The day's events cast
further doubt on continued unity in
response will be the most important determining factor.
Source: Document 9,
volume XI, South Asia crisis 1971, Department of State.