9.11 PRESIDENT AYUB'S
Public Record Office
REF: DO 196/319
BRITISH HIGH COMMISSION,
President Ayub's Visit to
The President has just completed his most extensive
2. His first important engagement was to address the
National Assembly on 8 March. His theme was stability and strong central
authority, and he had nothing but jibes for those who believe in
3.Important meetings were held in the course of
extensive touring with Basic Democrats of Dacca,
4.Addressing the annual banquet of the Federation of
Pakistan Chambers of Commerce and Industry on 17 March, he spoke of the need
for capital investment in
5. Thus far we had the picture of the President carrying out a busy but broadly conventional tour, showing in all that he said that he had set his mind against constitutional changes of any real significance; that he was determined to maintain the characteristics of his regime; and appeared to have confidence that this could be done.
6. With the later speeches to Basic Democrats and
with the opening of the All Pakistan Muslim League meeting, the President's
demeanour changes and signs of real nerviness appeared. His attacks on the
Opposition became more virulent and he referred openly to the possibility of
7. There was stronger stuff to come. In the course of the President's address to the concluding session of the Pakistan Muslim League Council on 20 March, he said that the Nation should be prepared to face even a civil war if thrust upon it "by disruptionists." He said the Government would not tolerate any attempt to tamper with the unity and solidarity of the Nation and expressed his concern at the activities of Opposition parties. If necessary, he said, we would have to use "the language of weapons." This extreme language may have been prompted by knowledge that almost the same time on Sunday 20 March an Awami League public meeting, at which those present were said to number 13 to 20,000, was being addressed by Sheikh Mujibur Rahman at the end of two days of Awami League Council Meetings.
8. The final 24 hours of the President's visit featured an enormous flurry of ministerial consultation. Almost if not all the Central Ministers together with both Governors were in Dacca and were closeted for hours on end at the President's house. It was inevitable conjecture that ministerial changes were afoot but at the time of writing nothing has so far been announced.
9. The real question mark over the President's visit is to know how it came about that the presentation of his theme should have changed during the fortnight from the calm control with which he dominated the National Assembly on 8 March to the almost hysterical talk of civil war, weapons, and the break-up of Pakistan, in the last day or two of his visit. He has been subject to criticism. As the Pakistan Observer put it his programme of absolute rule is unacceptable to thinking citizens who have doubts about brass hat infallibility. But there were certainly no incidents during his stay to give him any real impression of popular unrest. As reported elsewhere, the student agitation over the Mahmood affair and the Bengali language agitation, had both died down or been suppressed before the President arrived and have not erupted again since. There was a shooting incident at Brahmanbaria, at which several students were shot (one died) but this has raised no deep felt public indignation and is the subject of enquiry.
10. The President is almost certainly quite wrong in suggesting that those who favour autonomy and self sufficiency for this Wing also favour ideas of a Greater Bengal. (For an account of how this idea can be made superficially to seem valid, see the account of the High Commissioner's talk with Nurul Amin - enclosure to Roy Crook's letter in today's bag). Nurul Amin, Mujibur Rahman himself, Farid Ahmed and Toffazel Hussain of "Ittefaq" have all told us flatly in the last few days that no-one in East Pakistan now wants to join up, on any terms whatever, with territory now Indian. All of them put it in the same terms - "why on earth should we?". Why, indeed? There is nothing in it for them, and they know it for the political impossibility which (at least at present) it is.
11. Nor was it necessary for the President to
lecture the Opposition on the difficulties which would confront an independent
12. What the Opposition leaders really want, for the
moment, is precisely what they say they want, namely, to secure for
13. We shall need more time to evaluate further the results of what seems at first sight an ill-considered series of pronouncements. One thing of which we can be sure is that the President can have done no good to the cause of real unity between the two Wings.
14. You will no doubt show this to the High Commissioner in view of his recent visit. I am sending you an additional copy, should you wish to forward it to London, and am copying it also to Beer and Stafford.
Source: The British Papers – Secret and Confidential
India.Pakistan.Bangladesh Documents 1958-1969,