Public Record Office


REF: DO 196/319




24 March 1966


N.J. Barrington, Esq.,



President Ayub's Visit to East Pakistan 7-21 March 1966


The President has just completed his most extensive visit to East Pakistan for some time. He arrived on 7 March, the day on which the National Assembly's Spring proceedings opened in Dacca, and left on 21 March. His visit to the Province thus covered almost the full period of the Assembly's meeting, including the Foreign Policy debate, and a meeting of the All Pakistan Muslim League Council at which he presided.


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 Westminster democracy. He praised the virtues of the present constitution; "changes would open the flood-gates of political instability". Pakistan's sovereignty was indivisible and greater power for the units would strike at the roots of solidarity and make the two Wings vulnerable. He did, however, make one concession to the Parliamentary Opposition by suggesting a committee consider how the Assembly could be given power to amend ordinances and exercise control over current expenditure.


3.Important meetings were held in the course of extensive touring with Basic Democrats of Dacca, Chittagong, Rajshahi and Khulna. The same plea for solidarity and strong central authority was heard at all these meetings, with warnings against "the disruptionists" with their various programmes aimed at undermining the unity of the country. Specifically the "Six point programme" of the Awami League would, he claimed, spell disaster and lead the people of East Pakistan to ruination.


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 East Pakistan, and emphasised the need for stability and security in order to attract this investment. The President had some flattering things to say about the business community generally and thanked them for their donations to the Defence Fund and acknowledged their part in maintaining production and keeping the price level steady at the time of the Emergency.


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 Pakistan breaking apart. East Pakistan could not survive on its own surrounded by a hostile India. The Awami League, he claimed, nurtured the "horrid dream" of a greater sovereign Bengal. This was a desire harboured by some leaders since the earliest days of Pakistan. It could only spell disaster for the country, the people of East Pakistan would be turned into slaves, and he reminded them how they had been dominated by Hindus during British days. Nor did he think India would allow any part of her country to break away in order to form an independent area with East Pakistan. The answer to this must be the establishment of strong central authority; Islamic countries flourished in history at times when a strong central authority existed and fell into decadence at times of weak central authority.


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 East Pakistan. This is not what they want, though their minds may be turned in this direction should the President continue to brush aside the aspirations of the political leaders.


12. What the Opposition leaders really want, for the moment, is precisely what they say they want, namely, to secure for East Pakistan a fairer deal within Pakistan. Mujibur Rahman, who was in cracking form at Roy Crook's party for the High Commissioner, made it quite clear that he intends to go on urging his "Six Points" unless and until he is gaoled. Its seems at least possible that the President, having spent long enough here really to get the atmosphere, realised for the first time that he is up against a serious political campaign and made a hamfisted attempt to smear or frighten his opponents.


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.


(A.B. Moore)



Source: The British Papers Secret and Confidential India.Pakistan.Bangladesh Documents 1958-1969, Oxford University Press, p. 453-455.