MEMORANDUM OF CONVERSATION

Participants : A.K. Brohi, Karachi Lawyer

                      D.M. Cochran, Political Officer,

                      American Embassy Office, Karachi

Place    Mr. Brohi's home, Karachi

Date     March 31, 1969

 

1. Mr. Brohi opened the conversation by stating that he is deeply disturbed that Pakistan has again come under martial law. He said that the source of his distress lies not so much in the resort to martial law, however regrettable that action may have been but in the collapse of public order which made it necessary. This he attributed to the failure and unwillingness of the Ayub regime to deal with fundamental political issues--e.g., the position, role and representation of East Pakistan-in political terms. Characterizing Ayub's approach to such basic issues as marked by chicanery, and in many instances, "political bribery", he said that the former President's ten years of rule had resulted in the prostitution of the entire basis of political life and, during his incumbency, had rendered progress towards meaningful political solutions impossible

      2. Commenting on the "legality" of martial law, Brohi said that questions :' constitutionality and legitimacy are essentially irrelevant. In view of the popular rejection of the Ayubian political structure, manifested by the deepening unrest which marked the period October 1968-March 1969, and the resulting failure of the constitutionally-established government to function, a "revolutionary" situation had emerged which rendered the constitution nugatory. While reiterating his own personal distaste for authoritarian rule, he said that in this situation imposition of martial lam became imperative if that degree of stability making possible the functioning of predictable and evolutionary political processes was to be restored. (In the course of these remarks on the necessity for martial law, Brohi distinguished between Ayub's 1958 take-over, which he defined as "fraudulent", and the March 25 imposition, which he described as "the only step left".)

      3. In addition to condemning Ayub for his failure to deal with fundamental problems during his ten-year rule, Brohi was scathing in his comments about opposition politicians for their failure to act responsibly. Disposing of Bhutto and Bhashani as virtual nihilists who could not be expected to act responsibly and appeared bent only on the creation of chaos for their own ends (but whose crime was compounded by the opportunities they presented Communists), he saved his bitterest words for old-line Pakistani politicians who placed their own interests above the compelling need to find solutions to fundamental issues. He said that this attitude had been most clearly revealed at the Round Table Conference where these politician had haggled over details and, in some cases, held to unnecessarily extreme position. (in an obvious reference to Mujibur Rehman). Brohi believes a willingness to vork within the limits of the politically possible would have brought needed but still limited changes in the Constitution which would, in turn, have allowed the constitutionally-established national legislature to deal with basic issues and, if required, amend the Constitution to achieve their resolution. By demanding the impossible, the politicians had achieved nothing and, indeed, had enabled the unrest then current to descend into breakdown of law and order which imperiled the very life of the country.

      4. Brohi mentioned that he had talked to almost all the participants of the RTC with the exception of Bhutto and Bhashani, whom he termed as beyond appeals to reason. He said that these conversations, which occurred not only in Karachi but also in Dacca, Lahore and Rawalpindi, revolved around the need to seek limited but realizable goals. He added that he had been instrumental in persuading several (whom he would not name) to participate in the conference. The subsequent efforts of opposition participants to alter the character of the conference from a regime­opposition dialogue aimed at defining basic political issues and proposing possible solutions into a "constituent assembly without mandate" merely' intensified his disappointment with their limited vision.

      5. Brohi expressed his greatest concern over the future of East Pakistan. He said that the failure of Ayub as well as his predecessors to respond to the East Wing's legitimate aspirations has placed the unity of Pakistan in jeopardy. He reserved particular criticism for Ayub who, in view of the power possessed by the presidency under the 1962 constitution, was in a position to act much more freely than was possible during the period of parliamentary government to remedy the grievances of East Pakistan. Asserting that East Pakistan has no overriding desire to secede from Pakistan, Brohi stated that East Bengal may nevertheless conclude that it is compelled to this radical step if it is not accorded adequate representation and autonomy in response to clearly voiced aspirations. He added that the problem of East Pakistan's separatist impulses is compounded by the presence in West Bengal of a provincial government including a number of Communists who may be tempted to capitalize on the East Wing's sense of grievance to promote unrest and to intensify separatist sentiment for Communist ends. Brohi went on to say that East Pakistan should not be considered lost and that an intelligent response to the East Wing's demands could retrieve the situation. He stated that he possesses great influence among East Pakistani lawyers, "most of whom I have trained", and would be willing to play a constructive role with this group if the martial law regime would so desire. He did not comment on the possibility of such assistance being sought.

 

 

Source: The American Papers - Secret and Confidential India. Pakistan. Bangladesh Documents 1965- 1973, The University Press

    Limited, p. 270 - 271