11.39 ROY FOX'S DESPATCH REGARDING HIS TALKS WITH SH. MUJIBUR REHMAN

 

 

Public Record Office

 

REF: FCO 37/471

 

British High Commission,
Dacca.

(1/34)          

11 April, 1969

 

His Excellency Sir Cyril Pickard, K.C.M.G.,

Rawalpindi.

 

I had a long talk with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman today. He was relaxed and looked fit; not surprisingly. he said, as "I am able to rest so much these days." There are no crowds round the house now but only a band of 12 or 14 watchers, as Mujib said, watching who comes and goes. A few of his henchmen were around and Madood Ahmed, the young advocate who helped Tom Williams in the Agartala case came into the room for a few minutes.

2. Mujib said he did not regret having gone to the R.T.C. He knew some thought he should have stayed away with Bhutto and Bhashani. But he had points to press and he did not have time to wait. In any case the situation would have got more and more out of hand in East Pakistan if he had not tried to do something. He said Muzaffar of NAP (Requisionist) had supported him fully but "the others" - presumably Hamidul Haq Chowdhury, Abdus Salam Khan, Nawabzada, Nurul Amin and the rest - were "still at their old games." Ayub had offered to make him Prime Minister of Pakistan but he refused saying he wanted to be elected, not appointed. If he had accepted without the mandate of the people his popularity could have dwindled rapidly if things had gone at all wrong.

3. 1 suggested all the same that his popularity had in fact lessened and that he might need the help of the other moderates to avoid an inconclusive election result. He refused to accept this at all saying he would get 75% or 80% of the election votes. He had no intention of letting any of the old time gang ride on the back of the Awami League again. He would give Muzaffar's party some seats but no one else. The demagoguery showed brightly here. H.H. Chowdhury's nephew, Director of Foreign Affairs here, had earlier told me Chowdhury and Abdus Salam Khan had tried to help Mujib in Pindi but had been rebuffed.

4. I suggested Bhashani was still making ground as a result of his extreme appeals to workers and peasants but Mujib retorted that Bhashani would not get twelve seats in any election. Bhashani had a much smaller following amongst the workers than he and he himself had been building up in the mofussil. It was true, however, that the curtailing of his activities by Martial Law played into the hands of Bhashani whose underground men would continue their work. He had said that to the Martial Law would the Bengalis swallow the Communism of Bhashani's followers provided East Pakistan did not sink into economic chaos. East Pakistan had ten years to get off the floor.

5. Mujib said he still wanted one Pakistan. He had been vilified as a Hindu supporter because he supported the use of Bengali language and because of Agartala. ibis was rubbish. He was ready to compromise on parity instead of 56% of representation for East Pakistan but he wanted the capital to be Dacca. I suggested this would break Pakistan in two and he eventually admitted he saw this and would settle for 6 months Dacca and 6 months West Pakistan, as in case of Cape Town and Pretoria. He had also compromised on currency as a matter for the Centre in addition to Foreign Affairs and Defence. But that was enough. If the Punjabis wanted two provinces and forced the issue East Pakistan would go it alone. Many students were indeed already saying this would happen. It was up to the West. While, however, he would not press for restitution against robbery suffered by East Pakistan in e.g. building up of Industry in Karachi with foreign exchange earned by jute, there would be no continuation or repetition of this. Was not the Pakistan Government's attitude to flood control in East Pakistan an utter disgrace? While money was poured into the building of Islamabad. Nothing could have been more cynical. Britain and U.S.A. and others should make no mistake. The Bengalis were not cowards and were not afraid to die. Probably some would die but the rest would fight on. Autonomy was inevitable.

6. He did not know how long Martial Law would last and he did not think General Yahya knew either. But I would have noticed the air of waiting and watching. The students had just told Nur Khan they could not wait for ever. He was waiting himself to see how quickly the M.L.A. moved towards elections. He did not care whether they had an interim government or not. This was irrelevant. All that mattered was election time and a demonstration that even now everything would be done to help East Pakistan to a better life. There was no turning back; and the people would not wait for long. There was hunger in the mofussil; it was a famine situation in places. There was so much to be done, so much to be put right.

7. I asked Mujib what he would do about shortage of capital and foreign exchange. He said he would almost certainly approach the British if he eventually found this was necessary - and he thought it would be. He did not trust the Americans although he would almost certainly need their help. He would have no hesitation in asking for aid. After all "the British, as a colonial power, are partly responsible for our plight." He said again his political position was that of the present British Government.

S. I cannot but recall your comments to me about him. He has indeed the goonda touch himself and it is so difficult to see him as a responsible, mature and balanced Prime Minister. I still believe he does not have adequate advice from the best men although he said he did not want for good advice or intelligent and educated helpers.

9. Yet I see no alternative. This morning (16 April) I had good talk with AbduS Salam of Observer of which I will send you the gist. All I have time to say before the bag goes is that he agrees there is no real alternative to Mujib but he is no happier than we are about him.

10. I enclose a copy of Mujib's speech to the R.T.C. and also an extra copy of this letter and enclosure.

 

(Roy Fox)

 

 

 

Source: The British Papers Secret and Confidential India.Pakistan.Bangladesh Documents 1959-1969, Oxford University Press. P. 867-868