11.39 ROY FOX'S DESPATCH REGARDING HIS TALKS WITH SH. MUJIBUR REHMAN
Public Record Office
REF: FCO 37/471
British High Commission,
His Excellency Sir Cyril Pickard, K.C.M.G.,
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
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
5. Mujib said he still wanted one
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
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.
The British Papers – Secret and Confidential India.Pakistan.Bangladesh Documents 1959-1969,