11.46 ROY FOX'S DESPATCH
REGARDING TALKS WITH ABDUS SALAM, EDITOR OF
Public Record Office
REF: FCO 37/471
British High Commission,
Sir Cyril Pickard, KCMG,
Abdus Salam,, Editor of Pakistan Observer, called at my invitation for a talk on Wednesday, 16 April.
2. I asked him what he thought of the present situation and whether he was expecting trouble. He said that before it happened the introduction of Martial Law was said to be likely to bring about secession. It could still do so but the people were still recovering from the initial shock and really waiting to see what President Yahya was proposing to do. He, himself, was in a confused state of mind and he just did not know what would happen. He thought we should be able to see things more clearly in about a month's time.
3. On the food situation he agreed that there had been some black spots and Mujib may well have been right in saying that there were near famine conditions in some areas. The introduction of more grains and opening of the distribution lines, however, seem to have alleviated extreme hardship.
4. Abdus Salam naturally agreed that
Martial Law had solved nothing at all. Indeed it was regarded as an occupation
5. Salam thought Bhashani's influence had developed to some extent in the towns while it was, of course, quite strong in the countryside. He agreed that Bhashani was not a real Communist but said that some of his men, particularly intelligent and active Hindus, some of whom had recently been released from gaol, were indeed
dyed-in-the-wool Communists. They would certainly be a strong force to be reckoned with if the economic situation deteriorated.
6. He dismissed Jamaat and Nizam as being of little importance and went on to confess his misgivings about Mujib. He has known him for a long time, he lives near to him and they often talk but he has found it extremely difficult to get him to take any notice. He said Mujib was surrounded too much by the goonda type of urchins and youngsters and Abdus Salam doubted whether enough good advice was getting through. He said Mujib had always been volatile and difficult to advise, and while he was doing his best he did not really feel he was getting very far with Mujib. He went on to say in confidence that Mujib's attack on his return to Dacca from the R.T.C. against Hamidul Haq Chowdhury and Abdus Salam Khan had so antagonised these two that there was no hope whatever of any rapprochement. It was indeed utterly regrettable that Mujib should have behaved in this way for Chowdhury could help him a lot and Abdus Salam Khan was the Advocate who had defended Mujib in the Agartala Conspiracy case at no cost whatever.
7. Abdus Salam at the same time could see no likelihood of the old forces of the Centre getting together and producing a satisfactory socio-economic programme. Nasrullah and Asghar Khan had been over this week but he could not see any useful coalition cmcrging.
8. Thus he had nothing but hope to live on at the moment, and he could only hope that whatever the political outcome, the economic situation would improve. He was frightened that the arresting of some political leaders in the countryside might cause some of their associated workers to go underground as a result of which work on crops might be marginally affected. And overall was the awareness that so much had to be done to provide employment, improved agricultural methods, improved education and so on.
9. G.M. and Hanif Adamjee, Shamsh Lakha of I.P.S. (Fancy organisation) and ]sky and Alijoon Ispahani have all called on me in last few days.
10. Shamsh Lakha, taking the Aga Khan
line, said they were still continuing to do all they could to develop industry
although I suspect they have pulled their horns in somewhat for the present. He
talked of the necessity to give the worker a better deal before it was too
late. lie denied rumours of the arrest of Amirali Fancy and said he had
suffered his sixth heart attack. He was going to
11. The Ispahanis were disappointing.
They were obsessed with the fear of being nationalised and clearly were hoping
that Martial Law would be followed by another Ayub type regime. They saw no
hope of any effective political grouping and did not have any confidence in
Mujib. They were criticised to me not long ago by the Home Secretary who said
he found during his spell in
12. The Adamjees are restless and unhappy. G.M. said again he saw no secure future. He could see political chaos during the forthcoming democratic elections. He could not see a national leader and did not believe Mujib or his programme would be acceptable to West Pakistanis. The Six-Point Awami League programme had everyone
in industry worried. He thought secession was almost inevitable as does Hanif and many others with whom I have recently spoken. Then Bengalis might well turn against non Bengalis, especially Adamjees, Ispahanis, etc. There could he nationalisation and a keeping of top jobs and best contracts for Bengalis.
13. In these circumstances what was the
point in staying in
14. Hanif was little more cheerful. He did not think Martial Law could hold the people down and forecast trouble this year. He more or less admitted they had given Mujib a sizeable sum of money but he did not really trust him and could have no real confidence. The rumour of Amirali's arrest seemed to affect him at a dinner on Sunday night; he relapsed into a sort of nervous brooding. I should imagine the Martial Law anticorruption activities must give them food for thought.
15. The more buoyant mood since 25 March
seems to have collapsed in G.M. especially. The regime of the House of Adamjee
16. enclosed an extra copy of this letter.
The British Papers – Secret and Confidential India.Pakistan.Bangladesh