9.31: Popularity of the six point programme

 

 

Public Record Office

 

REF: DO 196/316

 

BRITISH HIGH COMMISSION,
RAWALPINDI.

 

2-INT/RAW 6/60/1

28 April, 1966

 

R.W. Whitney, Esq.,

Commonwealth Relations Office,

London, S.W.1.

 

Dear Whitney,

 

Would you please refer to Edwin Sykes' letter of 4 March to Duff about the internal political situation. This to keep you up-to-date with recent developments on the internal side.

 

2. The authorities are still making sure that they can clamp down on any serious opposition to the Regime. The emergency regulations (allowing detention without trial) remain in force and in addition throughout West Pakistan local Commissioners proclaim "Section 144" with monotonous regularity. This means that public meetings, processions and use of loudspeakers etc. are banned in all major towns in West Pakistan.

 

3. Of all the West Pakistan Opposition Parties it has been the Council Muslim League that have been most concerned to fight for the right to standup in public and express their views. This fight landed most of the leaders in prison at the end of last month. On 24 March four important leaders of the party, including Khwaja Mohammad Safdar, who has quite a popular following in Sialkot and is leader of the Opposition in the West Pakistan Provincial Assembly, and Mohammed Hussain Chatha, who is Daultana's right-hand man, were arrested as they tried to hold a public meeting in Lahore. There was also one arrest in Multan, four in Muzaffargarh, seven in Peshawar, and more in other towns. These arrests and the previous arrests made in February have been the subject of prolonged battles in :he Courts on technical points. A few of those arrested have been released on 'nail.

 

4. The Government has thus effectively cowed the Council Muslim League and the small West Pakistan Awami League parties. They probably decided that the leaders of the other two moderate opposition parties, Maulana Maudoodi of the Jamaat-i-Islami party and Chaudri Mohammed Ali of the Nizam-i-Islam were a

le too hot to handle at the moment. Both parties have religious followings and

both leaders are considerably respected in the country as a whole. Chaudri Mohammed All had a successful tour of East Pakistan in March during which he criticised the Government in his usual vein and was violently attacked by the East Pakistan Governor and others. It looked at one stage as if these personal attacks were a prelude to his arrest but this did not happen, and Chaudri Mohammed All has been quiet since his return to Lahore. Maulana Maudoodi has only just returned from The Haj.

 

5. From their side the Opposition has failed to give substance to its plans to unite. The Committee formed at the Lahore Conference is still discussing the creation of a unified Opposition High Command but, as yet, with no result.

 

6. It is interesting that the left wing National Awami Party (N.A.P.) which proclaims its support for the Government's present foreign policy of friendship for communist countries has taken pains to deny that it agrees with the Government on internal affairs. The N.A.P. has given considerable support, for instance, to Sheikh Mujibur Rahman's Six Point Programme for further autonomy for East Pakistan. This may be one of the reasons why the N.A.P. who, had earlier been helping the Governor with the planning for the Chinese visit to East Pakistan, were snubbed in the final arrangements.

 

7. The opposition in East Pakistan is, of course, much more substantial and popular and therefore dangerous to the Government than in the West. We have already reported on the popularity of the Six Point Programme and on the extreme and irrational way in which the President attempted to deal with it in his March visit to East Pakistan. (See, for instance, Dacca fortnightly report for the period 17-31 March). His talk of resorting to weapons and civil war was badly judged and resented by almost all East Pakistanis. It is interesting that during his visit the East Pakistan Governor attacked not only the extreme Opposition leaders but also the moderate National Democratic Front leaders like Nurul Amin and Ataur Rahman who had hitherto been of use to the President in supporting Tashkent. This suggests that the President is now so irritated by the Opposition that he is determined to have no truck with any of them.

 

8. The latest development in East Pakistan is that the Government appears to have lost patience with Mujibur Rahman. lie was arrested on 18 April, released on bail, re-arrested on another charge and finally again released on bail. Despite the well known independence of the East Pakistan Judiciary the Government will no doubt find some means of keeping Mujibur Rahman inside. This may or may not be prelude to the sort of large scale arrests that have been carried out in West Pakistan. Up to now it has been considered that the Government was not strong to do this in East Pakistan.

 

9. The President's main allies in East Pakistan appear to be the Governor himself. Monem Khan, and his crony, the Central Communications Minister, Sabur Khan. It is rumoured here that it was due to the machinations of these two that a prominent Government supporter from Chittagong, Fazlul Qader Chowdhury, a former Speaker and notable orator who has felt free to criticise the Government on occasions and did so at the last National Assembly session, was expelled from the party at the end of March. It is said that they were jealous of Chowdhury's influence. I attach a copy of a press handout in which Chowdhury justifies his position and expresses his disgust (shared I suspect by many others) with the autocratic organisation of the Pakistan Muslim League. It remains to be seen whether he will now disappear from the scene or become a prominent element within the Opposition. So far he has not joined any Opposition party.

 

10. I also enclose copies of three newspaper articles. The first is an editorial in the Pakistan Observer which is a good indiction of the way current disillusionment with the regime has made the move for autonomy in East Pakistan popular. The other two are moderate and reasoned articles by Suleri (who has often been spokesman for the official line) which appeared in the Pakistan Times. They provide a much more effective criticism of the Opposition then is to be found in Ministers' speeches, emphasizing the inconsistency, unconstructiveness and disunity of the Opposition. The second of the two ends with a remarkable criticism of the Government Party organisation as well: "The present dismal ethos is generated as much by Opposition frustration as by the government's party's lack of impact."

11. Morale in the Pakistan Muslim League has been pretty low since Tashkent. The government party was badly in need of reorganisation and the President has recently tried to do this, at the same time gathering all the power into his own hands. I shall be writing separately about this reorganisation including the appointment of an unknown landlord and politician from Bahawalpur to replace Bhutto as Secretary/General of the party. I shall also be writing separately about the extensive changes that are taking place in senior appointments in the Army. Ostensibly the fact that Ayub is prepared at this juncture to replace his C-in-C, his Chief of General Staff and his Director of Military Intelligence, is a sign of confidence in the overall loyalty of the army on which his position still primarily depends.

 

12. I am sending copies of this letter to Allinson in Delhi, Beer in Karachi, Crook in Dacca and Stafford in Lahore.

 

Yours ever

(N.J. BARRINGTON)

 

 

Source: The British Papers Secret and Confidential India.Pakistan.Bangladesh Documents 1958-1969, Oxford University Press, p. 501-503.