11.55 MINUTES OF CONVERSATION BETWEEN THE HIGH COMMISSIONER AND VICE-ADMIRAL AHSAN AND MR A. RASHID, SECRETARY OF COMMUNICATIONS

 

 

Public Record Office

 

REF: FCO 37/472

 

British High Commissioner,

Rawalpindi.

1/54                                                                                                                                  27 May, 1969

 

T.D. O'Leary, Esq.,

South Asian Department,

F.C.O.

 

Dear O'Leary

 

On the High Commissioner's instructions, I am writing to send you copies of minutes of conversations he had recently with Vice-Admiral Ahsan, Navy Commander-in­Chief and Deputy Chief Martial Law Administrator and Mr. A. Rashid, Secretary for Communications.

 

2. I am copying this, with enclosures, to Cashmore in Research Department, and to Dacca, Karachi and Lahore.

Yours ever
(R.F.W. Skilbeck)

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Enclosure:

British High Commission,

Rawalpindi.

 

Conversation with Vice-Admiral Ahsan

 

On Thursday, 15 May, 1969, 1 travelled from Dacca to Lahore sitting next to Admiral Ahsan, who has been a close friend of mine for some year. We had a long chat in which he was very frank.

 

2. He said that he had no doubt whatsoever that General Yahya did not wish to remain in his uncomfortable position for longer that he absolutely had to. Certainly he, Admiral Ahsan, would like to get back to the job of running the Navy as soon as possible. He accepted, however, that it was not as easy as all that to give up responsibilities once they were taken on. He hoped, however, that progress would be possible before long for arrangements to be made for holding an election.

 

3. 1 chaffed him on the vast range of economic responsibilities which he now carries. He said that he did not really pretend to any expert knowledge but the Service Chiefs did feel that they could provide some useful guidance, as men of commonsense and few preconceptions, in listening to experts' views and arriving at sonic firm decisions. He said they could only do their best. Certainly something had to be done to meet Bengali aspirations but during his recent visit to Dacca he had found them extremely difficult to deal with. They were prepared to admit the inherent difficulties in the situation of Bengal but when they came to demands on the central economy they blithely ignored their own shortcomings. He gave as an example EPIDC which had been responsible for a vast expenditure of public funds and very little return. He said that West Pakistan's economic progress had been in part due to the fact that, despite the local difficulties in Karachi, they had on the whole welcomed refugees from Bombay and elsewhere and this had done much to build up West Pakistan's strength. Bengal showed little signs of welcoming West Pakistanis.

 

4. We then turned to a discussion of the Ayub regime. He said that he was very fond of Ayub and felt that he had done great things for Pakistan. Unfortunately in the last year or two he had become increasingly isolated and the allegations about corruption in his family had had an adverse effect on his popularity.

 

5. I suggested to him that at present it seemed likely that Mujibur Rahman would get most votes if there were an election. He expressed some doubt. He said he had seen Bhashani during his recent visit to Dacca and as always he was very much impressed by the old man's grasp of the fundamental agrarian problems. While in the short term Mujibur was probably in a stronger position, in the long run he thought that Bhashani might prove to have more influence in the rural areas.

 

(C.S. Pickard)

24 May, 1969

 

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Conversation with Mr. A. Rashid, Secretary for Communications

 

On the flight from Lahore to Rawalpindi on 15 May, 1969, I sat next to Rashid, Secretary for Communications.

 

2. We talked about the situation in East Pakistan. He said that he thought that Monem Khan had been responsible for the collapse of the Ayub regime and its unpopularity in the East. He was a born intriguer and would have nothing but "Yes men" around him. Rashid himself had been ordered to the centre to get rid of him. Rashid said that he fully realised that East Pakistan had enormous economic difficulties to face and that cutting itself loose from West Pakistan would provide no answer. On the other hand there could be no alternative to allowing the Bengalis to run their own affairs. The West Pakistan industrialists had, in the past, exploited East Pakistan.

 

3. I took him up on this and said that Adamjee had assured me that all non­distributed profits had in fact been reinvested in East Pakistan. Rashid said Adamjees were an exception and there were plenty of others who had siphoned everything back to the West. Moreover, even Adamjees employed a very high proportion of West Pakistanis and a good part of their wages went back to West Pakistan.

 

4. He said that he had known Mujibur Rahman since they were at University together. He was unpredictable and certainly was a politician rather than a statesman. It was very difficult to see him becoming a key national figure. Yet, on the other hand, there was no alternative. The important thing was that he should be well­advised and there were some younger East Pakistanis, such as Dr. Anis, the economist in Islamabad University, who were exerting sensible influence on him.

 

(C.S. Pickard)

26 May, 1969

 

 

Source: The British Papers – Secret and Confidential India.Pakistan.Bangladesh Documents 1959-1969, Oxford University Press. P. 938-940