Public Record Office


REF: FCO 37/472


Mr. O'Leary


Pakistan Internal Political Situation


In continuation of Miss Walker's Minute at (341A) and Mr. McCluney's Minute of 21 May (above 342), you should see the records and conversations at (345) and (again) the enclosure to (352).

2. Taken together these notes indicate the close attention that Mr. Fox and Sir C. Pickard are currently giving to the political prospects in Pakistan and particularly in the East Wing. Not a very clear picture emerges from them, but they illustrate graphically the extent to which political opinion remains fragmented in East Bengal and the difficulty that President Yahya's regime will have if, as they seem determined to do, they are to honour their commitment to hasten the return to civilian rule in Pakistan under a more democratic constitution than that under which President Ayub ruled and to give a greater degree of influence (if not independence) to the East Wing. While it seems generally agreed that the extremism and irresponsibility of Mujibur Rahman and Bhashani do not provide any satisfactory basis for better Government in East Pakistan or for an improvement in Inter-wing relations (and even the influence and abilities of Mujibur and Bhashani are suspect) no one seems to have any more promising alternative proposals apart from a general desire to encourage the emergence of a more responsible central group with which Asghar Khan would be associated. This latter idea also seems unpromising to the extent that Asghar Khan has not so far even had any discussions with the President and has made no kind of move since the introduction of Martial Law and that no one has suggested that he has acquired any serious influence or following in East Pakistan. Bhutto has also remained almost completely silent since the end of March, but it is difficult to believe that he has disappeared for ever in political terms. Speculation on the future course of events has not so far been, and in the immediate future shows little prospect of being very profitable, and I do not see how we or the High Commission (in view of its depleted resources) can do anything more useful than keep a close watching brief This is obviously being done.

3. Of the talks recorded in these papers, that between the High Commissioner and Admiral Ahsan on 15 May (first enclosure to 352) is probably the most important followed by that with Dr. Huda, former (and only for a few days) Governor of East Pakistan (third enclosure to 345). The discussion with Admiral Ahsan confirms President Yahya's determination to terminate military rule as soon as possible, but as with previous assurances of this that we have seen, gives no indication of how this is

to be effected. It also provides little evidence of any improvement in Inter-wing relations and I cannot help wondering whether President Yahya will not eventually find himself in the same impasse as did his predecessor in that the return to Democracy and the grant of concessions to the East Wing are incompatible with the maintenance of the strong Central Government, that is essential if the unity of Pakistan is to be preserved. Were he to reach this conviction then, I suspect that authoritarian role in Pakistan might be in for a much longer innings than President Yahya would himself wish. A comparison between General Yahya's position and that of the Greek Colonel's Junta does not seem inappropriate.

4. Copies of (345) and enclosures and of (352) and enclosures might, I think, usefully be sent to Washington, to Research Department, and Information Research Department and also perhaps the Ministry of Defence (D.LS.). Copies of the enclosures to (352) and of the conversation with Dr. Huda should also be sent to Board of Trade (C.R. 7 E.). Miss Walker should also see all these papers on return.


(P.F. Walker)

3 June, 1969




Source: The British Papers Secret and Confidential India.Pakistan.Bangladesh Documents 1959-1969, Oxford University Press. P. 948-949