11.59 P.R OLIVER'S CALL ON CHAUDRI MOHAMMED ALI
Public Record Office
REF: FCO 37/472
British High Commissioner,
yesterday started off my round of visits on
2. 1 deemed it better to let him talk - which he did almost without interruption for an hour and a quarter .-- rather than catechise him to any marked extent, but I did venture to ask him how he saw things developing in the foreseeable future. He said that there was nothing to be done with either Bhashani or Sheikh Mujibur Rahman; the one was more or less communist or communist-dominated, and the other was a self-seeker, greedy for political power. He accepted that East Pakistan had hitherto been less than fairly treated - this, he added with a smile, was to a large extent the fault of pre-partition British rule, which had spoilt the Punjab and left what is now East Bengal as a mere supplier of raw materials to Calcutta, with no tradition of civil, business or military training "except for the Hindus, who were cleverer" -- but he completely dismissed the feasibility of an independent only, prepares to concede the need for greater autonomy for the region.
3. He said that it would be useless for President Yahya to try to persuade the politicians of such widely varying views to reach unanimous agreement about the
form of any future constitution. It would be equally fruitless to try to elect some form of constitution-forming assembly. Yahya's most sensible course, he claimed, would be to re-introduce the 1956 Constitution; once this was done, and the politicians were again in the saddle, it would be a comparatively simple matter, and one which could be handled within the framework of that constitution, to bring into effect such changes and amendments as had been shown to be desirable by events over the past decade.
4. I asked him what he felt about the multiplicity of political parties, and he agreed that there were too many. Martial Law restrictions operated against any widely attended meeting designed to bring about grouping of parties holding similar views (he admitted that the time was not yet ripe for relaxing these restrictions), but a certain amount of discussion between faction-leaders was going on, and if Yahya were, for example, to declare himself in favour of taking the 1956 Constitution as a basis, with possible subsequent amendments, he felt that in the pre-election period there would be a very considerable coalescing of groups. Thus he thought that there was a good chance of his own party, the Nizam-i-Islam, finding common cause with the National Democratic Front, the Nasrullah Khan faction of the Awami League and possibly the Jama'at-i-Islami; he doubted if the remaining member of the Pakistan Democratic Movement, the Council Muslim League, would lend their support in the early stages, because they insisted on regarding themselves as the exclusive inheritors of the mantle worn by the Quaid-i-Azam.
5. I enquired about his personal relations with the Martial Law Administration. He replied with a temporary lapse of his customary urbanity that he had none. President Yahya had consulted him and might well do so again; he had never met General Attiqur Rahman, and saw no reason to go out of his way to do so, although he would be available for discussions if called upon.
6. It seemed wiser not to mar a most interesting meeting by enquiring about the extent of public support for Chaudri Mohammed All's views; I gather that this may be less than he himself would wish. At present, as I say, I propose to play the part of audience rather than of interrogator. If, as I hope, I am able to meet with a fairly wide cross-section of politicians, I may subsequently be able to attempt some kind of analysis.
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