11.68 CIA'S BRIEFING OF THE COMMONWEALTH LIAISON OFFICERS - BRIEFING BY GEOFFERY PRATT

 

 

Public Record Office

 

REF: FCO 37/472

 

(10,16) 11th June, 1969

 

B.T.W. Stewart, Esq., CMG.,

Cabinet Office

 

PAKISTAN

 

At today's CIA briefing of the Commonwealth Liaison Officers, Geoffrey Pratt spoke on this subject.

2. Pratt said that Yahya's Martial Law Administration continued to be successful in maintaining law and order. The discontented groups were largely quiescent and the Government had taken some steps to remove the many causes of their grievances. Arrangements for pay increases secured under duress were to be implemented; a new educational policy had been proposed which could satisfy the students although it would be some time before it was fully put into force; an anti-corruption drive had been started; the Basic Democrat system was under review and it seemed likely that the electoral college would lose its elective functions; a committee had been established to review the question of decentralisation in West Pakistan and this stood a fair chance of meeting the demands for decentralisation without going so far as to split West Pakistan into separate provinces; and finally several senior posts in the Civil Service had been allotted to Bengalis: Mujibur Rahman alone had dismissed this offer as more "tokenism."

3. The military junta seemed to be working reasonably well together. Air Marshal Nur Khan might possibly emerge in time as a rival to Yahya. Some differences had already appeared between them, mainly because Nur Khan thought that in order to wage a successful anti-corruption drive, a significant example should be made of members of the Ayub's family. Yahya seemed to be too loyal to Ayub to take determined action against his family.

4. In the meantime, Pratt continued, Yahya had seemed to be trying to give the impression that he had no wish to remain in power indefiniteSy, and Pratt thought he was probably sincere in his desire eventually to restore civilian rule. Yahya had retained the title of Commander-in-Chief; he had refused to accept the pomp and ceremony associated with Ayub during his tours of the country; he had repeatedly and publicly pledged that elections would be held soon and he had impressed most political writers (with the marked exception of Mujibur Rahman) that he intended to restore civilian rule.

5. There were, however, some problems which would prevent an early move in that direction. Yahya believed that the numerous political factions should first merge into three or four national parties so as to give more stability to any future political system and, to avoid a straight East-West confrontation. There were already rumours that many of these factions intended to merge, but it seemed doubtful that this would happen until after the Administration had allowed a resumption of normal political activities. There was also the problem of deciding the purpose of the elections: were they intended to elect members to the existing legislative bodies to work out a constitution or to elect a special constituent assembly. It also had to be decided whether the elections should be held under the present constitution or that of 1956. It was very uncertain when the elections would be held. Most reports from Pakistan suggested that it would be at least one, or more probably two years from now. Pratt had seen a report that Yahya had told some East Pakistan politicians that mid-1970 was a likely time.

6. Pratt said that he thought Yahya sincerely intended to try to meet some of the Bengali demands but he was flatly opposed to granting autonomy to East Pakistan. He had arranged for food grains to be supplied to that province and recently the National Economic Council had authorised the Pakistan Atomic Energy Commission to negotiate for the building of a nuclear power station there. It would, however, take much more time before the Administration could draw up effective economic plans for East Pakistan and a mood of scepticism seemed to be spreading amongst the Bengalis. Mujibur Rahman had privately criticised the Administration for imposing a foreign occupation on the province and had declared the Bengalis would fight if their demands were not met.

7. Pratt said that if the Central Government failed to meet the basic grievances in East Pakistan, this could lead to the eventual separation of the two Wings. The Armed Forces were loyal to Yahya. However, they would face serious logistic problems if they had to deal with widespread insurrection in East Pakistan. The Government was reported to be concerned by information that the Communists (led by Toaha) and the Awami party were planning a peasant rising for the June-December monsoon season. Some recent information had indicated that the Communists were not yet prepared for this and so it was possible that a rising would not take place. However, if it did, the Administration would be faced with difficult local problems. There are some 60,000 villages and poor communications in an area criss-crossed by rivers. Asked whether he thought from the information available to the Agency an explosion was likely in East Pakistan this year, Pratt said he very much doubted it.

8. Pratt concluded by saying that there had been no significant changes in Pakistan's foreign policies since the junta took over. There had been some hints that Pakistan's relations with China might now be cooling off as Yahya seemed to favour a more pro-Western policy than did Ayub, and also, in order to obtain arms, seemed to want to be more friendly with the Soviet Union. Pratt said that the military equipment the Russians had agreed to supply included the following items:

 

(a)    two radar units, which were now being installed in East Pakistan;

 

(b)   at least 60 medium tanks and possibly as many as 200: 50 had already probably reached

 

(c)    Pakistan - the Indians claimed that Pakistan had already received 100;

 

(d)   60 130mm guns;

 

(e)    some OSA patrol boats: as many as 8 might be involved.

 

Pakistan was also interested in securing an all-weather fighter-bomber but there was no indication that the Russians had agreed to supply them with these. 9. I enclose two spare copies of this letter for John Thomson and Justin Staples.

 

(E. Bolland)

 

cc O.N. Joslin,

MOD/DIS

 

J.K.E. Broadley,

PUSD.

 

 

Source: The British Papers Secret and Confidential India.Pakistan.Bangladesh Documents 1959-1969, Oxford University Press. P. 966-968