Department of State

 

AIRGRAM

LIMITED OFFICIAL USE A-140

 

 

DATE; 22 August 1969

 

 

TO       : DEPARTMENT OF STATE

INFO   : RAWALPINDI, DACCA, LAHORE, PESHAWAR.

FROM :KARACHI

SUBJECT : Memorandum of Conversation with Pir Pagaro

REF:

 

Enclosed with this airgram is a memorandum of conversation with Pir Syed Sikander Shah, Shah Mardan Sani, PIR SAHIB PAGARO, one of Sind's key religious figures whose temporal role is central to Sind politics. The conversation took place on August 20, 1969.

 

The conversation dealt in large measure with the recent visit to Karachi of Six­Point Awami League President Sheikh MUJIBUR RAHMAN and Pir Pagaro's own relations with Mujib. As the conversation revealed, Pir Pagaro's view of Mujib is tinged with suspicion and it is this factor which led to his moving only part way toward alliance with the Awami League (see KARACHI 2138). At the heart of the suspicion is concern over Mujib's possible ties with Punjabis.

 

Pir Pagaro also expressed reservations over President Yahya's intentions, a measure of concern over Air Marshal NUR KHAN's appointment as West Pakistan Governor and described political maneuvering in the Sind; in this latter portion of the conversation, he came off very well in his own estimate.

 

RAMSAY

 

MEMORANDUM OF CONVERSATION

 

Participants : Pir Syed Sikander Shah, Shah Mardan Sani,

                      PIR SAHIB PAGARO

                      D.M. Cocharan, Political Officer, American

                      Consulate General Karachi

Date     : August 20, 1969

Place    : Pir Pagaro's House, Karachi

(This was the second conversation with PIR PAGARO within a period of three weeks, and was the result of an invitation to talk again following the departure from Karachi of Six-Point Awami League President Sheikh Mujibur Rehman. On both occasions, Pir Pagaro was extremely forthcoming and prepared to talk in detail about the complicated "ins and outs" of Sind politics.)

 

Ties with the Six-Point Awami League: Pir Pagaro reminded me that at our recent (August 8) meeting he had said that he was giving serious consideration to the wisdom-and suitability--of joining forces with Mujib. Following discussions with Mujib during the latter's August 7-14 visit to Karachi, he came to the conclusion that there is something to be gained by supporting the Awami League at arm's length but that it would not be wise to commit himself personally to any formal ties with the party. Thus, he instructed a number of his followers (he said they represented roughly half of his key followers) to announce their accession to the Awami League while limiting himself to giving his "blessings" to the party. He has, through this technique, reserved his options and can move away from Mujib if subsequent events make this necessary.

      Pir Pagaro said that he had decided to adopt this tentative approach because of the many uncertainties which surround Mujib. For example, despite his categorical statements of support for the anti-One Unit forces of West Pakistan, there are doubts as to the extent and depth of his commitment. Mujib is, he said far closer to some among the Punjabis than his statements might suggest, for example, a definite tie to Air Marshal NUR KHAN can be traced. The link is YUSUF HAROON, who has long been close to Nur Khan since the time when Nur Khan was President of PIA and Haroon was a member of PIA's Board of Directors. Moreover, the similarity between Mujib's and President Yahya's thinking on the nature of a national parliament, especially the idea of a unicameral legislature, is doubtless more than coincidence. lastly. there is some suspicion that Mujib may have struck some sort of deal with Mian Mumtaz DAULTANA of the Council Muslim League. (Note: See Karachi's A-119 of July 25 and A-81 of may 13, 1969.)

In view of these factors, it is perhaps best to retain room for maneuver to cover the possibility that Mujib may abandon the "minority provinces" should the prospect of gaining power in concert with the Punjabi eventuate.

 

View of Yahya: Pir Pagaro said that Yahya's accession to power merely exchanged one member of the ruling elite for another, and a Shi'a at that. As to Yahya's

intentions, Pir Pagaro said that he cannot judge them but is fearful that he means to retain office. He said that this will, however, be a dangerous course for Yahya, and could well lead in time to a coup led by younger military officers. He added that he does not give any special credence to Yahya's professions of a desire to hold early

elections.

 

Appointment of Nur Khan as West Pakistan Governor: "Nur Khan is a fanatic Punjabi". As a result, he will not be anxious to assist in dismembering One unit. His tenure in office may well be marked by a thorough shake-up of the provincial administration but, when the dust clears, it will not be surprising to see Punjabis still occupying the key positions of power. Nur Khan's ties with Yusuf Haroon will help to keep Karachi quiet, but the Sindhis and Baluchis may become restive if their aspirations go unmet.

 

Political Maneuvering in Sind: Pir Pagaro said that there are presently three major forces at work in Sind: Bhutto and the PPP, the coterie of PML members surrounding M.A. KHUHRO, and his own following. He said that he is not particularly worried by either Bhutto or Khuhro. Khuhro is old and failing. Since he can work neither with Bhutto nor Pir Pagaro, he will have to find new allies because the PML has no future and will disintegrate. The most likely alliance will be with the CML. In view of the thoroughly unpredictable nature of Khuhro and Daultana ("a liar"), they will make particularly appropriate bed-fellows. Alliance with Daultana will, however, seriously diminish Khuhro's standing in Sind.

      Bhutto's future is difficult to predict. His belated advocacy of an end to One Unit has done something to refurbish his standing in Sind and his efforts to gain new supporters for his party may have had measurable results. However, his identification with "socialism" may weaken him with the more orthodox in the countryside. Pir Pagaro said that his own tepid alliance with Mujib is a reflection of his (Pagaro's) efforts to give his own strength greater meaning by finding an ally outside of the Sind who can support his position after an election is held. "The fact that Mujib wishes to have my backing reflects his own recognition of the backing I can marshal in Sind." As to G.M. Syed, he has no real strength, and the popular assumption that he enjoys "foreign ties"-i.e., Indian and Soviet-weakens him. Such strength as he possesses lies in his long indentification with the anti-One Unit movement. However, as others join increasingly in the demand for restoration of Sind, his strength will ebb in the absence of other sources of strength.

 

President Nixon's Visit: After asking how the visit went and what its real purpose might be, Pir Pagaro inevitably asked whether it may have presaged a liberalization of the military supply policy. The stock replies were given.

 

POL: DMCochran/eo 8/22169

 

 

 

 

Source: The American Papers - Secret and Confidential India. Pakistan. Bangladesh Documents 1965- 1973, The University Press

    Limited, p. 280 - 282