DRAFT DESPATCH ON DISTURBANCES IN
Public Record Office
REF: FCO 37/466
British High Commission,
13 November, 1968
A.A. Duff, Esq., CMG, DSO, DSC,
South Asia Department,
I attached a copy of a draft despatch on the recent
2. The High Commissioner, who is on tour, has not yet seen it and may very well wish to make some alterations. Nevertheless, in view of the imminence of the Secretary of State's visit, Dick Stratton and I feel that you will wish to have something of the kind as early as possible.
BRITISH HIGH COMMISSION,
The Right Honourable
Michael Stewart, M.P.,
etc., etc., etc.
1. I have the honour to report that demonstrations
by students, joined later by others, occurred in
opposition politicians were arrested under Section 32 of the Defence of Pakistan Rules. In the relative calm which has now ensued I have the honour to submit an account of these disturbances (an outline of which I attach at Annex for ease of reference), together with some observations on the present position of Mr. Zulfiqar All Bhutto, whose name, rightly or wrongly, is closely linked in the public mind with the events of the past few days.
2. There is a good deal of combustible material lying
3. The occasion came in
4. Meanwhile a separate welcome party was despatched to meet Mr. Bhutto on the Grand Trunk Road at the north western limit of the town and here they were joined by students from the neighbouring Polytechnic. The gathering, which was quiet to begin with, would not disperse when ordered to do so by the police. The latter then charged with lathis and later opened fire, killing one Polytechnic student. From this point the situation rapidly deteriorated.
5. When the news of the firing reached
service vehicles were stoned and set on fire, traffic lights smashed and government cars stoned and destroyed. Plate glass windows in the Inter-Continental hotel and the Government-sponsored Pakistan Bookshop were broken.
6. After a lull during the night of 7-8 November and
the following morning (apart from some minor demonstrations, well shepherded by
the police, in
7. The following morning (Saturday, 9 November) a
large crowd gathered in the troubled
8. Official casualty figure (over and above the
three persons killed in police firing) for
Sympathetic disturbances in
9. Meanwhile demonstrations in sympathy for the
on either or both days in Peshawar, Nowshera, Mardan, Charsadda, Abbottabad, Dera Ismail Khan, Lyallpur, Sialkot, Kohat, Sukkur, Sargodha, Gujranwala, Bahawalpur and other places in West Pakistan.
10. On Sunday 10 November President Ayub addressed
an open-air meeting in
11. The dispersal of the audience to their homes
coincided with further disturbances on 10 November in towns of the
12. By Monday 11 November the disturbances appeared to have subsided though tension remained in Lahore and Karachi.
13. 1 turn now to a consideration of Mr. Z.A. Bhutto in the events so far described and who, with Mr. Wali Khan (President, National Awami Party, Pro-Moscow group) and certain other opposition politicians, was arrested on 13 November under Section 32 of the Defence of Pakistan Rules. It is not too much to say that Mr. Bhutto's political standing has been transformed during the last few weeks, particularly as a result of tours of the Frontier which began on 28 October. This is partly the Government's own fault. In a speech at Hyderabad on 21 September Bhutto made a personal attack on the President which appear to have needled the regime. A somewhat ponderous and unedifying attack was launched on Bhutto first by Governor Musa and then by a number of the party faithful, the statements being dutifully recorded in the Press Trust newspapers. To an impartial observer Bhutto seemed to come off the better in the public wrangle that developed during October. Bhutto then set off for his Frontier tour, receiving a tremendous welcome wherever he went from crowds who defied Section 144 of the Criminal code (which, when imposed, makes illegal the gathering in a public place of more than five people and forbids the carrying of any kind of offensive weapon) and the threat of lathi charges, tear gas or bloodshed.
14. What are the reasons for this success? In my
despatch of 10 July on the internal politics of Pakistan I set out reasons for
the reputation and political following that Mr. Bhutto then enjoyed. These
advantages were enhanced by the success he had achieved and the publicity he
had received in his October exchanges with the regime. He came to Peshawar, it
was said, "as a man with a halo". (As far away as Khanewal, 30 miles
ENE of Multan, a group of teachers told me last week "Bhutto is our
hero" and went on to talk of a bloody confrontation with India.) The
current political mood of the Frontier region is such that any person of note
who is prepared to denounce the regime in public is assured of a following. In
short, it was a situation which might have been hand-tailored for Bhutto: the
latter, with his shrewd political sense and instinctive sense of catching the
mood of his audience, exploited it to the full. He played on the emotions of
the crowds in
15. Having become in the public estimation the champion of the neglected Frontier region, Bhutto moved on to Rawalpindi and the Punjab where his student supporters and other representatives of "the defenceless masses" had taken to the streets and were being "victimized by the brutal forces" of the Government.
16. The arrest of Mr. Bhutto opens a new chapter. It
is clear that Mr. Bhutto's progress worried the Government. Mr. Bhutto himself
I believe, welcomes the martyrdom of political imprisonment; he has seen what
this can do in the case of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, who as a result of
imprisonment and the much publicised Agartala trial has become something
approaching a public hero in
17. East Pakistan has long-standing grievances sharpened by the Agartala conspiracy Trial, against the Centre, but the Government, believing itself secure in its powerbase in the West, has learned to live with the problem of uneasy relations wit;: the East. But now the Government is faced by disorders which are directed, not against a specific act of policy such as its action in signing the Tashkent Agreement, but against its policies overall and, indeed, its very existence; this is something which, on this scale, has not happened since the regime assumed power in 1958. The Government of course disposes of considerable forces - the civil service, the Basic Democrats, the police and finally the army - wherewith it can contain the situation. But a second eruption (now, with Bhutto's arrest, a more likely possibility) would weaken its position and the Government must therefore move decisively to prevent a recurrence.
18. The authorities are faced with a difficult task
of reconciliation and of building bridges between the rulers and the ruled; the
arrest of Mr. Bhutto may well prejudice this. Even without this added
complication it is a role for which the regime is ill-equipped since the
Pakistan Muslim League is singularly lacking in the grass roots contacts which
ought to have warned the Government in good time of the growing discontent
which led to the disturbances and which are now essential if there is to be an
effective reconciliation between the regime and its aggrieved opponents in the
Province. I am told that the President left officials of the Pakistan Muslim
League in no doubts of his displeasure at the time of the
19. In all this, as in so much else, the capacity of President Ayub himself for sanity and balanced judgement is an important counterpoise to the often rash and muddled thinking of many of his lieutenants, some of whom are already implying doubts as to whether the 1969-70 elections can take place in a political climate in which the opposition do not, as they say, "stick to the rules". I cannot but feel that in the President lies the best hope for Pakistan and for British interests here, and I am not persuaded that this position in the country as a whole, which is still 80% rural, has been so eroded by the urban disorders I have described in this despatch as to cast doubt on the outcome of the elections in 1969-70.
20. I am sending copies of this despatch to the High
I have the honour to be,
Your obedient Ser-vant.
Source: The British
Papers – Secret and Confidential India.Pakistan.Bangladesh