10.8 AGARTALA CONSPIRACY TRIAL

 

Public Record Office

 

REF: FCO 37/466

 

BRITISH HIGH COMMISSION,
RAWALPINDI.

 

20 November, 1968

 

Lynton Jones, Esq.,

South Asia Department,

F.C.O.

 

Dear Lynton,

 

Agartala Conspiracy Trial

 

The hearing of Mr. Williams' writ petition challenging the validity of the Trial is to be heard on 10 December by a Special Bench of the Dacca High Court.

 

2. Meanwhile, the Trial itself is continuing. The daily proceedings are still reported in the newspapers and though they continue to occupy front-page positions in the Pakistan Observer the West Pakistan press now tends to give them less space in less prominent positions. For West Pakistanis, of course, the Trial has, for the time being at least, been overshadowed by the recent disturbances in their own province. In the East the feeling caused by the Trial's earlier stages continues but the present stage of examination of minor prosecution witnesses is unlikely to generate excitement. Interest will revive, presumably, on 10 December when the writ petition is heard and again when the defence put their case (not least if Tom Williams returns to participate in that stage of the Trial). In December, too, we can expect a PQ early or in the National Assembly session from Dr. Aleem al-Razee about the treatment of Mr. Williams during his stay in East Pakistan.

 

3. I believe that you were sent a copy of Flack's letter to Stratton No. 1 /2 of 13 August giving a round up of views expressed by Williams in conversations with the High Commission. I cannot however be certain of this from an inspection of the file, so attach a copy for your records.

 

4. From conversations I have had with Pakistanis the opinion seems fairly widespread that the Government made a serious tactical error in adopting this ponderous procedure which has given the Awami League so much publicity. They made a second mistake in appointing a West Pakistani (Manzur Qadir) as prosecuting counsel. These criticisms apart (and they are important) even a man like M.A. Qasuri was prepared to say that the judges were men of integrity and that he would accept

any verdict handed down by them since he was confident that their judgements would be in accordance with the evidence submitted in court.

 

5. The Government for its part is said to be disillusioned about the course of the Trial so far. Some prosecution witnesses have recanted and statements have been made by approvers alleging the use of force to induce them to produce false evidence; newspaper accounts of the proceedings with the attendant repetition of the Opposition platform, are crystalising the dissatisfaction that many Bengalis feel with their lot. It seems probable therefore that, assuming the Special Bench decision favours the Government, the latter will drag out the Trial for a long time (perhaps two or three years) interspersed with calculated adjournments in the hope that public interest will be stifled through sheer boredom.

 

Yours ever,

(A.A. Halliley)

 

 

 

Source: The British Papers Secret and Confidential India.Pakistan.Bangladesh Documents 1958-1969, Oxford University Press, p. 744-745