8.100 EXPRESSION OF POLITICAL DESIRE FOR EAST WING AUTONOMY

 

 

Public Record Office

 

REF: DO 196/319

 

BRITISH HIGH COMMISSION,
DACCA.
25 November, 1965.

 

E.L. Sykes, Esq., KARACHI.

 

Dear Easin,

 

This is a follow-up my letter of 4 November and an extension of the paragraphs in the Fortnightly Report which describe the beginning of a re-emergence of political comment in this Wing.

 

2. By way of preface I might briefly describe a talk I had a week or so ago with an individual who (to protect his confidence) I will not identify in this letter, save to say that he is a businessman of considerable local stature, well known to the High Commissioner. He is not typical of local opinion, being much too well informed and too sophisticated for that. Moreover he was born in India and still has marked feelings of goodwill for India. Also, though he is very much in touch with local opinion, he has a tendency to talk in broad generalization. I therefore did not report what he said at the time, but waited until I could take some cross bearings.

 

3. What he said was that there was great local discontent about the situation resulting from the war and its effect on East Pakistan. It was fully understood that there was now not only a military but political stalemate. People were starting to ask what it had all achieved and why West Pakistan had got involved in it. He himself laid the blame squarely on Mr. Bhutto, commenting acidly on his reception of the latest H.H.resolution. He coupled with this general feeling of dissatisfaction:

 

(a) Resentment at the loss of contact with West Bengal, both business and private.

 

(b) A realisation that the economic shoe was really beginning to pinch. Specifically he mentioned the feeling that it is all very well for West Pakistan which has had quite a lot of its development; East Pakistan was just a bout to get its share under the Third Five Year Plan, and what is going to happen to this now.

 

(c) A general tendency to look more clearly at China reinforced by the big shock felt over developments in Indonesia.

 

4. All this, according to my informant, has produced disillusion among the business, academic and student communities. He thought that these views would begin to be heard as soon as the emergency was lifted and would canalize themselves into a bid for provincial autonomy. The gambit would be to try to extract a price for continued co-operation with the Centre. The price would be a far greater degree of autonomy.

 

5. The developments of the last fortnight begin to offer some supporting evidence of this. As we see it, the spring was pressed by the President's address in the National Assembly about defence production on 15 November. when he spoke of a special organisation to deal with defence production and emphasised the need to strengthen further the defence of East Pakistan. It looks as though the opposition press decided that this left them free to add comments of their own.

 

6. The following is a very brief summary of their comments on succeeding days.

 

17 November

Nurul Amin demands that East Pakistan be not only not forgotten. but "De made "military self-sufficient". This is heavily reported.

 

18 November

"Ittefaq", echoing the President on the difficulties of communication in war and Nurul Amin on self-sufficiency, extended the field in which East Pakistan should be self-sufficient to include "economic, political and administrative" matters as « ell as defence.

 

18 November

"Observer" calls for government help to set up industries to make East Pakistan self­sufficient "in consumer goods'.

 

18 November

Demand for the establishment of an ordnance factory in East Pakistan made by a meeting of a sub-divisional NAP committee is prominently reported.

 

19 November

"Observer" publishes an article on the need for a "self-subsisting defence complex" in this Wing.

 

20 November

“Observer" calls for a long-term plan for recruitment, training and defence preparation -whatever the communication difficulties between the two wings or rather because of :hem".

 

22 November

“Observer" calls for further reappraisal of development strategy and in particular the protection from cuts of the Works Programme.

 

7. On 20 November these demands were developed in three columns on the leaderpage of "Ittefaq", into a call for regional autonomy. The writer was Toffazel Hussain (see paragraph 3(b) of my letter under reference). The article began as a discussion o: the Province's economic problems for which the writer blamed the capitalistic profit sharks of the West (Pakistan) encouraged by the Central Government and said that: due to geographical reasons both Wings of the country should be made self-sufficient as far as possible in "defence and economy". The article continued:

 

"The same reasons apply to the question of granting regional autonomy ... The unity and integration of the people during the war has shown how wrong are those who say that autonomy would really mean separation ... There is no question of making the two Wings of the country in to independent sovereign states, the question is regional autonomy. Some matters would be retained in the hands of the Central Government and others placed in the hands of the Government of the two Wings. This will help administration and expedite development work. We believe that the time for misunderstandings over discussion of autonomy in the two wings is now past, and we hope that with negotiations­and discussions we can amend the constitution and incorporate the necessary arrangements for regional autonomy. If the unity and integration of the people are to continue on a firm basis the Government must take the people fully into their confidence. Direct elections must be introduced in place of indirect elections. Anyone who doubts, the honesty and political sagacity of the people should change his view in the light of their recent behaviour ... If a direct election system is introduced the people will have greater representation and the people and government will come closer together".

 

Later after a divertissement on the subject of power as a corrupting influence, related somehow to the smuggling of bidi, Hussain concludes:

 

"Now with the improvement of the situation, and when there can be no two opinions about the need for making whole-hearted efforts towards the defence of the country, we hope that the state of emergency will be ended as soon as possible".

 

8. 1 am still not prepared to draw rash conclusions. The evidence, though it sounds a lot when set out like this, is really pretty thin. And the government's power to clamp down upon thinking of this kind if it wants to, is probably still complete. But I do suggest that in looking for the post-emergency pattern of the relationship between East and West Pakistan, we shall need to be alert for evidence of thinking which leads in the direction of greater autonomy.

 

9. Because of your peripatetic habits I have marked a copy of this direct to Barrington, and have sent copies to Stafford and Hammett.

 

 

Yours ever

(K.R. Crook)

 

 

 

 

Source: The British Papers – Secret and Confidential India.Pakistan.Bangladesh Documents 1958-1969, Oxford University Press, p. 416 – 418