Department of State
TO : DEPARTMENT OF STATE
FROM : AMCONGEN LAHORE
SUBJECT : REACTIONS TO BHUTTO'S ARREST AND ASGHAR KHAN'S ENTRY INTO POLITICS
The events of the past two weeks-the outbreak of student violence, the presumed attempt on the President's life, the arrest of Bhutto and other political figures, and finally the dramatic statement on November 17 by Air Marshal Asghar Khan announcing his entry into politics, have had, if not an electrifying, at least an energizing, effect on Lahore political circles. In the view of many, the denouement of this chain of events which is yet to come, could have profound implications for the future of the Ayub regime, heretofore regarded as unshakeable, and for the opposition politicians, until now presumably doomed to continued wandering in the wilderness.
Various scenarios are described for the coming months-all perhaps stimulated by a measure of wishful thinking-but all reflecting the view that recent events have exposed wide chinks in the regime's armor, once thought to be impregnable.
We have recorded below under various headings some of the reactions which have been expressed either publicly or in private conversations with officers of the Consulate General in recent days.
On the Disorders.
Anti-regime opinion-and sonic neutral sentiment-rejects out of hand the
e Government's contention that opposition politicians were responsible for the recent disorders. They prefer to regard them as spontaneous manifestations of student and popular discontent over a variety of issues ranging from the mundane-university examination procedures and the high price of sugar-to more exalted political urges for greater freedom and political participation.
There is a wide consensus here that the situation in the
frontier region continues to be particularly explosive and that Commerce Minister Nawabzada Abdul Ghafoor Khan Hot], is
largely responsible for the unrest there. One version has it that he purchased the
ministry with large bribes to Ayub's sons but has
more than recouped his losses through his shady sugar dealings. There is also
speculation that the disorders were even worse than acknowledged in the press and that
there were many unreported deaths. (The fact that the disorders on display here in
The Assassination Attempt
A rumor apparently widely circulated here is that the GOP
stage-managed the firing in
Unlike the reaction of general relief when Ayub
recovered from his illness earlier this year, there seems to be a mood of
guarded disappointment that the attempt in
The Political Arrests
Reaction to the arrests of Bhutto, Wall Khan and other PPP and NAP leaders has been sharp but confined to easily contained demonstrations and predictable condemnatory statements from the opposition political parties. Privately many, particularly in the PDM coalition parties and in the NAP, have expressed regret that Bhutto had succeeded in establishing his credentials as a political martyr by goading the GOP into arresting him under the widely despised Defense of Pakistan Rules. For the few days between the arrests and Air Marshal Asghar Khan's political statement, the opposition parties were in an uncomfortable squeeze between their dislike and fear of Bhutto and the obvious political necessity of rallying to the side of the detenus. While Asghar Khan's move has not changed the pattern of protests against the arrests, it has provided an alternate focal point for the political outs and has taken some of the limelight away from Bhutto.
Source: The American Papers – Secret and