INTERNAL NOTING ON RECENT EVENTS IN
Public Record Office
REF: FCO 37/466
Sir J. Johnston
Recent Events in
To assess the significance of recent events in
2. There have been three distinct aspects in recent developments. It is not yet clear, how far these are interrelated. The first, the student disturbances, caused the regime to tighten up its controls. The second, the arrest of Z.A. Bhutto, although it was on the cards for some time, was merely a manifestation of the use of these controls. The subsequent emergence of Air Marshal Asghar Khan as a declared political opponent might, but probably will not, endanger the stability of Ayub's regime; but it is not inconceivable that he will establish himself as a credible alternative President, or successor to Ayub.
3. Recently there have been a number of disturbances
4. The significance of the student riots lies mainly
in the fact that these were the worst disturbances the present regime had faced
considerable means of coercion, such as the police, army and civil administration, and of persuasion (viz. the Basic Democrats.) Given these powerful instruments it should be able to contain the situation. The government are unlikely to hesitate to use all the means at their disposal to quell any possible recurrence of these events; accordingly, for the near future at least, and provided the Army remains loyal, we see little chance of the regime being undermined or overthrown by internal dissension.
5. The long anticipated arrest of Mr. Bhutto
indicates the readiness of the
6. The emergence of Air Marshal Asghar Khan as a
political opponent to President Ayub is an important new factor but not one
necessarily connected with the previous events, bar, of course, the question of
timing. Air Marshal Asghar Khan is widely recognised as a man of character,
experience and potential leadership. He is widely popular in
7. He has timed his movement well as regards maximum
public impact. He has been contributing a number of thoughtful articles to the
"Pakistan Times" in recent weeks, and chose the time (17 November)
and place (
8. The significance of Asghar Khan's move is that it poses for the first time since 1958 (and disregarding Miss Jinnah's attempt on the presidency in 1965), the possibility of a genuine alternative to Ayub within the existing constitution. The old political parties have been in such disarray that they were not a credible alternative - nor was Bhutto because, despite his demagogic appeal, he still has no sufficient political poise. But Asghar Khan, especially if he keeps himself aloof from the other political parties, while doing enough to obtain their support, does seem to have sufficient appeal to be looked on as credible presidential material for the 1970 elections. If a "constitutional" campaign develops, he probably will not be elected in 1970 because of the regime's control of the electoral machine, but he would certainly establish himself as a potential successor to Ayub. (Sir C. Pickard suggests that it is not inconceivable that Asghar Khan's emergence has the tacit approval of the regime).
9. The alternative course of events would of course be that the Army might switch allegiance from Ayub Khan to Asghar Khan. This would at once produce a revolutionary, as opposed to an evolutionary situation, even though the "revolution" might be bloodless. But it is the sort of development of which one would certainly get no warning. All one can say is that there have so far been no indications of Asghar Khan being a welcome leader to his contemporaries in the Armed Services. and that they might well be jealous of him and therefore stick to Ayub.
Mr. O' I,eary
Given the hectic rush over the past few weeks. I
have now attempted to pull together the various reports that have come in on
the disturbances and
2. At-/17 is Halliley's very interesting letter of
13 November on the North West Frontier [see Doc. 10.6]. This marked more or
less the beginning of the political disturbances in
3. At-/24 is Halliley's letter of 20 November about
the Agartala trial [see Doc. 10.8]. The fact that the trial continues at all is
a festering reminder to East and
4. The significance of Justice Murshed's emergence
would seem to me to lie in the fact that he may give his support to Asghar Khan.
This, coupled with the fact that he is a highly respected figure, could, of
course, provide Asghar with just that support he needs in
5. The Canadian telegram at -/26 and Brig. Millar's letter at -/27 [see Doc. 10.7] together give more description of the actual disturbances before Bhutto's arrest. The Canadian telegram airs for the first time (to my knowledge at least) the idea, in paragraph 3, that Bhutto might only be detained long enough to constitutionally disqualify him from participating in the Presidential elections. I personally do not believe this to be the case it would take a very confident Ayub to have a manlike Bhutto left free and untnuzzled whilst the Presidential elections were taking place. Brig. Millar's letter makes the point that a number of disturbances were directed at Armed Forces personnel. This might, of course, have a counter-productive result (from the point of view of the demonstrators) in that the Armed forces will be driven to unite even more closely with Ayub.
6. What, then, are we to conclude from this? I would think that if Asghar Khan can harness the pent-up frustrations of the dissident students and protesters, and the intellectual backing of the lawyers in both the east and west wings of the country, he could well have a formidable electoral coalition with which to threaten Ayub in the coming elections. In terms of power, however, as long as the Armed Forces remain loyal to Ayub -- and I believe this to be the case at present -- and as long as the rural community back Ayub in the elections, then his position still remains very strong. But, nevertheless, he has not had to face such a battering for a very long time.