Department of State

 

AIRGRAM

LIMITED OFFICIAL USE A-471

 

TO:      AMERICAN EMBASSY RAWALPINDI

INFO:  DEPARTMENT OF STATE (NEA/PAF), DACCA, LAHORE, PESHAWAR

FROM:  AMEMBASSY OFFICE KARACHI

DATE:  NOVEMBER 29, 1968

SUBJECT : REACTION IN THE KARACHI CONSULAR DISTRICT TO THE BHUTTO ARREST

REF:

 

 

SUMMARY

 

The arrrest of former Foreign Minister Z.A. Bhutto on November 13 has resulted, not surprisingly, in a round of demonstrations, processions and other forms of protest throughout the Karachi Consular District. The restiveness has been most noticeable in Sind, Bhutto's "home province". However, firm police action in Karachi city, the wide imposition of Section 144 throughout the District and the arrests of political figures and student leaders aligned or identified with Bhutto have served to dampen the ardor of the protestors in most places Hyderabad and some other Sind towns are exceptions­while simultaneously removing from the scene those who might offer leadership to further protest demonstrations. The subsequent advent of Air Marshal ASGHAR KHAN on the political scene has, at least in Karachi, now diverted attention away from the Bhutto arrest to speculation on the possibly new course of Pakistani politics.

 

 

END SUMMARY

 

1. The arrest of Z.A. Bhutto and other opposition leaders on November 13 set off a round of demonstrations, processions, protest meetings and other manifestations of dissatisfaction with the regime's action. While the Bhutto arrest was the main focal point of the restiveness, the degree of sympathy for Bhutto the man appeared limited. Rather, Bhutto became more clearly than ever a symbol of the regime's willingness to repress the voice of criticism and opposition.

 

2. The following outlines the manner in which the reaction manifested itself:

 

I. Karachi City

 

a. The pro-Chicom faction of the National Awami Party (NAP) strongly condemned the arrests of Bhutto and other opposition figures in a meeting on November 13 and demanded their release. The group's leader, Zainuddin Khan LODHI, was arrested the next day in a general roundup of opposition leaders, reported in Karachi 3643. These arrests appeared to be intended as much to stem student disorders as to silence support for Bhutto, although both purposes were doubtless served by the detention of leaders of both the pro-Chicom and pro-Soviet factions of the National Students Federation.

 

b. On November 15 a crowd of about 200 students gathered at Aram Bagh mosque to offer ghaibana prayers for the student victim of the November 7 Pindi police firing. Police were ready for trouble. When the crowd became unruly, they quickly arrested 26 students and dispersed the remainder, thus preventing any real disturbance from emerging.

 

c. The Karachi District Bar Association scheduled a procession for November 16 in support of Bhutto, but subsequently postponed it, probably reflecting the advocates' hesitancy to face the Karachi police. The march, involving about 200 well-dressed lawyers, went off without incident on the 19th.

 

d. Editorial reaction in the Karachi press was characteristically cautious. Most papers, which had earlier condemned the worst of the student violence but called upon authorities to find answers to student grievances, took similarly equivocal positions on the Bhutto arrests. Most deplored incitement to violence but expressed the hope that the regime would prove publicly its contention that the detained persons were indeed disrupting public peace and threatening national security.

 

II. Elsewhere

 

Outside Karachi city, protests against the arrest of Mr Bhutto and others occasionally were linked to disturbances surrounding student grievances. Section 144 was imposed nearly everywhere in the District, most notably in Hyderabad. Larkana, Tharparkar, and Kachii. However, trouble flared in several localities:

 

Sukkur - Students, "workers", and Pakistan Peoples Party (PPP) members took out a procession on November 16 demanding the release of Bhutto and others. At a meeting on the 19th, the PPP leaders condemned the arrests and demanded the

release of their founder. The group's president, Mushtaq All BHUTTO, and its secretary, Shafiq AHMED, also supported student demands and called for release of detained students. The Sukkur Bar Association protested in a general body meeting against the arrest of Sheikh AYAZ, one of its senior members, and demanded that the seized men be tried in a court of law. In Rato Dero, home town of Z,A.Bhutto, a group of students stoned a private bus on November 15 and were dispersed by police.

 

Talhar - A procession of students attempted on November 15 to damage railway signals, but were dispersed by police.

 

Khuhro, Khairpur - About 300 Students stoned the town committee office and the police station, and forced local shops to close. About 25 students and one teacher were arrested by Khairpur police who were called in to end the demonstration.

 

Larkana - The PPP, led by its chairman Abdul Wahed KATPAR, took out a procession on November 17 demanding the release of Mr. Bhutto. On the 18th the Larkana Bar Association also marched on behalf of Bhutto.

 

Hyderabad - Three Sindhi NAP leaders, Syed Bager SHAH, Hafiz QURESHI, and Rasul Bux PALIJO, (pro-USSR faction) were arrested November 14. More importantly, Hyderabad remains more restive than almost any other center in the District, with students leading frequent processions.

 

Nawabshah - The Nawabshah Bar Association took out a procession on November 21 demanding the release of Bhutto and others. Opposition parties have scheduled a procession for November 22.

 

Thatta - Sheikh Abdul Majid SINDHI, Vice President of the West Pak NAP condemned the arrest of Bhutto, WALI KHAN and others in a statement issued from Thatta. He defended Wall Khan, saying that the frontier leader was an advocate of provincial autonomy, not of independence. He advised Ayub to hold a round table discussion on the problems causing unrest in Pakistan. The President of the Thatta district Council Muslim League, Dr M. W. K. YOUSAFZAI, criticized the Bhutto arrests. An advocate of Thatta, Wali Mohammad MEMON, also issued a statement criticizing the arrests.

 

3. COMMENT: Given the critical, often contemptuous view of Karachi residents toward the regime, the arrest of Bhutto served largely to confirm their well­established opinion of the regime. However, as elsewhere in Pakistan, the arrests had the added effect of stimulating more open discussion of political afairs, with many making the point that the regime is now so unsure of itself that it cannot risk even the challenge of a seeming mountebank like Bhutto. The tone of pleasure in their voices was hard to mask.

 

4. The subsequent entry into political life of Air Marshal ASGHAR KHAN on November 17 has diverted the attention of Karachiites away from the Bhutto arrest. The more open comment stimulated by the seizure has, if anything, been intensified, but its focus is now almost wholly directed toward speculation about Asghar Khan's plans and the opportunities open to him as a result, in the opinion of Karachiites, of the regime's confession of its own weakness. Bhutto is not forgotten but has receded from view here.

 

 

RAMSEY

 

Source: The American Papers – Secret and Confidential India. Pakistan. Bangladesh Documents 1965-1973, The University Press Limited, p. 259-262