8.101 NURUL AMIN'S VIEWS ON EAST WING AUTONOMY

 

Public Record Office

 

REF: DO 196/319

 

BRITISH HIGH COMMISSION.
DACCA.

 

1-DAC. 6/36/1

29 December, 1965.

 

E.L. Sykes, Esq., KARACHI.

 

Dear Edwin,

 

In paragraph 7 of my letter 1-DAC. 6/58/2 of 29 December reporting the Presidents visit, I mentioned discussions with political leaders in East Pakistan.

 

2. There were two meetings. The first was early in the visit and was held with a very wide range group of political leaders including Nurul Amin, Ataur Rahman Khan, S.K. Khairuddin (Councillist Muslim League) Shah Azizur Rahman, Deputy Leader of the Opposition, Sheikh Mujibur Rahman (Awami League), Hamidul Haq Chowdhury, N.D.F., and Farid Ahmed (Nizam-i-Islam), and the opposition leaders in the Provincial Assembly. The Governor and some Central and Provincial Ministers were present.

 

3. The second was with National Democratic Front leaders and took place following the President's return from Khulna. Those present included Hamidul Huq Chowdhury, owner of the Pakistan Observer, Ataur Rahman Khan, Yusuf All' Chowdhury (Mohan Mia) a reputed "king-maker", and Mahmud All a former Revenue Minister of East Pakistan. It was reported that Nurul Amin was not present on this occasion "due to sudden illness".

 

4. It is significant that both meetings were reported in the Morning Nears as having taken place. It must therefore have been the official intention to let it be seen that the President was in discussion with all parties about future political developments. But the Morning News merely said that there had been a free and frank exchange of views, and gave no details. It was left to the Observer to gig e some indication of what had transpired.

 

5. The Observer did not appear on the day after the first meeting and its new story on Monday 27 December concentrated on the meeting with N.D.F. leaders. This no doubt accorded well with the newspaper's own inclinations, since it basically supports the N.D.F. Of this meeting it said that the subjects covered included defence problems, with special reference to East Pakistan, economic and other internal problems, communications including interwing, freedom of the press, freedom of association, and corruption. It was claimed that a full and frank discussion took place on the present constitution with special reference to adult franchise, unitary versus federal patterns of government, the nature of regional autonomy etc.

 

6. The following day the Observer produced a speculative piece under a Rawalpindi dateline, indicating that the government side was throwing out hints that moves leading to the formation of some sort of all-party government at the Centere started during the President's visit to Dacca. It said that the Jammat-e-Islami arid ::-_. N.A.P. would be satisfied if the President allowed them freedom to organise the:: party machine in both wings. It suggested that there had been overtures by the: Awami League offering co-operation in exchange for a seat in the Cabinet. It indicated however that the N.D.F. still maintain that the President must make up his mind or, constitutional problems. If he did this, or "publicly affirmed that something needs to be done in the near future", the way would be clear for co-operation. The article expressed the belief that it is the President's desire to capitalise on the unity brought about by the war and to eliminate causes of discontent, regional as well as political. The emergency seemed to have opened up new vistas, because of the proof which the masses have furnished of their maturity and responsibility during the 17-day war. The article went on to speculate on the expansion of the Central Cabinet by two more seats, one of which was likely to be given to the former Speaker Mr. Fazlul Quader Choudhury. It concluded that Nurul Amin's interview with the President "went off very well", though he "would hardly show any optimism himself about the talks or their effect".

 

7. By way of comment on all this, we have managed to get a little more out of Shamsuddin, Nurul Amin's private secretary. He repeated that the President did make an offer of the Vice Presidency to Nurul Amin, and indicated that in Dacca the President had said that he would stand by this offer. Nurul Amin's conditions were a form of regional autonomy for East Pakistan, extended franchise, and an end to disparity, including fair shares of foreign exchange. According to Shamsuddin there is now agreement on all points except adult franchise, about which the President has not yet committed himself. Nurul Amin is said to be cautiously optimistic. he was satisfied with his discussion with the President in Dacca. His reason for not attending the second meeting was not the mild influenza from which he is in fact suffering but simply that he had made all his points and felt the ball was now in the President's court. His colleagues who did attend spoke for him. The President is now said to be consulting his advisers in Rawalpindi, and Shamsuddin thought that something concrete would emerge after the Tashkent meeting.

 

8. He took the view that the N.A.P. would not take part in any coalition, because Maulana Bhashani knows that all other opposition leaders are opposed to close ties with China and that a coalition would therefore be less pro-Chinese than the present regime (I am by no means sure about this one).

 

9. Shamsuddin also told us that Bhutto is keeping quiet because of an undertaking of good behaviour on his part given by the President in Washington. It would be very interesting to know whether this fits in with anything else you have heard.

 

10. According to Shamsuddin, Nurul Amin has taken a very reasonable view over aid and himself advised the President not to bring the matter up in Washington. His point of view is that Pakistan must first create the right friendly climate for the Americans to want to resume aid, and that no aid can be expected from a country which is being constantly abused. The President is said to have agreed with this and even to have invited Nurul Amin to accompany him to Washington. The latter thought that this would be inappropriate.

 

11. 1 think I cannot do more than present you with all this as further material for speculation. I doubt myself whether anything is at all firmly settled as yet in anyone's mind.

 

12. 1 have copied to Barrington, who will no doubt (in view of his forthcoming visit here) show it to the High Commissioner. Since speculation has become more open than it was when I wrote my letter of 9 December I have copied also 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. 419-421