NURUL AMIN'S VIEWS ON EAST WING AUTONOMY
Public Record Office
REF: DO 196/319
BRITISH HIGH COMMISSION.
29 December, 1965.
E.L. Sykes, Esq., KARACHI.
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
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
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.
Source: The British Papers – Secret and Confidential
India.Pakistan.Bangladesh Documents 1958-1969,
University Press, p. 419-421