Tag Archives: Yahya Khan

February 1971

February 1: Possibility of East /West Pakistan split -Yahya. US ambassadors view on this (pdf).


February 2: Pres. Yahya’s views on Mujibur, Bhutto, and Pakistani politics

February 4: Indian airliner Ganga, which was hijacked on January 30 by alleged Kashmiri freedom fighters to Lahore, was destroyed by the hijackers. They had released the passengers before detonation. India banned all Pakistani aircraft from flying over its territory in retaliation to the incident. It is feared that this move will lead to severe communications problems between the two wings of Pakistan.

February 9: Mujib regrets delay in convening National Assembly session

February 10: Pakistan: In search of a consensus -Research study – Bureau of Intelligence and research, USA

Telegram to Department of State on Sheikh Mujibur Rahman

February 11: US Dept of States commends Consul General Blood for skillful handling of Awami League leader Alamgir’s approach for US support for independent East Pakistan.

February 13: National meets on March 3, Dacca is venue – President’s order

February 13: Bhutto met with the American Ambassador:

“Bhutto indicated quite clearly that he wanted to “turn over a new leaf’ in his relation with the US and pointed out that, as a concrete gesture of good will on his part. He said he was wondering what would be the attitude of the US if the PPP could not agree on a “Modus Vivendi” with the Awami League on the constitution. I wanted him to know that the policy of the US has been and continues to be that of supporting the independence, unity and integrity of Pakistan.”

February 14: A report on the East Pakistan Awami League Working Committee Meeting.

February 15: Sheikh Mujib cautions against conspiracy – Transfer of power early

Bhutto refuses to accept Mujib’s leadership in the Central Assembly. The chaos which defined Pakistani politics effectively began on February 15, 1971, the day Z A Bhutto, leader of the Pakistan People’s Party and putative leaderof the opposition in the National Assembly on the strength of the 88 seats his party had come by at the elections, publicly declined to attend the parliament session called by President Yahya Khan for March 3 in Dhaka..

February 16: Bhutto, whose Pakistan People’s Party controls more than half of the Assembly seats from West Pakistan, has asserted that he is the spokesman for the West.

Bhutto says no to constitution making.

Sheikh Mujib bitterly criticised the demand of Bhutto and said:

“The demand of Bhutto sahib is totally illogical. Power has to be handed over to the only majority party, the Awami League. The people of East Bengal are now the masters of power.”

February 19: Awami League Apprehensions:

Alamgir said Mujib had on February 19 asked him to check out reports that Pak army was making significant troop dispositions. He hadreported back to Mujib that he found no such evidence. Placement of anti-aircraft guns around airport and other nearby locations is viewed by Awami League as primarily psychological move to indicate to people that air of tension with India exists.

February 21: Mujib called a meeting of all the political leaders of Pakistan to discuss the 6-point demand before it would be placed at the National Assembly session.

February 22: The generals in West Pakistan took a decision to crush the Awami League and its supporters. “Kill three million of them,” said President Yahya Khan at the February conference, “and the rest will eat out of our hands.” (Robert Payne, Massacre [1972], p. 50.)

Pakistan: Implications of political separation

February 24: Mujib announced that there was a conspiracy to undermine the election results.

February 25: US Ambassador’s discussion with Yahya on political situation- he is worried about the impasse of Bhutto-Mujib talks.

February 26: Yahiya holds a secret meeting with Bhutto, leader of the Pakistan People’s Party.

February 28: Bhutto announced that the National Assembly session should be postponed. He said that the people of West Pakistan vetoed the 6-point.

Zulfikar Ali Bhutto said: “We cannot go there only to endorse a constitution already prepared by a party, and return humiliated… We have a duty to those millions who elected us.” He proposes that the PPP should control West Pakistan while the Awami League could rule over East Pakistan. He has also warned his newly elected delegates to the National Assembly that he will break the legs of any party member who dares to attend the March 3 session.

January 1971

January: Mujib wants Six Points as the basis for a new constitution and autonomy for East Pakistan.

January 3: Awami League called a meeting at the Racecourse ground (Shurwardi Udyan) to mark its overwhelming victory.

January 8: President Yahiya Khan arrived in Dhaka to meet Mujib to discuss issues. He mentions Mujib as “the next Prime Minister of Pakistan”.

January 11: Awami League alone competent to form Central Government – Sheikh Mujibur Rahman

January 14: US Ambassador call on Bhutto:

“Bhutto said first job was to write constitution, and he would try to work it out with Mujib. He did not know whether Mujib would follow “taking it or leave it” posture on Six Points, but in any event there should be agreement on very major degree of autonomy for each province. (Bhutto told Canadian Hicomer that he would hold out for a general legislature if Mujib insisted on Six-Point formula.)”

January 14: Yahya affirms desire for early transfer of power. Mujib Future Prime Minister – President Yahya Khan’s statement at Dacca.

January 29: The dialogue (with Mujib) should continue -Bhutto in Dacca


Jabuary 7: Sheikh Mujibur Rahman’s Freign Policy Views, Electoral Strategy

“Asked by Mr. Sober what would happen if the constituent assembly elected on October 5 fails to agree on a constitution within the specified period of 120 days, Sheikh Mujib responded, “We will try. We will try. If we cannot agree, then we cannot agree.” The import of Mujib’s reply was not clear. He seemed to Mr. Killgore to be implying that if East and West Pakistan could not agree then they might go their separate ways.”


January 31: The Strategy for Autonomy

“Whilst his present tactics will allow Mujib to capture a majority of the seats from East Pakistan, he obviously cannot get a constitution of his choice on the basis of his strength in one province alone… In West Pakistan, there is hardly any political group today which will not insist on deleting some popular provisions of the Six Points including perhaps establishment of regional re­serve bank, separate Exchange Control and a Federal Government shorn of fiscal power.

In response to these pragmatic considerations, if Mujib tries, as it is argued, to re-adjust his position after the general election, he will find such options highly dangerous. After the tremendous build up of mass feelings through his campaign for Six-Points and chanting of Joi-Bangla, any search on his behalf for a workable compromise with his West Pakistani associates will be looked upon by the average man, including his party youngsters, as a crude attempt to barter away some of the Province’s unfulfilled rights.”

February 13: While the western wing seems to be tantalised by Bhutto’s promises to put an end to capitalist exploitation, in the east wing Mujib attacks West Pakistan as the capitalist exploiter.

Interestingly, neither of the two leaders enjoys much support beyond his own part of the country. Meanwhile, there are also those who are contesting elections in the name of religion. Hardline religious parties claiming that “Islam is in danger” view both Bhutto and Mujib as agents and purveyors of anti-Islamic ideas.

More here: Political Assessment- Status Report on Election Campaign

March 3: Conversation with NAP/R President Wali Khan:

“Wali Khan is convinced that if Pakistan is to be strong, it must inevitably have a weakened Center. Given the strength of regional sentiment in both the East and West Wings, only the devolution of greater autonomy to the provinces can provide the basis for unity through the accommodation of diverse and divergent aspirating. Insofar as West Pakistan is concerned, the dismemberment of One Unit is a complete necessity.”

March 28: Texts of President Yahya Khan’s Address to the nation.

March 30: Legal Framework Order, 1970

May 7: Awami League Manifesto

May 22: The Pakistani political scene

June 2: East Pakistan: Sheikh Mujib in serious mood

Mujib threatened, “I will proclaim independence and call for guerilla action if the army tries to stop me. It is primarily fear of communist exploitation a Vietnam type situation which has kept me patient this long.”

June 4: US ambassador meets Bhasani

“In short, he (Bhasani) struck us as a figure with considerable nuisance value but probably not posing any serious threat to the government or to the anticipated electoral process.”

June 8: Pakistan cannot be destroyed, says Mujib

“Sheikh (Mujib) repeatedly held out the assurance that Islam was in no danger on the sacred soil of Pakistan, and lashed out at those who raised cries of “Islam in danger” on flimsy grounds, to promote their own political ends. He censured the Jamaat-i-Islami for what he called their anti-East Pakistan role and for trying to deprive the people of this province of their legitimate rights by creating confusion in the name of Islam.”

June 30: Suhrawardy’s death was not natural

July 28: Election Assessment (10 weeks to go)

President Yahya Khan’s address to Nation

August 15: Elections shifted to December – Decision due to floods

August 31: Constituent post report on current political scene

October 25: Polls, a referendum on autonomy.

Six-point programme will not destroy Pakistan or Islam

November 12: 1970 Bhola cyclone and inefficiency of West Pakistan Government in handling reliefs


November 26: Mujib deplores apathy towards cyclone victims

“Despite the advance information avai­lable through SUPARCO and the weather satellites, almost two whole days before the cyclone struck, no proper or adequate warning was given to the unwary inhabitants of the coastal areas, left alone any attempts being made to evacuate at least some of them.

We are confirmed today in our conviction that if we are to save the people of Bangla Desh from the ravages of nature, as of their fellowmen, we must attain full regional autonomy on the basis of the 6-point/11-point formula. We must have plenary powers to manage our economy.”

November 27: Polls on schedule – East Pakistan must have maximum autonomy -President Yahya Khan

December 3: President Yahya Khan’s address to the nation

December 7: Awami League wins election, PPP refused to allow Sheikh Mujib as Prime Minister

December 10: Assessment of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman

“Mujib the man is hard to characterize. He is primarily a man of action-a mass leader. In private meetings he is charming, calm and confident. He is well traveled and urbane. He knows Europe, particularly the UK, as well as China and the U.S. On the rostrum he is a fiery orator who can mesmerize hundreds of thousands in pouring rain. As a party leader he is tough and authoritative, often arrogant. Mujib has something of a messianic complex which has been reinforced by the heady experience of mass adultation. He talks of “my people, my land, my forests, my river.” It seems clear that he views himself as the personification of Bengali aspirations.”

December 21: Quantum of Autonomy by Mutual Accord

December 30: Call on Sheikh Mujibur Rahman


January – February: Violence breaks out between people demonstrating against Ayub Khan’s martial law regime and the police. Bhutto announces a hunger strike protesting against Ayub Khan’s draconian laws.


The Agartala Conspiracy Case is withdrawn, and Sheikh Mujib is released, at the insistence of some of the West Pakistani leaders meeting with Ayub Khan in a round table discussion for restoring peace.

The deaths of student leader Asad and a high-school student Matiur Rahman give rise to the Mass Uprising of 1969 (gana-abhyuththaan) in East Pakistan.

Sergeant Zahurul Haq, one of the 35 accused in the Agartala Conspiracy Case, is shot dead while in military custody at the Dhaka Cantonment (February 15).”

February 6: CIA’s confidential report on political situation of Pakistan:

“Daily disorders throughout Pakistan culminated in a massive general strike on 24 January. On that date and in the days immediately following, pitched battles were fought with the police; pro-government newspaper offices, government buildings, and even the homes of officials were attacked and some were gutted by fire. Eventually the government was forced to impose curfews on most of the nation’s cities, and the army was called in to restore order and enforce the curfew in Dacca, Karachi, Lahore, Peshawar, and several smaller communities. Over 30 deaths were directly attributable to the violence.

Ayub’s political party, the PML–never a particularly effective organization–appears to have virtually collapsed.”

February 12: The Radical Wing in East Pakistan Politics: A report by A. Hailliley:

The radical wing has three components:
(a) Students
(b) Workers
(c) Peasants

February 20: Pakistan on the Brink:

“Ayub mistakenly discounted the ability of the new militant leaders to catalyze mass urban and East Pakistani hatred of his regime. Politically isolated over the years by Ayub and overtaken by extremists, the moderates have been at least temporarily neutralized.

Events in Pakistan are being forced by mobs in the streets — comprised largely of students and the urban discontented. It is to the uncompromising leadership of Z.A. Bhutto of the Pakistan Peoples Party, Maulana Abdul Hamid Bhashani of the left wing of the National Awami Party, and Sheikh Mujibur Rehman of the Six-Point Awami League (who articulates East Pakistan’s demand for autonomy) that the mobs respond.”

February 23: Sheikh Mujib was given the tiltle, ‘Bangabandhu’ (Friend of Bengal) in a rally in Race Course Field.


March 13: Sheikh Mujib’s Address to the round table conference again demands for the establishment of a Federation providing for full regional autonomy to East Pakistan.

March 25: There was a hidden coup d’etat in which Yahya forced Ayub Khan to hand over his powers and resign. Memorandum from Kissinger on Ayub Khan’s resignation.

Closing Phase of Ayub regime : From the report of the Commission of Inquiry – 1971 War, as declassified by the Government of Pakistan.

March 25: Text of President Yahya Khan’s address to the nation. Martial Law who’s who.

March 31: General Yahya immediately declared martial law. On the 31st of March, he assumed the title of President. More on the martial law.

April 11: Roy Fox’s talks with Sheikh Mujibur Rahman:

“Ayub had offered to make him (Mujib) Prime Minister of Pakistan but he refused saying he wanted to be elected, not appointed. Mujib said he still wanted one Pakistan. He had been vilified as a Hindu supporter because he supported the use of Bengali language and because of Agartala. He was ready to compromise on parity instead of 56% of representation for East Pakistan but he wanted the capital to be Dacca. The Bengalis were not cowards and were not afraid to die. Probably some would die but the rest would fight on. Autonomy was inevitable.”

April 30: A note on political development in Pakistan:

“Probably very few East Pakistanis want anything which would be called complete secession, but there is always a risk that the vehemence of their own demands may force them to go further than they wish, or that if East Pakistan’s demands were excessive.”

May 31: Martial Law Administration – An Interim Assessment:

“The basis of his dilemma is the fact that the demands of Sheikh Mujibur Rahman for greater autonomy for East Pakistan, which are unacceptable to him as they were to Ayub, still command majority support in East Pakistan . Faced with this dilemma, General Yahva could try to risk imposing a constitutional solution unacceptable to Mujib. There is a danger_ likely to grow with time, that General Yahya might be tempted to resolve his difficulties by staying on as President.”

August 20: Conversation with Pir Syed Sikander Shah, Shah Mardan Sani, PIR SAHIB PAGARO, one of Sind’s key religious figures whose temporal role is central to Sind politics.

“He was giving serious consideration to the wisdom-and suitability–of joining forces with Mujib. Following discussions with Mujib during the latter’s August 7-14 visit to Karachi, he came to the conclusion that there is something to be gained by supporting the Awami League”

November 7: Current Pakistani scene – comment:

“Bengali accusations that the GOP is not doing enough to try to narrow the disparity are increasingly countered by privately expressed West Pak views that the deficiencies on the East Pakistani side play the greater role in hampering development-the chronically unfavorable weather, inefficiencies in the public sector, absence of an adequate entrepreneurial class, lack of investor interest, etc. Thus, indignation of the Bengalis over allegedly insufficient GOP interest clashes with West Pakistan feelings that Bengali demands are unreasonable.”

November 28: Excerpts from President Yahya Khan’s Address to the nation declares election in 1970.

December 5: Sheikh Mujib declared at a discussion meeting that henceforth East Pakistan would be called Bangladesh. He added:

“There was a time when all efforts were made to erase the word ‘Bangla’ from this land and its map . The existence of the word ‘Bangla’ was found nowhere except in the term Bay of Bengal. I, on be half of Pakistan, announce today that this land will be called ‘Bangladesh’ instead of ‘East Pakistan’.”

December 8: Demand to rename East Wing as Bangladesh Hailed

“Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhasani, Chief of National Awami Party, welcomed the demand for renaming East Pakistan as Bangla Desh and said it was a genuine demand from the historical pint of view.

Maulana Bhasani said the nomenclature of Bangla Desh was not a new thing. He said this region of the country populated by the Bengali speaking people was known as Bangla Desh (Bengal) for long. The NAP leader said that ill the regions of West Pakistan were known by their own names before One Unit. Only the name of Bangla Desh was snatched away and the name of East Pakistan was forcibly imposed.”

Although the media remains silent on the issue, the grapevine was buzzing with stories about Yayha Khan’s private life. With his penchant for the bottle and attractive women, the general’s private life was increasingly becoming entangled with his public persona. A number of starlets, as well as the mysterious ‘General’ Rani, were the subject of gossip.

Pakistan: Vultures and Wild Dogs

Newsweek April 26, 1971; pp. 35-36

For more than two weeks, the Pakistani Army of President Mohammed Yahya Khan had played a curious waiting game, Sitting tight in their well-fortified cantonments in the rebellious eastern wing of their divided country, the federal troops virtually ignored the taunts of the secessionist “liberation forces.” But then early last week, the lull came to a sudden end, Springing from their strongholds, the Punjabi regulars simultaneously staged more than a dozen devastating attacks from one end of beleaguered East Pakistan to the other, And when the blitzkrieg was over, it was clear that the less-than-one-month-old Republic of Bangla Desh (Bengal nation) had been delivered a stunning blow.

In a civil war already marked by brutality, the lightning attacks were notable for their savagery, In the port city of Chittagong, Pakistani troops reportedly forced Bengali prisoners to ride on the front of a truck, shouting “Victory for Bengal” – an independence slogan. When other Bengalis emerged from their hiding places, the Pakistanis opened fire with machine guns. And in the cities of Sylhet and Comilla along the eastern border, West Pakistani firepower routed the folIowers of nationalist leader Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and left the bodies of scores of dead peasants to be picked apart by vultures and wild dogs.

All in all, the bitter campaign seemed to suggest that the West Pakistanis had more than purely military objectives in mind. In city after city, in fact, the soldiers were apparently determined to shatter the economic base of East Pakistan in order to crush the independence movement. On orders from the Islamabad high command, troops systematically gunned down students, engineers, doctors and any other persons with a potential for leadership, whether they were nationalists or not. “They want to push us back to the eighteenth century,” said one Bengali soldier,” so that there will be famine and we will be reduced to eating grass. They want to make sure that no head will ever be raised against them again.”

Despite the devastating offensive, the Bengalis showed little inclination to throw in the towel. A group of Mujib’s Awami League colleagues announced the formation of a Bangla Desh war Cabinet, promising “freedom as long as there is sun over Bengal.” Beyond the rhetoric, the rebels were hoping that the approaching monsoon season would sever the West Pakistanis’ already strained logistical lifeline. “The supply lines are Yahya Khan’s Achilles’ heel,” said one pro-Bengali analyst. “By our calculations, the Pakistani Army is facing the monsoons without a supply margin. The commanders cannot be happy.”

Locked Up: Happy or not, the West Pakistani leaders had, most observers said, good reason for confidence. The Westerners claimed to have Mujib locked up and awaiting trial on charges of treason. And with the dynamic, 51-year-old symbol of the rebel movement seemingly out of the way, the new government appeared to be more shadow than substance. In the field, the Bengalis have suffered staggering casualties, losing as many as 25,000 men.

More important, the fighting disposition of the Bengalis was increasingly open to question. “I met a steady stream of refugees carrying their belongings in big bundles on their heads and driving small Hocks of scrawny goats or cattle,” cabled NEWSWEEK’S Milan I. Kubic after a trip into East Pakistan last week. “But I saw only one Toyota jeep of the ‘Mukti fouj,’ Bengal’s liberation army. Its unarmed driver, a young Bengali from Jhingergacha, had an idea that the enemy was just up the road, but neither he nor the two other soldiers with him seemed anxious to seek battle. ‘What would we fight with?’ he asked with a grin. ‘We haven’t got anything’.”

Neighbors: That let-someone-else-do-it attitude, combined with the absence of effective central leadership, did not augur well for Bangla Desh. But one big question mark remained: the reaction of the neighboring big powers-China and India. Almost from the beginning of the conflict, the West Pakistanis have charged that arch-rival India was an active participant on the side of East Pakistan. And last week Islamabad officials claimed to have wiped out two companies of Indian border-security forces allegedly operating within the eastern province.

For its part, New Delhi stoutly denied any direct involvement. And most observers on the scene supported that contention. Moreover, it seemed certain that President Yahya Khan was trumpeting the charges at least in part to unite his own people-many of whom had gotten queasy about the reports of full-scale slaughter in the east. But it was equally apparent that New Delhi had indeed gone out of its way to make friendly noises toward the rebel Bengalis-and to take a slap at Islamabad. Throughout the week, Indian newspapers gleefully carried accounts of purported Pakistani atrocities. And the Indian Cabinet met in a well-publicized but closed session to discuss recognition of Bangla Desh.

Chou’s Cable: In response, Peking seemed more than willing to weigh in with a tough statement in support of the West Pakistanis. In the most specific declaration since the fighting broke out late last month, Premier Chou En-Iai sent a cable to Yahya blasting “Indian expansionists” and adding that the Chinese would firmly back the Pakistanis “in their just struggle to safeguard their -state sovereignty and national independence.” On top of that, there were rumors throughout Asia last week that the West Pakistanis only instituted the military crackdown after extensive consultations with Peking.

Yet for all the ominous signs of a brewing confrontation on the subcontinent, most analysts doubted that the rhetoric would escalate to action, at least not in the near future. For one thing, China’s support for Islamabad-Peking’s ally in its long-haul competition with India-seemed to have been something of a pro-forma necessity. For another, the Indians are currently more than preoccupied with their own domestic problems. Still, the volatile brinkmanship of Yahya Khan and the highly emotional Indian response carried with them the threat of a major explosion. “If the fighting and the bloodshed simmer on,” said one observer, “then there’s always the possibility that any tiny spark may send the entire region up in flames-eventually engulfing all of Pakistan, India and maybe even China as well.”

March 6, 1971: Yahya Khan announces that the National Assembly would meet on March 25, 1971

Yahya Khan went on the air and announced March 25 as the new data for the national assembly meeting.Whoever heard Yahya khan’s broadcast that day will never forget the experience. The manner in which the ‘gesture’ was made and the tone of voice left no doubt whatsoever of his real intentions. He had not a single word to assuage outraged Bangali sentiment, nor did he make the slightest effort at reconciliation. Instead, he heaped invective on Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman and the Awami League.

On three separate occasions between March 3 and March 24 Bangali members of armed forces approached Sheikh Mujibur Rahman for guidance because they had no illusions about what was coming.

In the evening Bangabandhu was engaged in an emergency meeting of the party’s working committee to consider the President’s new date for the national assembly meeting. The Awami Leaguers also had to decide whether or not to make the declaration of independence that the people were clamoring for. The pressures for this were extreme. On the one side were the powerful student groups insisting to announce the break with the West Pakistan, with them also were the street crowds.

The discussions had taken up the whole night but the Awami League was still undecided. Finally Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman decided to speak out about this issue – tomorrow March 7, 1971 – on the Racecourse Ground.

March 1, 1971: Pakistan’s “gravest political crisis.”

Memorandum From Harold Saunders and Samuel Hoskinson of the National Security Council Staff to the President’s Assistant for National Security Affairs (Kissinger)/1/


Washington, March 1, 1971.


/1/ Source: National Archives, Nixon Presidential Materials, NSC Files, Box 625, Country Files, Middle East, Pakistan, Vol. IV, 1 Mar 71-15 May 71. Secret. Sent for information.


Situation in Pakistan
Events in
Pakistan today took a major step toward a possible early move by East Pakistan for independence. The following are a brief situation report and some policy considerations flowing from it.


The Situation

President Yahya Khan has announced the postponement until “a later date” of the National Assembly, which was to have begun drafting a new constitution in
Dacca on Wednesday,/2/ so the political leaders of East and West Pakistan can settle their differences. Yahya characterized the situation as Pakistan‘s “gravest political crisis.”


/2/ March 3.


The future course of events now depends largely on the decision of Mujibur Rahman and the other leaders of the dominant Awami League party in East Pakistan. A general atmosphere of tension prevails throughout Dacca, and numerous spontaneous processions and demonstrations calling for the independence of East Pakistan are reported to be underway./3/ So far violence reportedly has been limited, but the potential for major destructive outbursts would seem to be great, especially if the West Pakistani-controlled provincial regime takes any heavy-handed actions against the demonstrators.


In terms of substantive issues, the differences between Rahman and Bhutto seem to have largely narrowed to those of foreign trade and aid. Bhutto in a speech February 28 said he felt the central government would have to retain control in these fields if its control of foreign affairs was to be realistic.


The constellation of political forces and interests in Pakistan is such that any compromise is most difficult at this point. Yahya and Bhutto are both opposed to Rahman’s plan for decentralized government but they both have different and conflicting bases of support:


Yahya’s base of support is the army and economic elite. They do not want to compromise with Bhutto because they fear his platform of “equitable distribution of the wealth.” They figure that the weak central government the East wants would loosen their grip on West Pakistan. The Army feels it would jeopardize security.


-Bhutto’s base is the masses. He does not want to compromise with the East because he wants to control a strong central government.


The two men have different ideological outlooks-Yahya a fairly conservative approach and Bhutto a leftist and populist approach. So while they both oppose Rahman, they are also commited to not seeing each other gain a predominant position in any ensuing government.


Rahman is almost solely concerned about East Pakistan and is unwilling to compromise on the autonomy issue. Because he favors normalization of relations with India, he is in further conflict with Yahya and Bhutto who are both fairly hard-line toward India. The scope for compromise is probably minimal and Rahman could well decide that now is the best time to opt out of the Pakistani union. He clearly had this on his mind when he talked with Ambassador Farland on Sunday/4/ and asked about U.S. aid to an independent East Pakistan and as a lever to prevent West Pakistan from intervening militarily against a succession [secession] movement.


President Yahya is well aware that he is risking a strong East Pakistani reaction, but presumably decided that the alternative to postponement would be even worse. He may have seen two principal alternatives: (1) postpone the session and-although he left some room for maneuver-risk an immediate confrontation with East Pakistan; or (2) hold the session, risk an immediate confrontation with his army, the West Pakistani political/economic establishment, or both, and, because he would in the end have to reject an East Pakistan autonomy constitution, a confrontation with the East Pakistanis in a few months.


Thus, Yahya is unable to compromise with Rahman or move closer to Bhutto without jeopardizing his own base of power and risking his ouster by hardline military elements who would end the move toward representative government and most likely precipitate widespread and perhaps uncontrollable disorders in West Pakistan. In short, Yahya may only feel that his only course is to cut his and Pakistan‘s losses.


In short, Yahya appears to have decided to risk a confrontation with East Pakistan now in the slight hope that, if he pushed all the parties to the brink, a compromise might evolve from their coming to grips with the consequences of a split-up of Pakistan. Given the sentiment within the West Pakistani political-military establishment, he may have seen no other realistic choice.


U.S. Policy

As you know, we have so far attempted to remain neutral and uninvolved. Our line has been that we favor the unity of Pakistan and that it is up to the Pakistanis to determine the future of their country. There is at least a theoretical alternative (which one part of CIA holds out) of urging Yahya to take the third of the West Pakistanis opposed to Bhutto and try to reach accommodation with Rahman, but that would provoke a sharp reaction in the West, even perhaps in the army. State is not inclined to become involved in this way. This issue is still open, however.


Beyond that, we have these questions:
-Should the
U.S. be hedging its bets with East Pakistan against the possibility that East secedes?
-If there is secession, how active should the
U.S. be in trying to avoid bloodshed?
The contingency plan ordered in NSSM 118/5/ should be finished in the next twenty-four hours. I will send that to you as soon as it arrives with a recommendation on handling. We are after all witnessing the possible birth of a new nation of over 70 million people in an unstable area of
Asia and, while not the controlling factor, we could have something to do with how this comes about-peacefully or by bloody civil war.


/5/ National Security Study Memorandum 118, directed by Kissinger on February 16 to the Secretaries of State and Defense and the Director of Central Intelligence, called for a contingency study to be prepared outlining the possible range of U.S. reactions to movement in East Pakistan toward secession. See Foreign Relations, 1969-1976, volume E-7, Documents on South Asia, 1969-1972, Document 115.


Source: Document 2, volume XI, South Asia crisis 1971, Department of State.

1970 Bhola cyclone and inefficiency of West Pakistan Government in handling reliefs

November, 1970

The 1970 Bhola cyclone made landfall on the East Pakistan coastline during the evening of November 12, around the same time as a local high tide, killing an estimated 300,000 to 500,000 people. Though the exact death toll is not known, it is considered the deadliest tropical cyclone on record.

A week after the landfall, President Khan conceded that his government had made “slips” and “mistakes” in its handling of the relief efforts for a lack of understanding of the magnitude of the disaster.

A statement released by eleven political leaders in East Pakistan ten days after the cyclone hit charged the government with “gross neglect, callous indifference and utter indifference“. They also accused the president of playing down the news coverage. On November 19, students held a march in Dhaka in protest of the speed of the government response and Maulana Abdul Hamid Khan Bhashani addressed a rally of 50,000 people on November 24, where he accused the president of inefficiency and demanded his resignation.

This is one of the first times that a natural event helped to trigger a civil war.

Source: Wikipedia