‘Bangalees are true Muslims’
May 22, 1971
YAHYA'S OBSERVATIONS ON POLITICAL SITUATION
The US consul general in Karachi sent a telegram to the US State Department providing details of his meeting with Pakistan President Yahya Khan on May 22, 1971. As to the political situation in Pakistan, Yahya Khan affirmed his belief that the future of the wings were intertwined with the whole.
He reiterated with emphasis that law and order was the first prerequisite to the reinstitution of a peaceful political accommodation; that rebuilding had to begin with a prompt cessation of military action and, that this was his objective. He acknowledged that fear had to be dispelled and public confidence restored. He was optimistic that this could be accomplished within a time frame of several months which would allow both for political accommodation and economic rehabilitation.
Yahya further informed that he intended to go to the people via radio and television sometime next month. He said it was his plan to hold a by-election in East Pakistan for those provincial and National Assembly seats which were vacated by Awami Leaguers who had departed East Pakistan for India and elsewhere in the cause of Bangladesh, or who had committed capital crimes during the period leading up to and subsequent to the "secession" attempt.
Of the number of seats which would be vacated, President Yahya said he felt that no more than six or seven percent would be involved, and that it would be relatively a simple matter to hold an election for these few seats. He reaffirmed the fact that while the Awami League had been outlawed, the individuals had been elected individually and that their election, subject to the foregoing, would be recognised. President Yahya added that the election in West Pakistan would stand in toto.
As to the question of Bangabandhu Sheikh Mujibur Rahman, Yahya said he had committed a capital crime and would be tried in a duly constitutional court. The US consul general emphasised the fact that the Pakistan government might well weigh world opinion vis-à-vis the severity of the sentence since Sheikh Mujib had a great deal of international sympathy. Yahya's reply was noncommittal but not necessarily negative. He indicated that he would think about it.
GHAFFAR KHAN OFFERS TO MEDIATE
Pakhtoon leader Khan Abdul Ghaffar Khan offered to mediate for a peaceful settlement of the conflict between the two wings of Pakistan. However, the Pakistan Military junta failed to respond positively to the offer. Ghaffar Khan said East Pakistanis were a majority and the majority never wished to break up a country. "Therefore it was not Mujib who wishes to destroy Pakistan. If Pakistan is destroyed this will be due to the wrong policies of Bhutto and Qayyum Khan," he added.
He further said that Bangalees were true Muslims and more faithful to Pakistan than anyone else. Pakistan had been created by their efforts because at the pre-Partition time a Muslim League government existed only in Bengal.
Asserting that the present conflict in Pakistan was not for the integration of Pakistan but for holding on to power by the capitalists and the military lords from Punjab, the Pakhtoon leader said the only fault of East Pakistan leaders was that they had won the elections.
REFUGEE SITUATION WORSENS
The frightened refugees pouring into India from East Pakistan posed for New Delhi a problem perhaps as serious as any it had faced since independence, reported the New York Times.
According to Indian figures, the number of Bangalees who crossed over to escape the Pakistan army exceeded three million. Tens of thousands more arrive every day -- pitiful, dazed, broken people carrying a few salvaged belongings. Some are wounded. Others died on the way, the report added.
The New York Times further wrote that sanitary facilities were inadequate, adding to an already severe health problem. Indian hospitals were overflowing with the wounded and sick, many of whom had to lie on mats in the corridors and aisles. Dysentery was rife. Cholera and smallpox had broken out. And much of this was taking place in difficult-to-reach border regions -- Assam, Meghalaya and Tripura-where medical care in normal times was either inadequate or nonexistent.
The problem of getting enough food to these remote areas was also straining India's limited resources. In West Bengal, the refugee influx caused food shortages and forced prices up. At the same time, refugees offering to work in the fields at any price driven the daily wage rate down. Resentment among local poor Indians already surfaced. Hindu-Muslim tensions were also feared.
Shamsuddoza Sajen is a journalist and researcher. He can be contacted at email@example.com