190. National Intelligence Estimate1

NIE 52–55


The Problem

To estimate probable developments in Pakistan over the next several years with emphasis on its economic prospects and likely political stability.


After more than two years of recurrent crises, political power in Pakistan has been openly assumed by a small group of British-trained administrators and military leaders centering around Governor-General Ghulam Mohammed and his two principal associates, Generals Iskander Mirza and Ayub Khan. The regime favors a strong central government, economic development through austerity measures and foreign aid, and close alignment with the US. (Paras. 9–14, 21)
We believe that the present regime will remain in power at least through 1955 and probably considerably longer. Its firm control of the armed forces will almost certainly enable it to discourage or if need be defeat any attempt to challenge it, and it is unlikely to allow itself to be ousted by political maneuvering or legal challenges to its authority. Although East Pakistani provincialism will continue to pose serious problems, we do not believe that separatism will become a major threat. (Paras. 15, 22, 28)
At least for several years, however, the regime will probably be handicapped by a lack of organized political and popular support and even more by the thinness of its top leadership. Moreover, within the ruling group there are differences of view which could [Page 424] become serious. The death of the ailing Ghulam Mohammed—which might come at any time—would probably not lead to the fall of the regime, but it would severely test the ability of Mirza and Ayub to keep their associates in line and their opponents under control, and might compel them to rely more openly on the armed forces. Should Mirza and Ayub in turn be removed from the scene, a many-sided struggle would probably follow. This might give rise to another, basically similar, authoritarian regime or it might result in serious internal disorganization and perhaps a weakening of Pakistan’s present alignment with the US. (Paras. 16, 23–26, 47)
The Communist Party of Pakistan, with an estimated strength of only 1,500–3,000, poses little threat to the government. (Para. 20)
Presently programmed US economic assistance will alleviate Pakistan’s immediate economic difficulties. In time, given substantial foreign aid and a settlement of the canal dispute with India, Pakistan has fairly good prospects of increasing agricultural production, and possibly of achieving self-sufficiency in the important field of textiles. At best however, Pakistan is unlikely to do much more than keep its head above water and will probably be a recurrent petitioner for economic assistance for a number of years. Cessation of US aid during this period would necessitate substantial readjustments in economic policy, probably including reductions in development and defense expenditures. (Paras. 36–39)
Under the present or any similar regime, Pakistan will almost certainly continue to cultivate close ties with the US, if only because of Pakistan’s urgent need for US economic assistance and its desire for US military and diplomatic support to strengthen its position against India. Pakistan’s present regime will probably cooperate with US efforts in the further development of anti-Communist defense arrangements in both the Middle East and Southeast Asia. It is not likely, however, to commit any more than token forces outside Pakistan territory unless its armed forces are considerably strengthened, its economy improved, and its fear of India greatly reduced. In the event of a general war, Pakistan would recognize that its interest and obligations lay with the West, but unless directly threatened, it would probably seek specific Western protection before overtly departing from nonbelligerence. (Paras. 40–41, 43, 53)
Although a settlement of the Kashmir dispute remains highly improbable, Pakistan’s relations with India are unlikely to worsen critically under the present regime. In fact, prospects are reasonably good for an eventual settlement of the canal waters dispute and various lesser controversies. Even if present tensions abate, however, Pakistani-Indian relations will be marred for many years by underlying animosities. (Paras. 44–45)
Pakistan has strained its economic resources to build up its military capabilities, primarily for defense against India. However, these capabilities are seriously limited by logistical shortcomings and by deficiencies in equipment and technological skills which would require a long-sustained and costly effort to overcome. We believe that the present leadership would be favorably inclined toward US peacetime development of air bases for US use, but actual agreement to such development, and the extent of the rights which Pakistan would give the US for use of bases, in peace or war, might depend on the regime’s current assessment of Indian, Soviet and domestic political reactions, and the extent of US aid and guarantees Pakistan might expect to receive. (Paras. 48, 50–55)

[Here follows discussion of these points in numbered paragraphs 9 through 56.]

  1. Source: Department of State, INR/NIE Files. Secret. National Intelligence Estimates were high-level interdepartmental reports appraising foreign policy problems. NIEs were drafted by officers from those agencies represented on the Intelligence Advisory Committee (IAC), discussed and revised by interdepartmental working groups coordinated by the Office of National Estimates of the CIA, approved by the IAC, and circulated under the aegis of the President, appropriate officers of cabinet level, and the members of the NSC. The Department of State provided all political and some economic sections of NIEs.
  2. According to a note on the cover sheet, the following intelligence organizations participated in the preparation of this estimate: the CIA and the intelligence organizations of the Departments of State, Army, Navy, Air Force, and the Joint Staff. All members of the IAC concurred with this estimate on March 15 with the exception of the representatives of the Atomic Energy Commission and Federal Bureau of Investigation, who abstained on the grounds that the subject was outside their jurisdiction.