223. Telegram From the Embassy in Pakistan to the Department of State 1

1017. Now that a little time has passed since forced resignation of essentially secular Suhrawardy government and emergence of Chundrigar 2 at head of unstable coalition whose common denominator is Muslim orthodoxy and now that I have been in Pakistan long enough to form certain personal opinions, time may be appropriate for an evaluation of recent events, present situation Pakistan and their impact on future developments.

While immediate reasons for fall of Suhrawardy can be found in personal rivalry between President Mirza and himself and in splinter parties, sectionalism and in individuals jockeying for power and its material rewards, it may be useful consider briefly broad background against which last crisis was played out.

The economic situation remains serious with the workers standard of living tending to decrease. Pakistan statistics are uncertain yet little doubt but that food prices have gone up from 10–15 percent in past year while no comparable wage increase occurred. Other characteristics of the Pakistan economic situation too well known warrant detailed review in summary analysis (no progress in agricultural productivity which is sine qua non for Pakistan self-sufficiency; shortage of capital and foreign exchange for development, incipient inflation, disproportionately high military expenditures and population growing faster than national income). Only reason why Pakistan able keep going is US aid. This only realized small thinking elite, including officer corps, since effect on masses restricted to helping preserve present inadequate South Asian standard of living rather than bring about noticeable amelioration.

It is against this unsatisfactory background that Suhrawardy and Mirza, probably the most able Pakistan political personalities, feuded [Page 485] to a point that their mutually valuable working association could no longer be maintained. Purpose of this message is not to go into the issues, real or alleged, which surround the crisis, such as one-unit or joint vs separate electorates which have been reported on in detail. In essence generally democratic but also demagogic Suhrawardy let himself be carried away either by design or accident in his public attacks against President Mirza’s men in his cabinet to a point of no return and President in turn by availing himself of letter of the constitution and refusing to convene assembly so that vote could determine whether his opponent commanded a majority, provided further grist for mill those who accused him of authoritarianism.

Now replacing Suhrawardy in role of Mirza’s personal opponent is Sardar Nishtar, President Muslim League. In this struggle for power the decent but rather colorless Muslim League Prime Minister Chundrigar participates only in a secondary role. It is of course importance of role played by Nishtar which raises questions in foreign policy field. While policies of direct importance to us are maintained and while President Mirza remains as Western oriented as ever, key role of … Nishtar tends weaken structure underlying official government posture assurances. New government thus affected by Islamic bias against UK and indirectly against West which Muslim Leaguers have brought into coalition. Furthermore Chundrigar cannot put up as effective resistance as could Suhrawardy to Pakistani emotionalism during flareups such as occurred over UK-French Suez action. While it is unlikely above will go so far as to result in attempt to improve relations with Syria and Egypt, it is apparent that the “quality” of the new government’s support for current foreign policies has somewhat deteriorated.

The internal prospects of the new government are none too bright on the tactical plane. The situation in the Assembly has become even more complex and less predictable with the formation of the new five man party of Chaudhri Mohamad Ali, probably with tacit consent Mirza, which could draw off Punjabi strength from either Muslim League and/or Republicans. The alliance between Republicans and Muslim League is none too strong in Karachi and does not exist in Lahore where major strain on coalition likely develop. Here Defense Minister Daultana will probably be key figure in maneuvers to get share of power for self as well as Muslim League.

From longer range viewpoint, situation worse re East Pakistan which is seriously antagonized by “raw deal” to “their boy” Suhrawardy, inadequate representation not to speak of government’s separate electorates plank which is anathema in East Bengal where its effect would be to isolate ten million Hindus. Since economic and financial availabilities are such that development program will have [Page 486] to be reduced and since savings will result more from postponing new projects than from slowing down the old ones East Pakistan will suffer more than West. Some in government conscious of these major difficulties which faced in East Pakistan. So far, however, this reflected principally in inconclusive consideration of creating a deputy Prime Minister in Dacca.

Confronted with difficult situation Chundrigar government giving indications it will concentrate on short term objectives such as cheaper food, additional refugee housing—primarily Karachi—and starting work on Jinnah’s tomb. Until now major development under new government has been exploitation for political purposes of so-called $10 million import license scandal under small business program (Toica 6633). This, like much which has happened during last few weeks, tends further to retard development of healthy Pakistan resting on sound democratic government. Of course political, economic and social conditions which would create an immediately explosive situation in a politically more advanced society could last indefinitely in Pakistan. Experience in other lesser developed countries demonstrates, however, the unwisdom of excessive reliance on fatalism and amorphism of such societies be they Muslim or not. While no direct threat looms on Pakistan horizon and while the army with its excellent morale and fine equipment can be relied on as a safe anchor to windward for the foreseeable future it would appear to be at least questionable statesmanship to rely primarily on this element of the framework of the Pakistan state. Whether or not it “may be later than it seems” is a moot question. The bold fact stands out as the Chundrigar government takes over with little confidence, that over-all situation in Pakistan is deteriorating while military programs may be proceeding satisfactorily. Military strength, without a sound economic and political base, does not constitute real strength in South Asia or elsewhere. It is time to rethink our approach to the Pakistan problem. Our rationale for FY 1959 will attempt start along this path. A more comprehensive review, however, is called for, which should give greater weight to developing Pakistan as a strong viable ally of the US rather than concentrating on building of a military force which may not have vis-à-vis Communist bloc a value in proportion with its cost both to Pakistan and to US. That such changes must of course be brought about with tact and prudence so that in the process existing elements of strength and friendship will not be alienated is of course obvious.

  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 790D.00/11–157. Secret.
  2. On October 18, Ismail I. Chundrigar, a former Minister for Law, replaced Suhrawardy as Prime Minister.
  3. Not printed.