313. Telegram From the Consulate General in Dacca to the Department of State1

384. Re Embtel 437 sent Department 2975,2 and my despatch 295.3

Mirza dictatorship would be violently opposed in East Pakistan, would give Communists here encouragement and advantage, and would reverse progress made in consolidating country (Embassy despatch 975).4 Under a dictatorship non-Communists who would offer them slogans of democracy and freedom from tyranny [sic].
At same time Government of India would encourage opposition to Karachi regime with money, agents, and arms. There is small but endemic hope here for eventual unified Bengal state.
A dictatorship would not be likely to cure the malaise of Pakistan. Policy decisions could be made quicker, but execution thereof would still depend on Civil Service and General Administration. It would not root out corruption or nepotism; experience teaches that these increase when official acts are not subject to scrutiny by people or their representatives. It would not increase its natural resources, or its wealth in other respects. Indeed, it would solve none of Pakistanis’ problems, except easing the matter of policy decisions, but performance would be no better than it is now.
To hold East Pakistan, a dictator would have to strengthen army here, now one under-strength division, including two Bengali battalions which might mutiny. To strengthen army here means to weaken it in West Pakistan. Army here is thought capable of maintaining internal security, but this estimate is based on prospect of riots and [Page 650] local disturbances, not on open revolt aided in all likelihood by another country. Civil war is bitter and unrelenting as we know from our own experience and that of other countries. On other hand, recalling Mirza’s previous irritation with East Pakistan, he may already have written it off.
Propaganda value to our enemies of Pakistan Army using US arms and equipment to quell rebellion against a dictatorship is inestimable.
Implications of dictatorship viewed in context of our relations with India and other nations in area are many and varied. If we should countenance a dictator in Pakistan, we would destroy our reputation as a democratic people with a democratic government, our strongest link with the populace and the vast majority of its leaders.
There is no reason for departure from democratic form of government as far as East Pakistan is concerned. Here democratic instinct is stronger than in West Pakistan, and populace is more advanced politically. That is why, I believe, a coup d’etat could well end in the destruction of Pakistan as now constituted and might lead to war in the area.
From standpoint our relations with 45 million people in East Pakistan we should work for general election in Pakistan as scheduled. Regardless of the results, we would then know where we stand, and could act accordingly.
  1. Source: Department of State, Central Files, 790D.00/5–2958. Secret. Repeated to Karachi and Lahore.
  2. In this telegram, May 25, Ambassador Langley reported on recent political developments in West Pakistan. He pointed out that Mirza and other Pakistani leaders were considering suspending indefinitely the parliamentary elections scheduled for the fall of 1958. (Ibid., 790D.00/5–2558)
  3. In despatch 295 from Dacca, May 1, Consul General William L. S. Williams summarized a recent discussion with Farid Ahmed, a member of the National and Provincial Assemblies, who suggested that relations between East and West Pakistan would make a dictatorship unlikely. (Ibid. 790D.00/5–158)
  4. In despatch 975 from Karachi, April 24, entitled “Relations Between East and West Pakistan,” the Embassy concluded that relations between East and West Pakistan had improved over the past 2 years, but pointed out that discontent in East Pakistan was still strong “and must receive even greater satisfaction in the future if the political system now functioning in Pakistan is not to be subjected to severe strain.” The Embassy also noted that “the steady deterioration of living standards in East Pakistan is a major domestic issue. Continued failure to ease this problem of poverty could result either in East Pakistan seeking reabsorption in India or unity with West Bengal as a separate entity very possibly under a communist dominated regime.” (Ibid., 756D.00/4–2458)