166. Telegram From the Consulate General in Karachi to the Department of State1

2029. From Chargé. Subject: Pres. Yahya on Mujib and on Talks With BD Leadership. Ref: Karachi 2028.2

After introducing subject of Mujib in connection with proposed GOP direct discussions with BD leadership (reftel), I recalled to Pres Yahya during conversation Oct 11 his recent talks with Amb Farland regarding Mujib. I referred specifically to possibility of Mujibʼs serving as “trump card” and asked whether he might tell me anything further in that regard. Yahya noted that Mujibʼs trial was still going on. If he were convicted, court would sentence him to punishment which would conceivably be death. Matter would then come before Yahya who had presidential power to modify courtʼs judgement. As he had already told us, he did not intend to permit any death sentence to be carried out. With early formation of civilian government, that government (which would presumably have East Pak majority) would then have task of dealing with Mujibʼs future.
I said there were obvious problems but asked whether there was possibility of Yahyaʼs revealing anything of his thinking along above lines to larger audience before too long. Mujibʼs role seemed to be a crucial issue, for example, with regard initiation any direct talks between GOP and BD leadership. I recalled that Yahya had told us he is prepared have GOP participate in such talks. We have recent indications that various pressures on BD leadership in Calcutta have inhibited any progress toward initiating talks, and one of their primary concerns seems to be that Mujib should have role.
Yahya responded that there were limits on his freedom of action. He pointed to predominant West Pak public opinion damning Mujib, and opined that not a single West Pak political leader would welcome an act to free Mujib and negotiate with him. Even the East Pak political chiefs with whom he has been talking in recent months, including respected elder leader Nurul Amin, had raised specter of return to pre-March situation which they said would result in terrible violence among East Pakistanis. As for himself, Yahya went on, if he now indicated that Mujib should be pardoned, people will ask why there had had to be so much sorrow and trouble and would raise question [Page 463] why Yahya should remain in office. Personally he did not hanker for power, but he had duty to deal with critical problems which his country faced. Yahya added he is not a ruthless person but a normal human being. He has no personal rancor against Mujib but he cannot disregard facts of recent history.
This portion of our conversation was conducted with no indication of any annoyance on Yahyaʼs part that he was being pressed on what is perhaps most highly sensitive issue facing him in eyes of world opinion. On contrary he responded calmly in stating pressures weighing on him and his rationale for current stance. He appeared to wish leave impression he was man with rather little choice but to do what he is doing.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 27 INDIA–PAK. Secret; Priority; Nodis.
  2. Document 165.