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

12821. Subject: Meeting With Bhutto, Dec. 20. Ref Islamabad 12804.2

Summary: Met with Pres. Bhutto at his request. He expressed deep and sincere appreciation courtesies received New York and Washington and said he was fully satisfied with US assistance during eventful [Page 859] period. Asked for USG continuing aid. Explained transfer of power was effected soonest by Yahyaʼs resignation both as President and as Chief Martial Law Administrator in his (Bhuttoʼs) favor. Indicated a possible trip to China since China had not fulfilled obligations promised. Still hopes to keep the two wings together in some loose federation. Agreed to bear down hard on law and order and fully protect AmCits. Concluded by asking that closest liaison be maintained. End summary.
At the request of President Zulfikar Ali Bhutto, I met with him in his residence at the Pucgab House (annex) in Rawalpindi at 1630 hours local, Dec. 20. The meeting lasted for 30 minutes.
The conversation began, after a minimum of social amenities, with Bhuttoʼs statement to me to the effect that I was the first Ambassador who had been called to see him. He said that this choice was predicated upon the fact that he wished to indicate to me his personal high regard, and his deep appreciation for the extensive courtesies he has received while in New York and Washington. He said that, in his meetings with the Secretary and with the President, he had found cordiality and understanding beyond that which he could have reasonably expected; this, he wanted me to know and, through my messages to Washington, to reiterate his deep and sincere appreciation.
After an extended contemplative pause, Bhutto then said succinctly, “We are in one hell of a mess.” Agreeing with that assertion, I replied that his job was not an enviable one and that labor which he was now undertaking on behalf of his nation would try the strength of any man. In a most solemn and measured tone, he went on to say that Pakistan had a real reason for coming into being; that this very reason justified its survival; and that he sincerely trusted “with all my heart” that the United States would do that within its capacity to assist in the monumental effort which lay ahead. In answer I told him that he had more recently than I talked to the President and the Secretary and I was certain that, from their conversations with him, he could find reason to sustain him in this crucial period.
I then asked him how the chance of power had come about. Bhutto said that, following his arrival in Rawalpindi, he had called upon Yahya soonest. In a short but dramatic exchange, Yahya had (a) resigned as President in favor of him (Bhutto), and (b) also resigned in the [his] favor as Chief Martial Law Administrator. Therefore, Bhutto continued, he was operating under martial law authority, but he had no intention of maintaining the MLA concept for any length of time, this being completely contrary to his character. In answer to my question concerning what interdicted the promulgation of the constitution which was promised for Dec. 20, Bhutto said that it had been superseded by events and that a new constitution had to be written; this would be done soonest.
Referring again to the need for aid and assistance to Pakistan, Bhutto said that it was quite possible he soon would go to Peking and, he declared, there was need for such visit inasmuch as “China had not fulfilled its obligations to Pakistan as promised.” Contrariwise, Bhutto was effusive in his expression of appreciation for the assistance to Pakistan which was rendered by the United States, with specific references to that period of time from December 3 to date.
In conjunction with the subject of U.S. assistance and the obvious need for rehabilitation of his country, Bhutto not unsurprisingly addressed himself to the theme of unity between the wings. (See State 227784,3 para 10—Secretaryʼs conversation with Bhutto.) Rhetorically Bhutto asked aloud, “Can the two wings even yet be held together?” I pointed out to him that my conversation with Bengalis indicated that religiously and historically the bond was strong but that the events which had caused strains from 1947 onward and the untoward happenings of March 25 and subsequent thereto were matters which he as a Pakistani and a Muslim could best judge. Bhutto acknowledged the historic errors and disasters of the more recent past, but said that, if at all possible, his would be an effort to reconcile and reunite, holding the wings in some loose federation. I wished him well in what I termed “an awesome task.”
I took the occasion which the meeting offered to stress my concern for American citizens in Pakistan and the need to maintain and strengthen the forces of law and order. Bhutto assured me that this subject was of primary importance to him since he could not rebuild Pakistan into a nation or establish its viability if lawlessness were allowed to generate. He added that he was going to speak by radio and TV tonight at 2200 hours local, giving a detailed report to the nation, appealing to all Pakistanis in all walks of life, and trying to instill in them both hope and courage for the days ahead. He added that he would hit hard on the subject of law and order in a way which he felt would meet with my entire satisfaction. He added that, during his talk, he would legalize once again the outlawed National Awami Party (WALI) and would release any people who were presently detained for political reasons4 (He was unable to specify names or numbers.)
In concluding our conversation, Bhutto said that it was essential that we maintain the closest possible liaison and that he would be available to see me at any time and at any hour. I assured him that I fully reciprocated his offer and that the need of the moment and for the foreseeable future was for the closest cooperation. As I was leaving, I suggested to him that, in addition to our personal relationship, I felt it would be advisable to set up a secondary contact and that my Deputy Chief of Mission was ready to effect such an arrangement with whomever he would designate. This met with Bhuttoʼs accord.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 15–1 PAK. Secret; Flash; Exdis.
  2. Telegram 12804 from Islamabad, December 20, reported that Bhutto had assumed the leadership of Pakistan on December 20 as President and Martial Law Administrator. (Ibid.) President Yahya resigned in Bhuttoʼs favor on December 19 following a day of nationwide demonstrations critical of his handling of the crisis. (Telegram 12798 from Islamabad, December 20; ibid.)
  3. Paragraph 10 of telegram 227784 to Islamabad, cited in footnote 2, Document 327, reported that Bhutto asked that the United States not act in haste in recognizing the “so called Bangla Desh.” He was convinced, he said, that sentiment in both wings was still overwhelmingly in favor of maintaining the union.
  4. Farland used this opening to ask whether Bhutto also intended to release Sheikh Mujibur Rahman. Bhutto said that he wanted to do so, but key supporters had warned him that the release of Mujib at that time would be tantamount to Bhutto decreeing his own imprisonment. Bhutto intended to condition the people of Pakistan to the need to release Mujib. He anticipated that Mujib might be exchanged for the thousands of Pakistani prisoners India held following the surrender in East Pakistan. (Telegram 12822 from Islamabad, December 20; National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, POL 29 PAK)