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

5530. Subj: General Refugee Situation. Ref: Islamabad 5528.2

I met with President Yahya Khan at his office in Rawalpindi on Saturday, June 5 at 1200 hours. During the 50 minute conversation which ensued I discussed with Yahya, among other subjects which are reported by septels,3 the general refugee situation and the multitudinous problems which it presented.
I introduced this subject by underscoring President Nixonʼs satisfaction with the May 24 statement4 which Yahya had issued. Noting that Washington was encouraged by GOPʼs plan to set up refugee reception centers in East Pakistan,5 I expressed the hope that these [Page 169] centers would quickly be activated. I also pointed out that there had been a most favorable reaction to his indicated willingness to repatriate all except “criminals” who, presumably, would be but a very small percentage. In this connection I expressed my belief that it would be most helpful if he would specifically indicate that Hindus would also be welcomed back, suggesting that this could be done by emphasizing publicly that all bona fide refugees regardless of religious origin could and should return to their homes. I suggested that this type of pronouncement would be favorably received by the GOI and should also have a salutary impact on world opinion. Yahyaʼs immediate answer was to the effect that his May 24 statement was all inclusive and that there was no differentiation between Muslims and Hindus. He added, however, that he had no objection whatsoever in making a statement as suggested, and that he would most certainly do so. After thinking aloud for a few moments as to the timing of such a statement, he said he felt that it most appropriately could be incorporated into his major radio address to the nation which was being formulated and which would be broadcast soon.
I went on to note that the flow of refugees continued and that this flow is symptomatic of the serious situation in East Pakistan. I pointed out that the Embassy continued to receive reports of Hindu villages being attacked by the army, that fear is pervasive, and that until this situation changes the refugees will continue to cross over into India. And I reiterated the USGʼs concern that at some point the Hindu exodus, if not checked, could lead to a military clash with India. I said that the continued massive flow of refugees remains the most explosive aspect of the East Pakistan situation. Observing that the USG had urged restraint on the GOI, I said that nevertheless a heavy responsibility still rests on Pakistan. Realistically speaking, I observed that one could hardly expect the flow to cease until the level of military activity by the army is reduced and repressive measures against the local population, especially the Hindus, was ended.
While in no way admitting definite Hindu repression, Yahya said that he was equally seized with concern over the refugee situation and realized all of its ramifications and its potential for the direst of developments. He declared that in a continuing effort to alleviate the problems generally, to minimize the outward movement of East Pakistanis, and to restore a climate of normalcy, he had already sent specific orders to East Pakistan and in addition had dispatched a number of officers charged with the carrying out of these specifics: both actions he thought would have a salutary effect on the situation. He said every effort was being made to seal the borders and to expedite the return soonest of those persons dislocated by the conflict. He added that most assuredly he would give this matter his continuing [Page 170] attention. He concluded his comments by saying that his information indicated that the outflow had substantially decreased and that conversely many were moving back into East Pakistan and that processing of those individuals for onward movement to their homes had already begun.
  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1970–73, REF PAK. Secret; Priority; Exdis. Repeated to Calcutta, Dacca, Geneva, Karachi, Lahore, New Delhi, and USUN.
  2. In telegram 5528 from Islamabad, June 5, Farland reported that he began his meeting with Yahya by conveying a copy of President Nixonʼs letter of May 28. Yahya reacted positively to the letter and agreed that a restoration of conditions in the east wing which would be conducive to the return of refugees from India was essential and should be effected as soon as possible. (Ibid., POL 15–1 US/NIXON)
  3. Telegram 5532 from Islamabad, June 5, reported on Farlandʼs discussion with Yahya of the international relief efforts Yahya had agreed to countenance, and the measures that could be taken to try to prevent famine in East Pakistan. (Ibid., SOC 10 PAK)
  4. In a press interview in Karachi on May 24, President Yahya renewed his appeal to East Pakistani refugees in India to return to their homes. He announced an amnesty for all except those who had committed serious crimes. (Letter from Hilaly to Van Hollen, June 1; ibid., REF PAK)
  5. On May 31 the Government of Pakistan announced that it was setting up 20 reception and relief camps in East Pakistan to facilitate the return of refugees. (Ibid.)