84. Memorandum From the Assistant Secretary of State for Near Eastern and South Asian Affairs (Sisco) to Secretary of State Rogers1


  • Pakistan: Yahyaʼs June 28 Address on Political Formula

Pakistani President Yahya Khan, in a long-awaited nationwide broadcast on June 28, outlined his plans for a conditional return to representative government within approximately four months. Yahya stated, however, that even after the promulgation of a new constitution and the convening of national and provincial legislatures, martial law would continue to be “at their disposal for a period of time.”

Yahya has given up his original intention to have an elected constituent assembly adopt a constitution for him to “authenticate.” Pakistanʼs new constitution will be written by a group of experts after consultation with political leaders and can be amended by the National Assembly, which would function as a legislature immediately upon being convened. This new constitution would follow the outline of Yahyaʼs Legal Framework Order of 1970, i.e., an Islamic Republic, a federal state with adequate financial, administrative and legislative [Page 212] powers for the Center and “maximum” autonomy for the provinces. The new element would be a modified version of martial law to serve as a protective cover for the new government for an unspecified period.

Pakistanʼs new political leaders would not include any representatives of the outlawed Awami League of East Pakistan under that party label. While reiterating the illegal status of the League, Yahya announced that Awami League members-elect of the national and provincial assemblies who had not disqualified themselves by secessionist activities would be eligible to participate in those bodies. Those Awami Leaguers who had disqualified themselves would be replaced through by-elections to take place this fall.2

In a strongly worded economic section of his address, Yahya called for national austerity and asserted that Pakistan would do without foreign aid rather than submit to political pressure to obtain it. At the same time, he thanked unnamed friendly foreign countries which had shown sympathy and understanding of the problems his government had been facing and trying to resolve and which had “given complete support to the action taken by the Government to maintain the unity and integrity of Pakistan.” He noted that such countries had warned others (i.e., India) against interfering in Pakistanʼs internal affairs.

Yahyaʼs formulation for a political accommodation is highly conditional and its time-frame is imprecise. Its disqualification of many of the 440 Awami League members-elect and its probable unacceptability to most of the others means that most of those seats would have to be filled through by-elections in East Pakistan. A new political campaign in the East Wing will require adroit handling if existing tensions are to be reduced and a viable political settlement achieved. It is doubtful that promises of maximum provincial autonomy will be enough to satisfy the Bengalis, who have in effect again been reminded that their earlier electoral decisions are not acceptable to the West Pakistan establishment. Thus genuine political accommodation remains the crux of Pakistanʼs internal crisis and Yahyaʼs speech offers little basis for optimism over his chances of early success under the terms and conditions he has prescribed.

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, NEA/PAB Files: Lot 77 D 91, POL 15–1, Head of State. Confidential. Drafted on June 29 by Joel M. Woldman (NEA/PAF) with the concurrence of Van Hollen. The memorandum is stamped June 29, but Sisco corrected the date by hand.
  2. Sisco added a handwritten marginal comment at this point that reads: “Banning Awami League makes political accommodation almost impossible.”