15. Telegram 50241 From the Department of State to the Embassy in Pakistan 1 2


  • Admiral Ahsan’s Call on the Under Secretary
At beginning hour’s conversation with Under Secretary April 1, Admiral Ahsan expressed his Government’s condolences on death former President Eisenhower. He then proceeded emphasize martial law regime’s determination return as quickly as possible to civilian government.
Under Secretary inquired into what extent proclamation martial law brought on by breakdown law and order. Ahsan replied martial law was direct result situation in which labor out of hand with widespread strikes and disturbances and police incapable of handling situation. He pointed out political parties not banned and political leaders not arrested. In response Under Secretary’s question as to what conditions he thought necessary for restoration normal political processes Admiral Ahsan said he thought it enough for political leaders to agree on constitution and direct elections. He said military had not previously thought much about political problems and no firm timetable existed.
Under Secretary said he realized there many problems but he was interested what could be hoped for. Ahsan responded it might be naive but he saw no reason for not holding to election dates set by Ayub; he confirmed his statement to press March 31 that he thought elections might take place in January. He added, however, military services cannot return to barracks and leave vacuum; they must provide environment for moderates to come to power. He said situation especially difficult in East Pakistan. Military regime realizes lower level development achievements there and accepts responsibility for doing something about them.
Under Secretary said US view of problems sometimes result of reaction, or even over-reaction, to earlier lessons. Experience with Hitler and Mussolini have left unfavorable image authoritarian regimes. He believed US understood fact that sometimes military regimes necessary and constructive; but how to judge when constructive, and having judged, how to communicate judgment, is difficult. Public and Congressional opinion this subject must be taken into account, e.g., Reuss Amendment which limits foreign military sales when sales would have affect of arming military dictators who are denying social progress to their own people.
Ambassador Hilaly asked if there was any chance people would try apply the Reuss Amendment to Pakistan. Response was that this could not be excluded. Under Secretary indicated that in all cases it important Congress understand what the situation is in particular countries and that those countries understand conditions and opinions here. He stressed the importance of the direction in which a given government was going, e.g., the plans and approaches it was undertaking for returning to normal government. He pointed out the value both to other countries and to the US of defining criteria and setting time for return to normal constitutional government.
Ambassador Hilaly indicted Admiral interested in our arms policy review and inquired about its present status. Under Secretary said it actively underway. Ambassador Oehlert had been here recently and given us benefit his views. Impossible now forecast exactly when process would be finished and what result would be, but likely another month or two would be needed.
He went on explain variety of sometimes contradictory views held by many Americans this subject, e.g., we shouldn’t be in arms business; we [Page 4] shouldn’t interfere in other countries affairs; but we shouldn’t give aid to countries which spend their resources for arms. It was agreed that distinction should be made some of these regards between military aid and military sales.
Admiral warned it dangerous for US, by withholding arms, to force country get involved with others who inimical to US interests or to spend own resource it could not afford for expensive purchases in Western Europe. Said it also necessary for military leaders’ who wished be constructive have enough weapons maintain internal security and keep their troops from becoming disgruntled. Emphasized that now was psychologically important time in Pakistan when US forthcomingness would pay long term dividends.
Conversation followed brief meeting with Secretary and short tete-a-tete with President at White House reception March 31. Ahsan has made variety DOD contacts and expects see CNO April 2. Has also seen Senator Sparkman and Congressman Sykes. Tentatively plans depart April 3.


  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, DEF 7 PAK–US. Secret;Limdis. Repeated to New Delhi. Drafted by Spain; cleared by Howard B. Schaffer (NEA/INC) and Joseph Sisco (NEA); and approved by Richardson. Vice Admiral Syed Mohammed Ahsan, Commander-in-Chief of the Pakistani Navy and one of three Deputy Martial Law Administrators appointed by General Yahya Khan, was Pakistan’s representative at the funeral of former President Dwight D. Eisenhower. A memorandum of Ahsan’s conversation with Nixon on March 31, during which Ahsan offered the assurance that the Pakistani military forces had no desire to perpetuate themselves in power, is ibid., Nixon Presidential Materials, White House Special Files, President’s Office Files, Box 1, Memoranda for the President, Beginning March 30, 1969. Ahsan subsequently told Spain that he “got the message” that while the U.S. might understand the necessity for martial law in Pakistan, future actions of the martial law administration in governing the country and establishing a timetable for a return to representative government would determine how helpful the United States could be to Pakistan. (Telegram 50354 to Rawalpindi, April 2; ibid., RG 59, Central Files 1967–69, POL 23–8 PAK)
  2. Under Secretary of State Richardson questioned Deputy Martial Law Administrator Admiral Ahsan about the restoration of normal political processes in Pakistan and indicated that the U.S. traditionally reserved judgment in its dealings with authoritarian governments.