32. Telegram From the Embassy in Bangladesh to the Department of State1

3568. Paris for Toner Bangladesh Consortium Delegation. CINCPAC for POLAD. Subj: Initial Reactions to Zia’s Victory. Ref: Dacca 3548.2

Summary. President Zia, polling 77 percent of the vote (with almost all stations reporting), has been elected to a five year term as President of Bangladesh. Somewhat incongruously, we do not know at this time when the five-year clock will begin and, more importantly, the constitutional nature of the office in which he is to continue is unclear. His victory margin follows a pattern which began in 1937 of substantially large margins in each election held in the eastern Islamic portion of what was once united India. The turnout was very close to that of the 1970 elections in East Pakistan. No untoward incidents have been reported in the press or were noted in our observation or those of others with whom we have talked. The principal nonparticipant, Ataur Rahman Khan, has noted the peaceful nature of the polling, so far only one Awami Leaguer has specifically charged “rigging” although Osmani also has claimed some “irregularities” occurred. Zia is to hold press conference evening of June 5; Osmani morning of June 6; Osmani will, no doubt, expand on his June 4 charges of irregularities and his earlier ones of intimidation. Nonetheless most observers with whom we have spoken, including foreign correspondents, feel that the conduct of the election was fair by South Asian standards. Two parties remained banned during the poll, although members of both participated prominently in the campaign, and perhaps a thousand political prisoners remain in jail for various reasons, but it is unlikely that the final result has been affected by either circumstance. Zia’s next tasks will be to define the roles of the President and the Parliament and to prepare for the Parliamentary elections promised for December. End summary.

[Omitted here is the body of the telegram.]

  1. Source: National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780234–0132. Confidential; Immediate. Sent for information to Colombo, Islamabad, Kathmandu, New Delhi, Paris, Calcutta, and CINCPAC.
  2. Telegram 3548 from Dacca, June 5, reported the results of Bangladesh’s June 3 Presidential election and Zia’s June 4 press conference, during which he said “that the peaceful polling indicated that Bangladesh was now a more ‛mature’ nation.” (National Archives, RG 59, Central Foreign Policy File, D780233–1233)